Sam Peckinpah

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pzman84
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#51 Post by pzman84 » Fri Apr 21, 2006 10:46 pm

On thing on this tread that no one has mentioned (and, when talking about Peckinpah) is the many similarties between Sam Peckinpah and Orson Welles. Their styles are indeed very different. Welles's films tend to be very baroque and high in contrast and shadow, while Peckinpah tends to have more natural lighting. While Welles did do some extraordinary editing techniques, he relied more on mise-en-scene while Peckinpah was the one who revolutionized editing with cuts that matched Eisenstein. However, the comparison is more in their relationship to the studios. Both of them had their films hacked up by the studios. Both of them never enjoyed a lot of creative control over their films, whether it be from the studios (Major Dundee, The Magnificent Ambersons) or from independent producers (Mr. Arkadin, The Osterman Weekend). Take for instance Touch of Evil and Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid. Both have three versions of the film because the films were taken out of their hands. However we may fight and argue about which is the cut the director would have approved of most, sadly we will never know for certain.

Orson Welles wrote in the obituary of Jean Renoir "He [Renoir] also said that every artist must be 20 years ahead of his time." In both respects, Welles and Peckinpah were. Their impact is still felt on cinema today. At their time, they were not appreciated. Lesser men hacked and hacked at their films. However, both have stood the test of time and are now remembered for their unmatched contributions to cinema.

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#52 Post by Ste » Sat Apr 22, 2006 12:38 am

Well said, pzman.

Welles and Peckinpah are, without a doubt, my two favourite directors, and are really the only two that I actively seek out EVERYTHING I can find by (TV work included).

The parallels are, as you say, striking. Both were larger than life characters; both started out in the theatre; both were actors as well as directors; both achieved early career peaks in other fields (Welles in radio, Peckinpah in television), before moving on to direct feature films. Even the size of their filmographies is similar: Welles completed 12 features in his lifetime, Peckinpah 14. (The biggest difference is in the number of unrealised projects they left behind. Peckinpah left little or nothing, whereas Welles's legacy is, shall we say, somewhat messy.)

But beyond these superficial parallels, I feel there is a real kindred spirit that connects the two men, and which I am inexplicably drawn to. It's difficult for me to pin down because my primary interest in cinema is for British films from the '60s and '70s. Neither man fits the pattern, although Welles probably comes closest. It is likely just that brave, maverick streak in them both that I'm responding to. Whenever I hear Welles's 1975 AFI speech about accepting the lifetime achievement award "in the name of all the mavericks", Peckinpah springs instantly to mind.

Does anyone know if they ever met? I know Welles expressed much admiration for Cross of Iron, but apart from that one telegram I'm not aware of any direct connection between them.

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#53 Post by Mr Sausage » Sat Apr 22, 2006 12:59 pm

I believe at least part of this was Peckinpah's fault. Many who have worked with him have pointed out that when he started a movie he threw himself so fully into it that he'd just keep extending filming to the point where someone would have to force him into the editing room. Then he would just keep editing and editing the movie until someone would have to take it away from him to get it out.

This at the very least is the testimonial, however trustworthy the sources may be, but I am not convinced it was true (even to this extent) on all of his movies. Nor to I believe most of the editing decisions made after he was taken off were all justifiable. At his best, Peckinpah had a wonderful sense for structure and detail.

Even his masterpiece The Wild Bunch had material exised by a third party, much to its damage.

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#54 Post by pemmican » Fri May 05, 2006 5:36 am

Me again. Straw Dogs IS more interesting and complex than I'd remembered, but, having re-watched it and then checked out Prince's commentary, I'm left puzzled by many things; my above reactions are indeed too simple, and the film does do some interesting and complex things, but I'm really not sure I'm prepared to join the chorus that want to rehabilitate it. Prince offers a good commentary track -- it sounds like he's reading from a prepared statement, not just winging it, which is a fine idea -- but I don't buy quite a bit of what he does and I find his enthusiasm for the film a bit questionable. Some issues:

