Man of Aran
American documentary filmmaker and world traveler Robert J. Flaherty's 1934 Man of Aran was the most controversial film in the Flaherty's distinguished career. It's a portrait of the brutal living conditions endured by subsistence farmers and fisher-folk on the austere, isolated Aran islands off the western coast of Ireland. It's remembered for its visual beauty, its cast of craggy locals, and for the way Flaherty embellished a romanticized human essence instead of recording the authentic day-to-day facts of his subject. Flaherty's fellow documentarians turned up their noses at it, but it won international honors and was a commercial success with the public. As Pauline Kael put it, "Robert J. Flaherty left the Aran Islands with a truly exalted work ... undoubtedly the greatest film tribute to man's struggle against hostile nature."
Now Home Vision Entertainment gives Man of Aran the Criterion treatment on a DVD that presents a good print plus a collection of no-fluff supplementary extras. The keystone extra is How the Myth Was Made, an hour-long documentary that revisits the Aran Isles more than forty years after Flaherty left. Keep-case.