2004-01-23 / Columnists

MovieScope By Robert Snyder ‘Cold Mountain’ – When ‘Gone With The Wind’ Got Up And Went

MovieScope By Robert Snyder
‘Cold Mountain’ – When ‘Gone With The Wind’ Got Up And Went

The greatest Civil War movie ever made is "Gone With the Wind." With its story of love frustrated by war, "Cold Mountain" could be compared to it. However, the closest you’d get is "Wind’s" scene of Ashley Wilkes (Les ley Howard) hobbling up the road to Tara and the arms of his lov ed one.

"Cold Mountain’s" major problem is its utter lack of passion. "Gone With the Wind" was a hurricane of emotion, even though lead lovers Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) and Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) never got along. "Mountain" is more like a Ken Burns documentary than the Hollywood landmark hit. Yet, Scarlett looks far worse for wear after the war than does "Moun tain’s" Ada (Nicole Kidman), who never seems far from a Beverly Hills beauty parlor (the movie was filmed in Romania... go figure).

Based on the best-selling novel by Char les Frazier, "Cold Mountain" be gins with the Battle of the Crater inter-cut with flashbacks of Ada and her longed-for love, Confederate soldier William Pinkney Inman (Jude Law), barely meeting each other before he’s whisked off to war. The story is based on that ofA0Frazier’s great-great uncle, who deserted the Confederacy and walked 300 miles home to Cold Mountain in North Carolina. After graphically depicting the horror and confusion of the Crat er battle, screenwriter-director An thony Minghella uses Homer’s "The Odyssey" as a metaphor for Inman’s journey home. As Ada and her down-to-earth neighbor Ruby Thewes (RenE9e Zellweger) patch up the family farm and sew the fields, Inman has close encounters with Siren-like prostitutes and Circe-esque single woman Sara (Natalie Portman), who protects herself, her infant and her hog from Yankee assailants. While the Circe/Sara is fighting off Yan kees, Ada and Ruby battle evil Confederate soldiers, who make up the Guard for the Home Defense. Led by a real historical figure nam ed Teague (Ray Winstone), the Guard is a malignant militia, which harasses, steals and kills under the pretense of searching for Rebel deserters. Finally, after what seems like an eternity, Inman appears on a snow-covered road before gun-totting Ada who, at first, doesn’t recognize him, but soon is rolling with her lost love in the nude.

However, it isn’t long before the Teague and his thugs are after Inman and out to upset a potentially loving relationship. There, the analogy to Homer’s epic ends.

Like he proved withA0 "The English Pat ient," Minghella is the master of the methodical movie. It’s hard to make the Civil War and its aftershocks boring, but Minghella manages. As for the acting, Nidman is too cutesy for her age, Law is lethargic and Zellweger is taking a breather after her Oscar-nominated workout in "Chicago."

If you want to see Civil War-era excitement, watch "Gone with the Wind" whenever it shows up on American Movie Classics.A0Give "Cold Mountain" the cold shoulder.

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