He goes out of his way to emphasize all the times Amy is shown as suffering, and claims at one point that she is the only one who is granted "subjective" POV shots. This latter is untrue -- both David and even Charlie are given POV shots, and during the rape, Charlie's view of Amy is as "subjective" as hers of him. To emphasize that she is the character Peckinpah sympathizes most with requires he overlook the various points where she is shown as a petulant child; he treats these as the exception ("he even undercuts Amy," etc), but there are many scenes where she seems to be framed quite distastefully, where I view her very much through David's eyes; there seem to be as many scenes when Peckinpah frames her as a perverse child with no real faith in her husband as there are scenes where David is shown as cruel and cold and arrogant. In the scene where David is trying to work and she ends up sticking her gum on his blackboard, Prince's commentary seems to cultivate a willful ignorance of just how pouty, petulant, and distasteful she's being. Prince also, in framing David as the "villain" (which is not, to my understanding, the same as being the "heavy;" he treats the terms as identical where I don't think they are) ignores any role she plays setting up her husband and the villagers "against" each other -- say in the bowl of milk scene, or in her constant goadings of David to take a stand -- and ignores the parallel between Amy and Janice, as two women who both (to some extent) invite the violence that happens to them. My skin CRAWLS at seeing Amy start to ENJOY Charlie's assault, too; Prince and various posters above are right that her suffering is made much of -- particularly during the church scenes, afterward -- but I still find the whole idea of showing a woman "enjoying" being raped, even briefly, really problematic, and I'm not sure what Prince or anyone else here is saying Peckinpah's point is by doing this.

I also think that Prince is far too forgiving to Amy and to Peckinpah during the final siege, where I think we're supposed to be sickened by Amy's disloyalty to her husband and her willingness to feed Niles to the men outside; Prince ignores all this to emphasize David's violence, overlooking that in many ways David IS shown as attractive and sympathetic, if flawed. If Peckinpah wants us to view David as the villain and disapprove of the violence, I think Peckinpah's own comment, included in the extras, that he failed with this film is accurate, because I KNOW viewers who side with David absolutely -- who embrace the "caveman" principle completely, who think that David is "finally acting like a man." I don't know that I can fairly embrace the idea that a "misunderstood masterpiece" can really be a masterpiece, if EVERYONE, even people who like the film, fail to understand it. Re: Amy and Niles, too, Prince says that she doesn't want Niles in the house, because she has been raped and Niles is a sexual predator, but Prince seems to forget that the men she wants to side with, against Niles and against her husband, include the two men who have raped her. (Post-rape, her entire desire to see David stand up against the villagers seems to vanish utterly, which is strange, and seems to suggest a level of hypocrisy on her part. I THINK we're meant to disapprove of her statements that she "doesn't care" that the men will kill Niles, and feel glad that Hoffman (regardless of the compromised angle of the shot) is finally TAKING A STAND, which the film has previously criticized him for not doing. That she seems tempted to turn to Charlie, when he beckons to her at the window, seems to suggest that Peckinpah believes women are extremely disloyal and untrustworthy creatures; how credible is it, if we go along with the view that she was so traumatized by the rape, that she should take Charlie's side here (and note, if you want to claim that it was Norman, and not Charlie, who traumatized her, that Charlie holds her down, a detail missing from earlier cuts of the film). The structure of the film is pretty puzzling, though; once the church social is over, the rape seems to have been forgotten about, and the relationship of the rape to the siege is not entirely clear to me... I think that they're connected on some subconscious level -- between David's need to protect Niles (the "innocent" rapist/killer) and what I do see as a "sullying" of Amy, a holding her to blame -- but it's not easy to tease this out...

It DOES seem that Peckinpah is criticizing David, tho'. I have to agree with the film's defenders on that point; seeing it again, I don't think we're ever meant to be entirely comfortable in our identification with him -- when we ride away into the darkness with David and Niles, it's not the best company we could be keeping. I still can't get very far from seeing the film as setting up a situation where a man has to fight to defend his home, stripping away the hypocrisies of his "civilized" exterior, but at least we're meant to feel a bit ambivalent about the film's trajectory... I'm afraid the whole thing about Peckinpah being an ironist who films the opposite of what he believes seems like vague mumbo-jumbo to me, and I'm not sure that there's that much of a difference, as Prince implies, between saying that David is "not a real man" and that he's "passive-aggressive." Still, David's cruelty IS placed in critical scrutiny at various points. We ARE forced to side with him, but it's an ambivalent identification, and I can see his character as a critique of a certain type of man, and a critique of American superiority overseas (which Prince mentions). So things aren't quite so simple as I once thought.

In any event, I'd be willing to modify "misogynist" to "misanthropic" and "fascist" to "crypto-fascist," if it would make anyone happy. I'll continue to think about it, and I've enjoyed, somewhat covertly, watching the film again -- it has some brilliant craftsmanship to it and does raise some interesting and uncomfortable questions... Still...

