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Customer Review

4.0 out of 5 stars Charming Movie (Albeit Weak in Plot) about Sailors' Life Hauling Heavy Cargo on the Waters of North America's Great Lakes System, 18 April 2014
This review is from: Lakeboat [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
This is a movie without any particular plot, but rather one that concentrates on the proletarian merchant marine sailors who figure in it. A Jewish graduate student in the University of Massachusetts (my Alma Mater, but not the Amherst campus which the film suggests) works for the summer on a freighter (too big to be a "boat") and gets used to the rough and somewhat daft ways of the ship's sailors, most of them notably older (indeed quite a lot older) than he is. One can see him growing more accustomed to such life and blending in, as the months pass, with his shipmates on the rusty old vessel.

The dialogue is mostly trivial, some of it of the "shaggy dog" story variety. The sailors recount, each with his "take" on one of their lusty shipmates, Guigliani, younger, more physically fit, and sexier than any of the others, about whom all tell tales of his boozing, brawling, and consorting with loose women, including one about an unfortunate encounter with a prostitute in a back alley that has an amusing number of contradictory variants. Guigliani has missed the departure of his ship, so the sailors are free to say whatever they want about him without fear of immediate contradiction. At film's end, there he is, Guigliani himself, abrubtly leaving a sleazy, worn, alcoholic bar-fly (who is not at all of the luscious calibre that the crew's stories describe in their accounts of his picaresque doings) at last to come back to rejoin his crewmates just as the student leaves to return to university for the fall semester. (The segments about Guigliani's onshore adventures are in b&w, the film elsewhere being in colour.)

Having been a sailor only in military life at sea (U.S. Navy), on a Second World War vintage destroyer (thus a small warship, at that), I cannot vouch for how authentic the freighter featured, the Seaway Queen, really is. I only rarely have had the opportunity to board and view merchant ships of the kind, those that ply the Saint-Laurent River on their way to the Great Lakes or which sail the Atlantic Ocean. However, I would be surprised if the living quarters on a ship like the Seaway Queen would be so spacious and relatively comfortable, albeit plain and unadorned, or that the engine room of such a large vessel would be so small-scale. A ship of the name was used in making the film, so I would suppose that I likely could be wrong about that!

The movie is about character, atmosphere, sailors' humour, and it succeeds in its aims, with a minimum of "real action". The music for it is sophisticated and of high quality, late swing music, vocals heavy, of the type so successful in the 1940s through late 1950s. The DVD edition (T,V,A, Films 00020, two-sided, one in English, the other in French) which I acquired has no special features or subtitles, but such assets vary with other editions available.
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Location: Rouyn-Noranda, QC., Dominion of Canada

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