Another Breathtaking Western: “The Missouri Breaks”

September 23, 2007 at 5:17 pm | Posted in Film | 4 Comments
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In a way my favourite film thus far in the Filmmuseum’s “The Wild Bunch” programming is: The Missouri Breaks (USA 1976, directed by Arthur Penn), starring Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando, with the former appearing after 10, the latter no earlier than 30 minutes into the movie. And it’s those two actors who are giving the film an unusual flavour, considering it’s a Western. Nicholson does his Nicholson thing, yet in careful doses. Too much talking can kill a Western, but the few times that he gets the chance to exchange a few more lines he excels at it – it’s all in the voice and some carefully administered facial expressions.

The exchanges with Kathleen Lloyd as Jane Braxton (daughter of the rancher who got one of Tom Logan’s a.k.a. Nicholson’s cattle-rustling buddies hanged) in particular are hysterically funny. She is putting the moves on him and he decides to be shy… Kathleen Lloyd was fantastic in her role – but she didn’t even get credited in the festival programme, and I just had to add her name to the Wikipedia article on the movie. How odd!

Marlon BrandoOh, and the old man Marlon Brando. He plays a lilac-smelling ‘regulator’, hired to put an end to cattle rustling around the Braxton ranch. The character already has a taste of the insanity of a Colonel Kurtz, yet also a hint of Mrs. Doubtfire and Tootsie, as odd as that may sound.

And we get no happy end, no we don’t. Love and romance don’t get a chance on the frontier, not in 1976, and not if Nicholson and Brando are in it.

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