Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Released this week on DVD: "The End of the Line"

Grade: B

Trendsetting restaurants wouldn't dream of offering snow leopard or white rhinoceros on their menus, notes the journalist and author Charles Clover, but they have no qualms serving bluefish tuna, a delicacy so overharvested that the species now faces destruction. The former environmental editor for the Daily Telegragh in London, Clover appears in The End of the Line, a documentary based on his book exposing the damages wrought to the sea by the usual suspects: industrialized food production, unchecked capitalism, soaring consumer demand.

This vital, if rhetorically clumsy, film by Rupert Murray subverts our ancient faith in the ocean as an inexhaustible resource, offering a persuasive case that the major species of edible fish are headed for extinction -- by some estimates, as soon as the middle of this century.

Too bad these propositions are slathered in laughable scare music by the composers Srdjan Kurpjel and Marios Takoushis. Well-researched and generally evenhanded in its delivery of information (Ted Danson provides the narration), the movie more than makes its points without needing to resort to a montage of adorable fish being bashed on the head, cross cut with ravenous diners wolfing down sushi. But the film is impressive in scope, gathering material from Alaska to Senegal, Malta to Tokyo, and righteous in its condemnation of industry, government and consumer alike. Flaws and all, it serves up a documentary Naked Lunch, showing exactly what's on the end of our forks.

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