April 7, 2010

#79: The Wild Bunch

So the blog has taken something of a hiatus lately due to the fact that I a) first threw out my neck helping a friend of mine move, and then b) came down with some horrible virus that nearly two weeks later I'm still getting over. Blech. Suffice it to say I've had this movie on my coffee table for several weeks and just now got to it.

The Wild Bunch is a western from 1969 directed by Sam Peckinpah, of whom I'd never heard before. It tells the story of a gang of aging cowboys in 1913 who are out of step with their changing world. The frontier is dying and their purpose is becoming less and less clear. I think it could have been very interesting but for the life of me I just could not get into it. (This entry is probably not going to be very long.)

Company: alone again. This past week has been a lot of that. Blech.

Cuisine: cough drops. Still getting over this.

Man down.

Supposedly in 1969 the cinematography was revolutionary, which I can respect, and the use of violence was unprecedented. There is quite a lot of dark red blood exploding out of everywhere in an uncountable number of gun fights. But for me, I never got the sense that I understood the characters, or that I was given a reason to really love them or root for them.

I'd like to sympathize with the plight of being made obsolete -- I think that alone as a theme is fascinating -- but in two and a half hours it seemed like a bit much, that the story could have been told in a simpler way, that it didn't really need 145 minutes to be completely related to us. There was a very interesting opening scene, of kids in a town watching ants devour a scorpion and pausing to watch the cowboys stride by and then laughing them off as they return to watch the scorpion. It sets up that the cowboys are not particularly feared or even liked. We see this metaphor come back when the group has a notion to "get rid" of one of the older cowboys who is "slowing them down," but someone says "when you side with a man, you stay with him. Otherwise you are just an animal." In all the violence and war that escalates so quickly out of nothing, we see men become animals without a second thought.

And in the end, what are we left with? Destruction, devastation, loss of purpose. One cowboy remarks near the end that now he'll just wander around and try to stay out of jail. What a life goal, huh?

I don't know, I don't think it's that I'm not a fan of westerns, because I think there are some that appeal to me. This one just didn't. It felt like a very long, laborious chore to sit through and I honestly couldn't wait for it to be over. I haven't felt that way about any movie on the list so far and I'd hoped I wouldn't but I guess we're not all perfect.

Next up is a movie I know is easier to love: Charlie Chaplin gets pulled through the cogs in Modern Times.

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