Often inconsiderate and impatient with Thomas, Victor reluctantly agrees and the two of them begin the journey that will ultimately help Victor learn to live with his past. This movie accomplished some nice things in in the beautiful region that it was shot in. It's a film for the ages. Evan Adams, diminutive and shy as Thomas Builds-the-fire, was not so lucky despite his masterful performance. Beach plays Victor Joseph, a Couer d'Alene Indian in Idaho whose father Arnold Farmer quit reservation life and headed out in his prized yellow pickup truck 10 years back, when Victor was a young boy.
The title Smoke Signals also plays into and subverts an Indian stereotype. The jokes barely evoke a chuckle, the flashbacks are clumsily positioned and poorly executed, and if the wooden acting doesn't put you to sleep, the sappy dialogue will. The movie concerns two Couer d'Alene Indian guys who have to travel to Phoenix to collect the ashes of the father of one of them, and the ambivalent relationship between the two friends and Victor's struggle to come to terms with his father having moved away when Victor was still a child. Later, the characters are well described. Victor is a basketball player while Thomas is a storyteller. The identity of the Native American is studied deeply in Smoke Signals.
The supporting cast was equally magnificent, and each lends credibility and energy to the movie. The main characters, Thomas and Victor, deal with discrimination, life on a reservation, preservation of their culture, and economic problems. This was a day in his life that Victor wanted to erase form his memory. How many see, that intellectually, the film is as valid for its philosophical depth? Thomas is unnervingly talkative with a smiling naivete and a decidedly bookish appearance. What I found in this film was culture, religion and what it means to be human regardless of our racial heritage.
His parents died in a fire in 1976, and Thomas was saved by Arnold. When Arnold dies years later, Victor and Thomas have to travel to phoenix to collect his remains. The acting, particularly Gary Farmer as Arnold Joseph Victor's father and Evan Adams Thomas Builds-the-Fire are outstanding. That, I believe, is the underlying theme in Smoke Signals. You are forced to sit through numerous bad movies, forced to lose faith slowly and surely in the film industry until it is almost gone.
The final scenes, driven by Adams' narration and haunting Native American chant and music, are nothing short of miraculous. Smoke Signals the efforts of Sherman Alexie, Chris Eyre and the cast of fabulous actors shows in rich, humorous detail what life is like for young Indians today. I opt not to speak of my own relationships with others, nor my own personal demons and hauntings. In one scene, Victor accuses Thomas of learning everything about being an Indian from watching Dances With Wolves. The humor is almost exclusively Native American in its dry and sarcastic tone. And it needs no dispensation for novelty: it stands beautifully on its own merits.
I like it when stuff blows up, and I'm not into dramas, because well, you know how it is. The issue of identity is of the most prominent. I also saw that the family life of the Native Americans in the film had many of the same problems that my family had undergone in the past years such as fighting and not telling along. Each time I am left in silent awe as I reflect on my own life, family, and philosophies. He marvels at the beauty of the creation that surrounds him and dreams of what new wonders the future might bring. The first big difference is that in the short story Thomas and Victor are cousins,. When his mother was finally tired of the drinking, Arnold fled and never went back.
It is an insider's view of reservation basketball games and the rituals of frybread. A couple of years after I saw it I drove through the American Southwest for the first time, and images of the film kept coming into my head. It was fast-paced enough to engage me, despite being a drama, and there is plenty of comedy, which is a refreshing change for a guy like me who's always wanted to see past the one-dimensional Indian stereotype of suffering and learn more of their culture. The audience was predominately Native American. Thomas may have thought that this was a way to pay him back for saving his life. The film then goes into 1998 where Victor and Thomas are grown up.
The film can easily be describe as a ethos and pathos type of film. I wanted them to see a movie with various role models, and as I had never seen this movie, I thought it would be a treat for all of us. Victor's resentment for his father is also revealed to us through flashbacks depicting the early years and the memories some good, some bad that the two shared. I intend to view this film many more times. At Sundance, Eyre was free to make mistakes and try ideas that did not work out before embarking on the actual production of the film.
He leaves behind his son Victor Joseph. It tackles issues of family, culture, and tradition as well as friendship. When Victor hears Arnold has died, Thomas offers him funding for the trip to get Arnold's remains, but only if Thomas can also go with him. A voice over by Thomas says that Victor and he were born of fire. In a brief scene with his mother, Victor kids- 'What do you want a contract? That feeling that the film is personal is universal with Smoke Signals, which means different things to different people but is always a powerful and personal story to everyone.
While that kind of pandering to popular taste may appear racist-making a film accessible through thematic resemblances to the 'white' experience-Smoke Signals has the potential to break the 'color' line for Native American filmmakers. Not being able to forgive someone may lead to many different outcomes. When Victor was an infant, several neighbors and friends were killed in a fire at the Joseph home after an Independence Day party. Watching this movie as a seminary student I was drawn to the concepts of sin, alienation and reconciliation as seen through Native American eyes. Victor was about to embark on a reluctant journey to bring his father's remains back home bring these two men together and ever closer.