If you have a half-hour to spend, the movie returns a dividend on your investment.
A logging river is in sight from my kitchen window. They haven't allowed the logs to float down the Androscoggin for half a century, so the trucks rattle by day and night on Route 2 instead, hard by the river. Some call this progress.
A long time ago, a man with vision and verve tramped into the wilderness here, and decided to build a whole city out in the wilderness based on nothing but logs and the river. There is a big, granite shrine at the foot of the big falls -- the falls that caught his eye in the first place.
The shrine is to a politician famous for crying, not the founder of the town.
Partway through the film, they show the hobnailed boots used by the river drivers. I've been in the factory they refer to that made them. The factory itself is converted into shabby cubes filled with holistic healing mountebanks and tax accountants. Next door there's a moth-eaten museum dedicated to the work that used to happen there. You have to have a museum dedicated to work now so people won't confuse it with dinosaurs or pharoahs or cuneiform writing. We were the only people interested in the museum that day, and I know all about work.
There's a mordant tidbit of humor at 12:45
The green men -- which we sometimes call "auger handles" -- will work on the shore, while experts like the man with the vest on, Mr. Everett Scott of Bering, will work on the outside next to the stream.
"Auger handles." Oh, how Twain or Bierce would have loved that. Some auger handles at a university compiled this video from the original 1930 film, and read a script that was written to accompany it. Another bunch of auger handles watch it in some other shabby museum dedicated to work, I expect.
It occurs to me that we're pretty much all auger handles now. Standing on the shore, clueless and timid, waiting for someone --someone else, mind you -- to risk his hide out in the torrent while we stand on the shore and pretend to work, wait for lunch, and tell them they're doing it wrong once they're done and we've picked them clean.
The pretending to work isn't working so well anymore, is it? I'll pretend to work and you pretend to pay me never does. The Mr. Everett Scotts of the world are thin on the ground right now. They seem to have grown weary of dragging along dozens behind them like some undeserved Marley's chains; of being depended upon and excoriated and cheated at the same time; of being milked and kicked like a barnyard animal with a cruel master; and so have given up even trying to cadge anything useful from the mob of hands full of gimme and mouths full of much obliged lolling on the shore.
So we're all standing on the shore looking at the logs (a little) and each other (a lot) and wondering if maybe we should pass another law, or cadge another exaction from Mr. Scott -- dig up his corpse and go through his pockets one last time if we have to -- or just pass a law forbidding logs from public assembly to break up the log jams.
The meek didn't inherit the earth. The cowardly did.