Autumn is the time to revisit the movie Last of the Mohicans. When the morning air gets a cool edge, and the angle of daylight falls farther toward the horizon, I’m reminded of the September 1992 film release and a colleague taking off early from work to go see it. “You’d better hurry out of here,” another co-worker told her, “before we start beating you up.” We were jealous: the poster showing Daniel Day-Lewis as we’d never imagined him had been up at the theaters for weeks. Because we never thought of leaving work to go, though, we were going to have to wait until the weekend.
Now when autumn light prompts me to watch the movie (the theater cut not the director’s cut), these are the things I look forward to seeing and hearing.
1. Impossibly attractive people, actors at the height of their beauty, running through the woods.
2. The surge of majestic music as the camera pans imbricated blue mountains.
3. The chunk of gneiss the camera dwells on after the deadly cliffside combat near the end of the movie.
4. Steve Waddington as Major Duncan Heyward translating English to French and French to English in the pow-wow at the Huron village.
5. Jodhi May as Alice Munro choosing the fallen Uncas and the great beyond instead of life with Magua.
6. Wes Studi as Magua stepping out of the shadows near the start of the film to answer “Magua” when asked his name.
7. Daniel Day-Lewis as Nathaniel telling Madeleine Stowe as Cora the story of the Cameron’s monument, in the stars in the night sky.
8. Russell Means (one-time Presidential hopeful and American Indian Movement national director) as Chingachook gazing with love at his son Uncas as the Camerons tease him about finding a woman and settling down.
9. Dennis Banks (co-founder of the American Indian Movement) as sachem Ongewasgone, listening in all stillness before deciding the fate of Major Heyward, the Munro daughters, and Nathaniel.
10. Eric Schweig as an intense, sympathetic, and gorgeous Uncas, The Next-to-Last of the Mohicans.
(Bonus points: I bought one of the six-foot-tall movie posters, the same ones that hung outside the theaters, through the mail. I used to have it on the wall in my bedroom. Sometimes I’d wake up in the middle of the night to see Daniel Day-Lewis as Nathaniel running toward me with his weapons, murderous look and all. It never failed to scare the pants off me.)