The Great Silence (1968)

Directed by Sergio Corbucci
Written by Vittoriano Petrilli, Mario Amendola, Bruno Corbucci and Sergio Corbucci
(number 395)

The story of some really evil bounty hunters, a silent heroic…. dude, and a lot of nasty deaths in a frozen landscape. Utah Winter is an unusual setting for a Western and does allow for some very beautiful shots, the soft snow falling through the standard men posturing scenes.

The bleakness of the snowy landscape suits the storyline well. The tale of the final winter of legal bounty hunters and the horrible acts of violence and murder that these men did, under a thin veil of ‘it’s the law’. It’s pretty sickening. Especially when you’re used to the tropes of Westerns with the over the top bad guy generally getting his come-uppance and the laconic (in this case entirely mute) hero winning the day and saving the innocent.

The intro to Silence was pretty cool – the fast shooting and showing that unless he is sure of being shot he won’t shoot to kill, it’s not terribly often you get a pacifist hero in a Western after all. Taking the ‘man with no name’ paucity of words to the extreme, Silence is totally mute after a wound he received as a boy. There is some great eyebrow acting from him.

Does it make me love the people? I… I dunno. Silence is pretty cool, but I don’t know that I love him. Rather this film makes me hate all the bounty hunters, so in a sense it makes me sympathetic to everyone victimised by them. Sort of an element of empathy won by repulsive characters rather than courageous ones.

Bechdel test: Regina and Pauline do speak but it’s about bringing food to the bandits, who are all men so … I don’t think that’s a pass. Plus the women are very two dimensional, Pauline is pretty much only a damnsel in distress/love interest.

Best line:

Not exactly a line but… this was very powerful.

The massacres of 1898, year of the Great Blizzard, finally brought forth fierce public condemnation of the bounty killers, who, under the guise of false legality, made violent murder a profitable way of life. For many years there was a clapboard sign at Snow Hill which carried this legend: MEN’S BOOTS CAN KICK UP THE DUST OF THIS PLACE FOR A THOUSAND YEARS, BUT NOTHING MAN CAN EVER DO WILL WIPE OUT THE BLOOD STAINS OF THE POOR FOLK WHO FELL HERE.

State of Mind: Maybe I’ve seen enough of these Spaghetti Westerns now to not care too much or maybe I wasn’t in the best mood when I watched this. I’m not sure. At any rate this movie was pretty boring to me, and I found the level of violence to be brutal and upsetting, the end was too bleak. I have to watch something nice now. Thank goodness I watched this when Anna was out! Not the least because it opens with a horse dying 😦

Watched movie count

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

The Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford
Directed by Andrew Dominik
Written by Andrew Dominik based on the novel by Ron Hansen
(number 401)

Brad Pitt headed slow artsy movie about wild West outlaws, Jesse being a bit past his prime but oozing cool in every scene. It’s beautifully shot, reminds me some of True Grit or other modern Westerns, very lyrical in the way they’re filmed. Lots of scenery and sharp lighting. Lots of orange and teal.

Robert Ford is played by Casey Affleck with a goofy charm, a fan boy to Pitt’s James, wanting so much to be with him and also be cool about it. I thought it was odd that Jesse sent Robert away so early in the movie, the story didn’t exactly flow for me. But then, maybe it’s meant to be more about the atmosphere and the characters than the story.. it did feel rather episodic.

Sam Rockwell was very good as Jesse’s slightly dim brother, I enjoyed his performance.

Look I love a good Western but I’m not sure I can classify this as a good one. I am used to them being slow, and full of stoic people, but somehow this one didn’t gel. Maybe it’s to do with it being self consciously made to be slow and sparse to be like the Leone movies instead of using the pace and the silence of its characters to mean something.

Does it make me love the people? Well this is hard to answer to be honest. Everyone’s a slow drawling cool person who likes to stare a lot. I found it a bit tough to connect to them as humans. I guess I do feel for Jesse and Robert, I think I’d care a lot more if they made it more about a gay obsession than just a messed up hero worship. It would be easier to connect to.

