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Beautifully filmed (and skilfully edited) ethnofiction of dubious veracity. If taken at face value it could easily give the wrong impression of Ireland and probably even the Aran Islands. Of course, the customs filmed are not invented, just anachronistic in some cases. The revival of the shark hunt is quite reminiscent of the revival of the beluga whale hunt on the island of Iles-aux-Coudres in the St. Lawrence in Marcel Carriere and Michel Brault's Pour la suite du monde; both traditions had died out and were revived at the instigation of documentary filmmakers. Of course performance is certainly a part of the documentary process, as is the influence of the camera and crew, but Man of Aran is less than transparent about it. The film's focus remains firmly on a constructed nuclear family engaged in a romantic struggle with nature, to the detriment of all other concerns. Anybody tempted to view the film uncritically--anybody who has seen the film at all, in fact--is advised to check out How the Myth was Made: A Study of Robert Flaherty's Man of Aran (included as a special feature on the Home Vision dvd). Still, in spite of its romanticism, Man of Aran remains an impressive work of myth-making.
Even under the direction of an outsider this is a stunning film and a vital and very watchable document of disappearing customs.
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In 6 official lists
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This movie ranks #41 in Sight & Sound's The Greatest Documentaries of All Time
This movie ranks #65 in BFI's 100 Documentary Films
This movie ranks #211 in Anthology Film Archives's Essential Cinema
This movie ranks #360 in UNESCO's Memory of the World
This movie ranks #422 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films
This movie ranks #709 in Sight & Sound's The Greatest Films of All Time