A low-key appraisal of the legend, and the times in which he lived, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid is a strange and convincing Western. Set in the final decades of the Nineteenth Century, this is a period of flux for the United States. In New Mexico, powerful cattle barons consolidate their holdings, squeezing smaller concerns into suffocation. With laws now becoming executed, rather than interpreted, outlaws like Billy the Kid (Kris Kristofferson) have less room for manoeuvre. No longer is it possible to shoot a stranger and walk away by claiming self-defence, as Billy is about to discover. His one-time partner Pat Garrett (James Coburn) has just been elected Sheriff and Pat’s first duty is to run Billy out of the country. –film.u-net.com
“If they move”, hisses stern-eyed William Holden, “kill ’em”. So begins The Wild Bunch (1969), Sam Peckinpah’s bloody, high-body-count eulogy to the mythologized Old West. “Pouring new wine into the bottle of the Western, Peckinpah explodes the bottle”, observed critic Pauline Kael. That exploding bottle also christened the director with the nickname that would forever define his films and reputation: “Bloody Sam”.
David Samuel Peckinpah was born and grew up in Fresno, California, when it was still a sleepy town. Young Sam was a loner. The child’s greatest influence was grandfather Denver Church Peckinpah, a judge, congressman and one of the best shots in the Sierra Nevadas. Sam served in the Marine Corps during World War II but – to his disappointment – did not see combat. He married Marie Selland in Las Vegas in 1947 and enrolled as a theater graduate student at the University of Southern California the next year.
After drifting through several jobs—including a stint… read more
While it's made with a lot of emotion, sometimes it doesn't translate well to the screen. There are moments where the action is confusing, simply because of how underplayed it is. Aside from that, some scenes felt oddly paced, and I think that is a great flaw. Like the moment where the man dies, and seconds later they're chasing turkeys. And then more people die. It's a bit grating. But Katy Jurado! She stands out.
A string of death scenes are put on together like beautiful pearls on a bracelet. The same bracelet gets tighter and tighter until we understand that the minor deaths of the charachters are all part of a much bigger death: the one of an era and a myth. I need to rewatch this one.
PGaBTK is often seen as a bleaker vision of Peckinpah's West than The Wild Bunch, and possibly this arises because there is an inversion of the focus of the earlier film, in that the Judas tale -that of Garrett- takes on greater resonance than that of the outlaw; Garrett is the real outcast, forever sauntering around the picket fence of respectability. A masterful film made with an overwhelming intensity of feeling.
On first viewing, this is not a film I especially want to watch a second time. But I may have to, because I'm not comfortable with my current impression, which is one of sprawling, dawdling tedium. Dylan makes for a pleasant cipher on the screen, and his soundtrack is occasionally quite effective (if occasionally quite grating and dull), but he's a poor substitute for Nog, and the film is a poor substitute for 'Nog.'
Macho death myths dismantled.
Updated through 5/6. The series Anthology Film Archives is running from Friday through May 5, Drop Edges of Yonder: The Films of Rudy Wurlitzer