A.

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#55 Post by pemmican » Mon May 08, 2006 3:49 am

Well, I'm kinda talking to myself, but I thought I'd also mention that Prince's book is also filled with some very curious "moves." He has a tendancy to take unambiguously reactionary and sexist statements made by Peckinpah, give enough background to show that they are things Peckinpah really thought about and believed, then proceed to ignore them to assert totally different readings. While it's true that directors can sometimes misunderstand their own work, and also true that what they say shouldn't necessarly be taken as the last word on their movies, Prince does this to such an extent that he ends up seeming quite condescending to Peckinpah, incapable of accepting that the man means what he says. In a way, people who call him a fascist and a misogynist are being much more respectful of him than Prince, since they're at least assuming that the director has insight into his own work and intends the effects he achieves. On page 104, for example, he quotes Peckinpah on STRAW DOGS as saying, of David:

"He didn't know who he was and what he was all about. We all intellectualize about why we should do things, but it's our purely animal instincts that are driving us to do them all the time. David found out he had all those instincts and it made him sick, sick unto death, and at the same time he had guts enough and sense enough to stand up and do what he had to do." (quoted on p. 104, SAVAGE CINEMA, italics mine).

Prince also discusses at length Peckinpah's interest in violence as catharsis and his allegiance to the theories of Robert THE TERRITORIAL IMPERATIVE Ardrey, all of which would support the conventional view of the movie: that Peckinpah on some level approves of the violence, sees it as proving David's manhood, through releasing his instinctual, innate aggression and defending his territory, which is healthier than his repressed, passive-aggressive, previous approach. This is supposed to have a redemptive quality both for David and for his audience (who achieve catharsis by having their own instinctual aggressive drives gratified). This is generally summed up as the "caveman" reading of the movie, which he shows has some fairly strong foundations through such quotes: then he somehow then tries to negotiate us into quite another view of the film -- one which disapproves of the violence, sees David as a villain, and -- well, actually, I'm not clear what his thesis about the film is, save that what all contemporary critics AND THE DIRECTOR HIMSELF say about it is apparently wrong, because the film is actually a masterpiece, which only he understands. The film means, apparently, nothing other than that violence is bad and that David and Amy have a "bad marriage..." The problematic aspects of it are simply dismissed, rewritten, or assumed to mean something other than the director says they mean.

Another example of the same sort of gamesmanship, in regard to misogyny: he quotes Peckinpah as saying "there are women and then there's pussy" and that Amy is "pussy under the veneer of being a woman." Peckinpah says himself that Amy "asked for the rape" (quoted on p. 126) and that "most women do" enjoy rape (p. 135). Prince then interprets the film to "prove" that it is not misogynist, that Amy doesn't ask for it, is deeply traumatized, etc. -- exactly the opposite of what Peckinpah says is going on and what most viewers take from the film. The scenes where Amy is clearly shown as enjoying Charlie's lovemaking are interpreted as a "measured sexual response" designed to "elicit... tenderness" from him (136), not her doing exactly what Peckinpah says he's showing her doing -- enjoying herself. The scenes where she strips and confronts the men at the window is an act of angry defiance, but NOT a "challenge," even tho' Peckinpah says Amy asks to be raped...

It's all really quite arrogant, isn't it? Prince dismisses almost everything Peckinpah says about STRAW DOGS -- pretty much all of which supports the "caveman"/fascist/misogynist reading -- as evidence only of the director's "customary verbal stupidity" (p. 134), while seizing on minor and ambiguous phrases (like David being the "heavy") to support his rehabilitation of the film, which in fact greatly lessens the meaning and scope of the film, by refusing to acknowledge that its problematic "messages" even exist. The director, in this view, is apparently some sort of idiot savant, who intended to make a film showing women enjoying rape, asking for it, and repressed men rising to heroism through violence -- but in fact made something quite else. I'd rather cluck my tongue and disapprove and have STRAW DOGS as a deeply questionable, offensive, and politically horrifying assault -- to accept it on its own terms -- than to mangle my perceptions along Prince's lines. In a way, Pauline Kael was showing Peckinpah far greater respect.

A.

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#56 Post by Mr Sausage » Thu May 11, 2006 8:25 am

It's all really quite arrogant, isn't it? Prince dismisses almost everything Peckinpah says about STRAW DOGS
I don't know, I think D.H. Lawrence summed it up nicely when he said trust the tale, not the teller. Of course he was talking about books, but it may as well have been about all art.

