Salmonberries (1991) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Quick, name a film about lesbian Eskimos. OK, Salmonberries. Now name another.

Actually, Trey Parker holds that all independent films are about gay cowboys eating jello. Here is the exception. It is about gay eskimos eating jelly. Not jello but jelly. Of such a daring reach outside the box is true genius born.

The film begins with an old Eskimo making a long poetic ramble directly into the camera. The camera pulls back to show he is talking to the librarian in a one-room library in a god-forsaken settlement somewhere on the tundra. The wind howls outside, the snows swirl.

A third person enters the picture, a young boy who insists that the librarian tell him about his origin. He was abandoned at birth, with only two small artifacts from his infancy to help identify him. He has an attitude, and the librarian's reluctance leads to an incident wherein the boy splatters books across the room. The librarian tells the boy that she'll call the sheriff, then turns her back. The boy disappears behind some stacks of books, and remerges stark naked. There is a point - a point of pride. The boy is a girl.

The manly girl in question is played by uncloseted lesbian singer k.d.lang.


see the main commentary
In the course of the film, the young boy/girl finds out the truth about her origin, and the librarian also finds out the secrets of her own past in Germany. In fact, they travel together to Berlin to seek the librarian's roots. (I'm still trying to figure out where the k.d. lang character copuld have gotten enough money to pay for those tickets.)

That's the basic outline of the film's plot. The mood of the film is dictated by the k.d. lang song "Barefoot", and the spectacular cinematography of the sub-arctic landscapes, all of which has a poetic mournfulness about it, a sadness and longing. It is a look at a stark life with which very few of us are familiar, and in that respect is fascinating.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen letterbox, 1.85:1

  • 45 minute interview with k.d. lang

  • behind the scenes photos

I liked the look and mood of the film in many ways, but I really found it much too arty. It was directed by the same guy who did Baghdad Cafe, which will give you the right idea if you are familiar with that film.
  • Zoom in slowly on subjects, flash of light, resume zoom, pull back camera to a new angle, start zooming again on the same subjects, flash of light, resume zoom, repeat dozens of times as necessary.
  • Show people talking. One is in the foreground, the other in the background. They are facing exactly perpendicular to the camera, each in opposite directions. Black out, but their words continue. The conversation continues smoothly, but the light comes up on one of them staring out the window. Black out, words continue. The light then comes up on a new overly posed arrangement. Each time this happens, we see Lang on the bed, her head in her hands, but the librarian moves about to a new pose.

By the way, the film also features an appearance by an old, rather decrepit Chuck Connors.

Tuna's Thoughts

Scoopy is absolutely right, this is the Gone with the Wind of naked lesbian Eskimo films. Even with his warning that it was way too arty, I couldn't pass up a chance to see K. D. Lang naked. Lang played a foundling, found in a cardboard box. She was introverted, worked as a miner, and developed an interest in finding out who she really is. After a very rocky start, she eventually made friends with the town librarian, a bitter German woman whose husband died trying to escape under the Berlin wall with her.

After the collapse of the wall, Lang spent her savings for two plane tickets to Berlin. Roswitha (Rosel Zech) was able to let go of her past, and was very grateful. Lang attempted to initiate a sexual relationship with Zech, but, while Zech "loves her, that is not her way," and she repulses the advances.

The film is terribly arty, but does set a somber mood in the settings, the photography (which is very striking), and the performances. It is certainly not going to be for everyone, but I managed to watch it through, and enjoyed it on some levels.


The Critics Vote

  • no major reviews

The People Vote ...


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C. Interesting film in many ways, but the style was too arty to make it accessible or pleasant to a mainstream audience. This is regrettable, because it could touch a much wider audience if it were less pretentious. (Tuna C-)

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