I know people complain about the multiple endings of Return of the King but jeeze, it seemed like this movie had seven thousand false endings. I was very ready for it to be over!

Bechdel test: there are barely women in it. There’s like, one woman and she has maybe two scenes where she talks. This movie is allllll about the menfolks. Zooey Deschenal gets a couple of words at the end. Really not a women movie.

Best line:

Jesse James: [Bob walks in on Jesse in the bath] Go away.
Robert Ford: Used to be nobody could sneak up on Jesse James.
Jesse James: Now you think otherwise?
Robert Ford: I ain’t never seen you without your guns, neither.
[Jesse removes a towel, revealing his gun]
Jesse James: [pause] Can’t figure it out: do you want to be like me or do you want to BE me?
Robert Ford: [defeated] I’m just making fun is all.

State of Mind: I think my favourite bit was Nick Cave’s cameo. Oh and seeing Zooey Deschenal playing a bit more sombre than normal.

Watched movie count

The Magnificent Seven (1960)

The Magnificent Seven
Directed by John Sturges
Written by William Roberts
(number 225)

Richard came by to watch this movie with Blair and me.

Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, James Coburn and Charles Bronson head up a posse of awesomely cool dudes to protect a poor Mexican farming town being menaced by a gang. It’s a remake of The Seven Samurai, and it was again remade as Battle Beyond the Stars, The 13th Warrior, Galaxy Quest, The Three Amigos! and A Bug’s Life

It’s a good story. As Blair sagely observed, good stories will always be with us, reincarnated and told differently.

Richard pointed out that the guns they use are appropriate for the time period. I like the movie because the characters are clever and funny, and the action is legitimately exciting. My favourite character introduction possibly ever for film is James Coburn’s napping cowboy being called on to prove how fast his knife throwing is. He’s like, the essence of cool, and he shows off his impressive skills at the same time.

The film is rather long, and we had a brief intermission while Richard took a call and I hung out my laundry, and not all of the movie is riveting. However these old Westerns work best with a bit of ‘breathing time’ and I wouldn’t trade in the down time moments for anything. The hired cowboys bonding with the children of the village, or falling n love with a girl, having nightmares, it’s all colour for their characters and I’m happy to have it.

Does it make me love the people? They’re hard men, happy to kill without much remorse, but they’re doing such a good thing – going and keeping the bandits away from poor honest farming folk who just want to work the land, etc etc. So yes, it does.

Bechdel test: Nope, only one named female character, and she’s the beautiful love interest – albeit a spunky type one.

Best line:

Petra: He said he’d punish me for being salacious but I don’t care.

Calvera: Generosity… that was my first mistake. I leave these people a little bit extra, and then they hire these men to make trouble. It shows you, sooner or later, you must answer for every good deed.

State of Mind: it’s long but good. It’s essential viewing. It’s awesome if you like Westerns.

True Grit (2010)

True Grit
Directed by Ethan and Joel Cohen
(number 482)

When I first saw this movie I loved it instantly. I told my mum about it and she said the original was one of the movies she went on a date with my dad too… so good. I love this movie because it’s a fantastic Western with a kick ass young female lead who takes no shit from the males. Well, unless she’s forced to.

Matt Damon and Jeff Bridges do excellently in this film but it’s Hailee Steinfeld who carries the movie, and she does it in an extremely competent manner. Her character is driven by revenge and she hires Rooster to come along and help her, LeBeouf comes along because it’s his job to track down the criminal as a Texas Ranger.

The film is an adventure, a journey, and beautifully filmed, beautifully acted. It’s melancholy but it’s also extraordinarily funny, lots of good lines. Especially once LeBeouf gets a tongue injury and Matt Damon has to act around the speech impediment.

Does it make me love the people? Definitely. Despite rocky beginnings the actions of Rooster and LeBeouf to protect Matty are heartwarming and Matty herself is an epic character. I adore her.

Bechdel test: Yeah, Matty speaks to the Boarding House Landlady about needing somewhere to sleep and later, complaining about Grandma Turner’s snoring.

Best line: “Never doubt a Texas Ranger! Ever Stalwart!”

State of Mind: Satisfied indeed. This movie is excellent on every viewing.