Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid Chat

Natalie:  Ready to talk lawmen and outlaws?
Tracy:  And troubadour rock stars! Yes ma'am.
Natalie:  Of course! I forget how good looking he used to be--Dylan that is. Kristofferson looks remarkably better NOW.
Tracy:  I know! Seeing him without a beard freaked me out. And I sort of found myself into the tragic and self-loathing Coburn as Garrett.
Natalie:  I liked Coburn as Garrett more than I liked Kristofferson as Billy. Kristofferson was styled much too 70s-tastic. He looked like he was ready to go to a love-in rather than shoot anyone.
Tracy:  There was that love-in aspect--his gang was like a free-boobing commune. But I have to say, I liked this take on the pretty typical "outlaws = nostalgia for the pre-modern = lost freedom" trope. This was the first time I saw them actively cannibalizing themselves. I was quite moved by its elegiac tone.
Which I just realized is a direct quote from The Jane Austen Book Club.
Natalie:  HA! See, watching that movie was useful after all. I like the idea of it too but then I realized that I could get the same thing from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. And then I missed the prettier faces and prettier film. This one just read too cheesy and weepy to me so I wasn't moved. Here's how westerns used to be, weren't they great? Here's Slim Pickens and here's Harry Dean Stanton and here's . . . . and we used to have blood and we used to have guns and we used to have boobs and whore houses filled with hearts of gold and tubs with no plumbing . . . used to . . . used to  . . . used to . . .  All of that instead of adding anything new to the genre (except Bob Dylan who has never done much for me) or moving it forward for me. I understand the Western died but this was just a nail in the coffin for me. If you love Westerns so much, make a damned good Western. Don't bemoan their passing.
 Tracy:  I guess what I liked about it, that I didn't get from Butch Cassidy, is that the lawman himself used to be part of the better world, and he still wants to be. The only way to move forward (and survive) is to betray yourself and everything you believe in. And, as the opening framing scene shows us, that doesn't really work either. You can be Bob Dylan and make it, but you have to be an "alias," having no authenticity at all. I wonder how much of that has to do with Peckinpah himself, and how he was finding it harder to adapt to modern moviemaking without betraying his vision.
Natalie:  I think for that part of the film to work for me, it would have had to focus in on him more and really examine that aspect. That part was overwhelmed by the garish 70s aspects (ketchup colored blood, Kristofferson's hair and wardrobe, etc), the semblance to Butch Cassidy (and, honestly, most other Westerns I've seen) in the rest of the plot, and the over-use of nostalgia. I think for the parade of stars to work, the plot needed to be more traditional or more fun. Having the plot and ideals be so mournful for the past and adding the stars who are likely to lose work and fame is just too much when you consider this is one of Peckinpah's last films--he only directed 5 after this, none of which was a Western. It was just overkill--like the color of the blood, I would have liked a lot more subtlety.
Tracy:  Makes sense. For whatever reason, it worked for me. Maybe I was feeling a little elegiac myself last night. This is the first Peckinpah I've seen (I think), so I also enjoyed seeing his trademarks not in a clip but in a movie. I also made a note that this was perhaps the worst movie for chickens that we've seen since Pink Flamingos.
Natalie:  HA! It was really bad for chickens. And I'm feeling more "move on" in general personal life stuff so I guess we have to consider that too. Just out of curiosity and since you mentioned him in the intro post--does your dad like it? I mentioned to my dad that we were watching it and he had to stop to remember if he'd seen it, remembered that it had Dylan, and then just said "yeah, I think I made it through that one." And he likes a Western a LOT.
Tracy:  Dad hasn't seen it--he was shocked that Kristofferson and Dylan were in it! I think he meant that he just happened to know that Pat Garrett killed Billy the Kid, history-wise. I don't know if he's seen any Peckinpahs either, actually. He said he avoided The Wild Bunch because he thought it was about Butch Cassidy and didn't want to see another adaptation of that story. Is that true? Do you know?
Natalie:  I just looked on imdb and Cassidy isn't listed as a character name but I don't know anything about that one except we have to watch it eventually. The plot summary is: "An aging group of outlaws look for one last big score as the ‘traditional’ American West is disappearing around them." THAT just makes me less inclined to like this one because the elegiac part seems part of Peckinpah's general plan since Wild Bunch was 4 years earlier than Pat Garrett. The book hails Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid as “Sam Peckinpah’s final true western,” bemoans that it was “[t]runcated and neglected on its original release,” and cheers that it “has been restored to something like its original version and can be hailed as one of the director’s greatest films.” Four other Peckinpah films are on the list: this one, The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs, and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. Basically, the book loves the film because it parades Western actors (“Slim Pickens, Katy Jurado, Jack Elam, Richard Jaeckel, L.Q. Jones, Harry Dean Stanton, Chill Wills, Matt Clark, Elisha Cook Jr., Denver Pyle and Barry Sullivan”) arguing that “it would be hard to find a great Western that didn’t include one of these players; collectively they provide a roll call of the form’s greatness, and each cameo adds to the elegiac, melancholy, and wistful tapestry of Western and genre history, shot through with dollops of blood and poetry, plus original music by Bob Dylan.”
Tracy:  I'll tell Dad! He'll be thrilled! I didn't realize he did the original Straw Dogs. I'm increasingly curious about that and the remake. So the book doesn't like the movie for any of the reasons I did. And I didn't get a sense of the "last score" either.
Natalie:  Oh--the "last score" was for Wild Bunch, not PG&BK--sorry for the ambiguous sentence structure. Well, it liked the elegiac part but I'm pretty sure you like the movie for smarter reasons than the book
Tracy:  Oh, I see. I misread it. Well, sounds like Peckinpah is one of their favorites. So a split! The first since Marienbad, perhaps?
Natalie:  I think maybe so . . . I think we've agreed on everything else.
 Tracy:  And two quite different movies! So onto Argentinian political drama!
That streams!
 me:  Hooray! (?)
Definitely hooray for streaming!
Tracy:  I know--yay?

No comments:

Post a Comment