Tuesday, December 14, 2010
BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID
(September 1969, U.S.)
This is the first western to be discussed from my film collection. But don't get too used to it. After musicals, westerns are my least favorite film genre, so I don't have a lot of them. Really, when you think about it, aren't most western stories and plotlines the same? The peaceful town, the bandits and rustlers, the women is distress, and the hero who saves the town at the end with the traditional climactic gunfight showdown.
Thankfully, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID doesn't fall into any of those cliche western categories. This is an Amercian western disguised as a buddy, action and chase film. Butch and Sundance are two of the most likable bandits you're ever likely to see on screen. The dialogue they share thorughout the film feeds off of each other like almost perfect clockwork. For its filming style, there is an interesting montage done in sepia still photographs of the 19th Century period—showing Butch, Sundance, and Etta (played by Katherine Ross) having a brief fling in New York and making the steamer passage to South America. The stills tell you so much about the curious and sad relationship of these three people that it's with almost reluctance that you allow yourself to be absorbed again into their further slapstick adventures. I say "almost", thought, because Butch and Sundance's relationship and adventures can easily sweep you up again.
Then, of course, there's the end of the film when they're inevitably killed by the Bolivian army (sorry for the spoiler!) and the shot that depicts them ready for their final fight before presumably escaping to freedom. The film freezes as the endless rifle gunshots go off and you hear the word "¡Fuego!" (that's Spanish for "Fire!"). You know our two heroes are dead and the camera slowly pulls back, not only revealing the extent of the forces that were surrounding them for an ambush, but it also allows you a moment of reflection on who Butch and Sundance were and how much you just enjoyed the last two hours of your life watching them on screen.
Paul Newman and Robert Redford were, perhaps, one of the greatest team-ups in film history, and it's just a shame that they only made two films together. Paul Newman died in September 2008 and I still miss him today.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Butch Cassidy: "Alright. I'll jump first."
Sundance Kid: "No."
Butch: "Then you jump first."
Sundance: "No, I said."
Butch: "What's the matter with you?"
Sundance: "I can't swim!"
Butch (laughing): "Are you crazy? The fall will probably kill you!"