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#57 Post by pemmican » Thu May 11, 2006 5:03 pm

Er... whatever.

On other topics: does everyone else here think the 2005 special edition of PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID was a bad idea -- that Seydor and Redman had no real intention of restoring Peckinpah's vision so much as they wanted to impose their own? Is everyone unanimous that the Turner Preview version is the "real" version? The 2005 cut IS much tighter and has more impact -- the Turner cut feels a bit too sloppy and meandering, and some of what Seydor says about there not having been a fine cut makes sense; but it feels like I'm participating in something dirty when I watch this new cut, like its a posthumous betrayal of Peckinpah's own wishes: the second time control of his film has been taken away from him, and somehow worse in that it's allegedly being done in his name... I simply don't believe the 2005 version is closer to what Peckinpah wanted the film to be than the version he apparently showed friends... It's particularly disgusting that some of the stuff left out included most of Peckinpah's own cameo; they're literally cutting the director out of his own film.

It also seems to me that the "restored" prostitute scene NEEDED to be left out, so that we can have the reading that Pat knows where Billy is all along, and is just killing time, making it LOOK like he's doing his job; he's in Fort Sumner when Pat finds him at the beginning of the film, and he's in Fort Sumner when Pat finds him at the end. I assume that's why the Turner version doesn't have this scene. Does anyone know if the -- whats'ername, Ruthie? -- scene was in the cut of the film Peckinpah showed to friends...? Where was it restored from?

Peckinpah's critics -- in which I'm also including Prince, based on his attempts to make Peckinpah into a liberal apostle of anti-violence and his turning STRAW DOGS sideways to that end -- seem to show strangely little respect for the man himself. The casual dismissal with which Prince treats what Peckinpah says ("I know better than the director of the film what he intended with this scene...") and the ease with with Seydor and Redman chop up PAT GARRETT, claiming the theatrical cut actually had Peckinpah's stamp of approval when it clearly didn't, all seem really quite sad. Just because he was a cantankerous drunk with unfashionable views doesn't give other people the right to take over his work and make of it what they will. I mean, everyone can have an interpretation, but Seydor, Redman, and Prince seem downright disrespectful of the man...

A.

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#58 Post by Anonymous » Tue May 30, 2006 5:04 pm

bring me the head of alfredo garcia may quite possibly be sam's most personal work

he's been quoted as stating so anyway but it doesn't change the fact that straw dogs is his masterpiece.

sam did some great movies (osterman weekend is underrated) but his crazy drunken studio fighting lifestyle kept him from creating more masterpieces

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#59 Post by Barmy » Tue Aug 29, 2006 12:31 pm

Why does "Osterman" get such a bad rap? I saw it last night at BAM, in an apparently new print, and thought it was awesome.

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#60 Post by Narshty » Tue Aug 29, 2006 1:15 pm

pemmican wrote:On other topics: does everyone else here think the 2005 special edition of PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID was a bad idea
Talk to this man.

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#61 Post by Gordon » Thu Aug 31, 2006 12:52 pm

I saw the 1988 Turner cut in 35mm recently with what must have been an audience of first-timers, as I was the only one laughing and wheezing at the salty dialogue, as I am so well-acquinted with it by now, but on the first viewing, due to the typically muffly early 70s recording and mixing, it is hard to make out much of the wonderfully written earthy witticisms and full-blooded threats, so they all must have been a little bewildered at my chuckling. But it seemed to play very well and the overall impact of the film on myself was significantly greater than the previous DVD viewings, which is saying a lot. Pat Garrett is one of my favourite films, but it took some time for me to appreciate it for what it is - a rambling, elegiac, lonesome tale of friendship, betrayal and Fate. It is that rare blend of a roughly hewn, yet beautiful tale of America as it no longer is. Rudy Wurlitzer is a great writer who became bitter at Hollywood early on and thus, we were denied much of his talents. I'd love to read his original Pat Garrett screenplay - from what I have heard, it was/is a magnificent, poetic work - but Wurlitzer was unhappy with the final film back in 1973, though one wonders how he feels about it now.

