Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A River Runs Through It

One of the benefits of parenthood is the opportunity to see the world through fresh eyes, to rediscover the magic in things you’ve explored before.

My nine-year-old daughter Ceili recently discovered that she loves fishing. She loves everything about it, from organizing her tackle to making a cast to hooking a rainbow trout. She even likes to gut and clean a fish.

Given her new enthusiasm, I thought she might like to watch a movie that centers around fishing. We went to Sunbuster Video and rented “A River Runs Through It.”

Wow. I hadn’t seen the movie in about a decade. I remembered liking it a lot, but I was astounded at how wonderful a film it really is. Certainly Redford’s best, without the clanking failures in tone of his more recent work.

The movie was a star-making turn for Brad Pitt and it’s easy to see why. He was born to play the luminous but doomed Paul Maclean. He truly lived up to the Maclean patriarch’s assessment that Paul was “more than just a fine fisherman. He was beautiful.”

The Montana setting is magnificently portrayed in it’s rugged beauty, its isolation, its raw, elemental power. The juxtaposition of the vestigial raw frontier (whores and poker games at the hot springs) with the bedrock Scots Presbyterianism of the Maclean home and church, the mixture of tough, rough logging communities with modern Roaring 20s “flapperism” is charming in a way that is hard to describe.
I love that era — love the clothes, the cars, the sense of possibility — so maybe seeing it so lovingly portrayed hit me harder than it might strike another. But there was a charm and magnificence to that way of life in that place and time that is all but lost to us now.

We here in Sisters are lucky to have much of the beauty of that world — without some of the uglier aspects like racial prejudice and thoughtless resource exploitation.

A River Runs Through It here, too, and a magnificent river it is.

Last weekend I took Ceili to Camp Sherman’s fly fishing fair. (After seeing the fly fishing in the movie, she said “I want to do that!”). She tied a wooly booger, took a casting lesson and learned all about bugs from Laurie Adams.

I was almost overcome with gratitude that I am able to offer such opportunities to a lively, inquisitive child. A child who has never pushed a button on a video game, who thinks “old-fashioned” cars are the coolest, who likes Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift — and Frank Sinatra.

A child who, like Norman Maclean, will be haunted by waters.

Jim Cornelius, Editor


  1. Jim,
    They are making a movie adaptation of David James Duncan's masterpiece, The River Why. I can only hope they treat it half as well as Redford did A River Runs Through It.

    Jason Wells

  2. Jason:

    I'd heard that. Jason Borger, who was Brad Pitt's stand-in for the "shadowcasting" sequences is working on the new film. He was a featured presenter at the Camp Sherman fair last weekend.

    Man could that guy put out a line.