A slow execution: Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid

September 4, 2007 at 8:50 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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So another Sam Peckinpah was on Sunday: Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (USA 1973). It does not offer the same kind of blood-gushing ecstasy as The Wild Bunch, but has many worthwhile moments to offer, in particular if you have seen TWB just a few days before. It’s a slower, not quite as gory, but actually more even more cruel rendition of the old Western tale: two befriended gunslingers become enemies when one of them (Pat Garrett, i.e. James Coburn) is elected sheriff, his first task being to get rid of his former drinking buddy (Billy the Kid, Kris Kristofferson).

A number of reasons to watch PG&BTK, even if not ten:

_The opening scene once more is immaculate. A similar freeze frame design for the credits, and the remarkable idea of sticking hens in a wall of mud with just their heads sticking out, offering as targets for the shootists. Did you know the body continues to twitch once you have busted the head?

_The special treat of that film: Bob Dylan as the greenhorn Alias – his response to the initial question “And who the hell are you?”, namely “That’s a good question” is a cheap laugh, but worked nonetheless. His wandering elusive glance was a pleasure to look at, any time he appeared in the frame.

_And in case anybody ever forgot: James Coburn is about the most handsome sheriff dressed in black ever to be seen on the silver screen.

_The incredible amount of whiskey being inhaled in 122 minutes.

_And of course: The moment when Billy shoots Bob, who wants to make him repent before Jesus, with one dollar and 60 as ammunition – for a slot second, we see the coins twinkle before the blazing gun.

McCabe & Mrs Miller

September 3, 2007 at 4:26 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Last night I watched McCabe & Mrs. Miller, directed by Robert Altman, starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie. Well. I definitely saw that this film belonged in the series, yet what a boring film. Warren Beatty is a clumsy gunslinger who doesn’t sling the gun anymore. Instead he opens a brothel – first in a make-shift tent with three quirky chippies, but then Mrs Miller forces her partnership upon him, and so he open the ‘finest whorehouse in the area’, with bathhouse and fresh linen and whores from Seattle. Mrs Miller smokes opium, occasionally, and due to some confusion three bounty killers are suddenly after McCabe. That should bring him to his gunslinging senses, yet the movie does a good job showing that these are not half as acute (and probably no gunslinger’s have ever been) as we’d like to believe. Tedious showdown. End.

Yet I do not forgive the movie for its annoying ‘Hungry-person’ scene. In probably every 5th to 10th film, an actor is supposed to eat something in a fashion that indicates that he or she is REALLY MIGHTY hungry. This does most always fail. Western people are never really hungry, they don’t know how to play it, so in a rather ridiculous fashion they reduce eating hungrily down to eating really FAST and LOUD. By way of illustration, you have most of the time another character sitting opposite the chomper, doing nothing but stare. And so it was in M&M.

Top 10 Reasons for Watching “The Wild Bunch”

September 2, 2007 at 4:26 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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The Filmmuseum in Vienna has just launched the second part of its Western series, this time devoted to later Westerns (and, thankfully in my opinion, because it bored me to pieces which led to people accusing me of having no heart: Brokeback Moutain is not in it). There are only a few movies from the 1980s, one from the 1990s (Jarmusch’s Dead Man), but the main focus is on 1960s’, 1970s’ Western.

It started off with Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (USA, 144 min.). What a movie! If I ever hear anybody say again that 300 had good fighting scenes, I’ll give them a personal slapping and place them in front of a TV set to watch TWB (filmed in Panavision, so a TV would not quite be the real thing). Or any Peckinpah, I figure. Shot bodies gliding through the air in slow motion, evaporating in a crimson explosion whilst being perforated by more bullets, but also (male) bodies, shook by the most throaty, whiskey-stained of laughters, horses collapsing on dunes, tumbling into exploding bridges. Wooah.

So here are my Top 10 Reasons for Watching “The Wild Bunch”:
_The opening scene: dirty, kids, scorpios, ants, the Wild Bunch; the title design that freezes the scene into black and white, reduced still frames
_Ernest Borgnine, for his physical presence and his fabulous set of teeth (pretty much the antithesis to Gary What’s-His-Name’s pearly whites; Jetsam wrote about them recently)
_Ben Johnson’s boyish laughter
_the scene where Angel’s village bids farewell to the passing Wild Bunch (the music, the choreography of the gifts they receive, the flower for Ernest Borgnine)
_the arrival scene at General Mopache’s (the whores, the general’s crowd, the odd German imperial army member, the ensuing bath and celebration)
_General Mopache’s (?) side-kick, the Mexican corporal who looks and talks frighteningly like Borat – can this really be a coincidence?
_the sun glistening on the faces of old and aging men – hardly a youthful hunk in there (Angel, for reasons you’ll witness, doesn’t count)
_the quiet scene in which the Bunch shares the last bottle of whiskey after they’ve secured the rifles – where everyone gets a sip except Ben Johnson, followed by another explosion of laughter
_the look on Angel’s face when they visit the general a last time which gives him away
_and of course the mighty, mighty final shoot-out, framed by the mindless chitchat of the ‘gutter trash’ that follows Thornton, to whom a shootout is nothing but a welcome opportunity to loot the dead

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