I thought that the 2005 Redman cut was excellent intially, but now I am not sure - so much great dialogue is missing compared to the Turner cut and the lyrical version of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" over Slim's death seems a stretch, quite frankly. There is also a highly appropriate lethargic pace and naturalistic mood to the Turner cut that has been tightened and slightly dispelled in the Redman cut, I feel. The scene with Garrett and his wife is great though - that was a good choice. Overall, though, the recut seems contrived, like a personal experiment. I hope that it doesn't become the officially 'accepted' cut, though I reckon it will, as the Tuner cut transfers was from the old 1988 dupe neg or interpositive (the transfer of the Redman cut is far superior to the Turner), so it looks like Warner don't quite see it as 'important'. I hope not.

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#62 Post by zedz » Thu Aug 31, 2006 5:28 pm

I like both versions, and I think this is clearly a case where none of the extant versions of the film amounts to Peckinpah's authoritative cut. I also think that Seydor / Redman make a strong case for their recut as a possible better representation of Peckinpah's wishes. In many respects the fine cutting of certain scenes in the original release seems more characteristic of the director, and the reinsertions seem to be important. Although some of the material from the Turner version left out is good stuff, in most cases we have no idea how much comparable 'good stuff' Peckinpah decided to leave out of his other films, so just because we like it doesn't mean that Peckinpah would have chosen to retain it.

There are several instances where I disagree with the choices they made, though. The Dylan lyrical insertion is clearly an act of hubris on the part of the recutters, and the closure of the framing story may be strictly redundant, but it was clearly intended by Peckinpah (and I really like the bizarre freeze frame ending which they detest!). Ideally, the DVD should have included the original release version as well, but Warner have yet to approach Criterion's mania in this respect.

As for The Osterman Weekend, this was the first Peckinpah film I ever saw (on TV, in the wrong aspect ratio, and, I'm pretty sure, heavily cut) and I was amazed. The severe cutting made for an even more abrupt, enigmatic ending and I felt like a whole reel had been missed, or that I'd fallen asleep and woken up in a different film. Some of the set-pieces are prime Peckinpah, and even the more potboiler stuff that surrounds them has a edge (of paranoia or sarcasm) most films in that tradition lack. At the very least, it's a late flowering of cool 70s attitude in the midst of corporate 80s Hollywood, and no disgrace as a final work.

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#63 Post by Person » Fri Jun 22, 2007 8:45 pm

There's a British edition of The Deadly Companions on the way from Optimum in August. Hopefully, it will be the same anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer as the Danish edition. Decades of atrocious, faded pan and scan TV prints come to an end!

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#64 Post by Belmondo » Sat Jun 23, 2007 12:51 pm

Peckinpah reminds me of a couple of our recent Presidents - a few simple ideas, very strongly held, and no middle ground on whether we are in the hands of a master or a buffoon.

For me, the films of Peckinpah reveal general thematic unity that goes something like this - The old west (or civilization) is coming to an end so let's abuse some women (we hate them anyway) and kill as many people as possible while talking about male bonding as the sun sets gloriously behind us.

Buffoonery triumphs so completely that booze and vitamin injections needed to get the director out of his director's chair now result in pages of (ostensibly) serious discussion of what this guy was doing. What he was doing was trying to figure out how to kill ninety minutes between the slo-mo action scenes. When he dispensed with the violence and actually tried to say something about men and a lost way of life; the movies are so tedious that you actually forget how embarassing and squirm inducing it is to portray these themes in so heavy handed a manor.

I liked THE WILD BUNCH for its unapologetic violence and I think Peckinpah did succeed in getting his themes across beautifully in RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY. Unfortunately, he made more movies ... most of them are a mess and some, like STRAW DOGS are disgusting.

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#65 Post by Cinetwist » Sat Jun 23, 2007 4:44 pm

Personally I love Peckinpah's heavy handed manor's, especially when they contain some fightin' and whores.

Many of his films are indeed extremely flawed but you yourself admit that Ride the High Country and The Wild Bunch succeed. Why does everything have to? If I could watch a film as good as Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid every year, I'd be an extremely happy person.

It's so refreshing to (re)visit these un-PC and exceedingly romantic films. Unapologetic is definitely the word and I wish there were more unapologetic films made today.

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#66 Post by Mr Sausage » Sat Jun 23, 2007 6:47 pm

Cinetwist wrote:Personally I love Peckinpah's heavy handed manor's, especially when they contain some fightin' and whores.

Many of his films are indeed extremely flawed but you yourself admit that Ride the High Country and The Wild Bunch succeed. Why does everything have to? If I could watch a film as good as Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid every year, I'd be an extremely happy person.

It's so refreshing to (re)visit these un-PC and exceedingly romantic films. Unapologetic is definitely the word and I wish there were more unapologetic films made today.
Even this small reply is more than Belmondo's buffoonery deserves.

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#67 Post by Robotron » Sat Jun 23, 2007 9:51 pm

Of course, like all the dumb critics, he picks Peckinpah's most didactic and simple-minded film to praise as one of his best.

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#68 Post by Nothing » Sun Jun 24, 2007 12:33 pm

Oh dear belmondo, a classic case of your personal morality preventing you from engaging properly with the material in front of you.

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#69 Post by Belmondo » Sun Jun 24, 2007 2:15 pm

Nothing wrote:Oh dear belmondo, a classic case of your personal morality preventing you from engaging properly with the material in front of you.
You are right, and I accept this criticism completely. By making a series of dismissive statements, I left all of you with no option but to dismiss me as a buffoon. However, I assure you that it has nothing to do with personal morality - I'm up here on Cape Cod so you can assume, correctly, that I am one of those Massachusetts liberals with no morality whatsoever!

I already acknowledged my appreciation for at least two of his movies, so let me attempt to explain my feelings this way - I was part of the opening week audience that was clearly and genuinely blown away by the experience of THE WILD BUNCH.
A few years later, I was also part of the opening week audience for THE GETAWAY, and when they gasped, laughed and applauded at the scene where McQueen slaps Ali MacGraw around a few more times than necessary, I began to question what this filmmaker was up to, and all of that led to the conclusions in my previous post.

We can discuss whether or not Peckinpah is a fascist, a misogynist, whether he means what he says, whether he intends the effects he achieves, and whether he intends to show violence as catharsis. These are risky themes and you better get it right; because if you don't, then your legacy to the explosion of young directors who followed you in the mid 1970's will merely be the perfection of exploding blood blisters and an audience who likes it a bit too much.

This is not a moral position. Cormac McCarthy has shown in his novel "Blood Meridian" that endless and graphic violence can become a true work of art. He got it right. I refuse to settle for anything less.

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#70 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun Jun 24, 2007 5:56 pm

Belmondo wrote:I was also part of the opening week audience for THE GETAWAY, and when they gasped, laughed and applauded at the scene where McQueen slaps Ali MacGraw around a few more times than necessary, I began to question what this filmmaker was up to, and all of that led to the conclusions in my previous post.
See, I find it odd that your first reaction would be to question the director rather than the audience who was hooting and hollering at a bit of physical abuse. Anyway, I've always felt that Ali McGraw's character was right and that it took Steve McQueen's character a while to get past his own macho bullshit to see that (and by the end he does). She displays one of the prime Peckinpahian virtues: complete loyalty. Contrast this with the Sally Struthers character who demonstrates no loyalty and therebye serves as the antithetical counterpart to McGraw, allowing the latter's virtues to shine the more. That is not to say that the slapping (a scene I recall rather hazily) is not troublesome--indeed, Peckinpah is an often troublesome director, but one who deserves more than mere dismissal.
Belmondo wrote:This is not a moral position.
I would say it's absolutely a moral position, but I don't know why moral positions are also being summarily dismissed. Being a good film viewer, far from being an amoral viewer, means having a finely tuned moral sensibility, which is not in the least incompatible with disinterest or detachment.
Belmondo wrote:Cormac McCarthy has shown in his novel "Blood Meridian" that endless and graphic violence can become a true work of art. He got it right. I refuse to settle for anything less.
I haven't read Blood Meridian, but from what I've heard (which is a lot), it doesn't sound like a particularly Peckinpahian work (or, rather, one attuned to his sensibility). And while I applaud your refusal to compromise your standards, I would still add that I think Peckinpah got his violence right, and that there are few other film directors to use violence in so complex a manner.

I'll further add that I now feel rather bad about calling your earlier post buffoonery--not because it didn't deserve it, but because of your subsequent gentlemanly behaviour.

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#71 Post by Person » Sun Jun 24, 2007 6:17 pm

Misunderstandings about Peckinpah's character and films is nothing new. Orson Welles thought that Cross of Iron was the greatest anti-war film ever made and few people were as good at reading a film than Welles and I pretty much share his view, though there are other war films that illustrate the terror, absurdity and impossibilities of warfare. But the curious thing about warfare is that it looks amazing on screen and that has been exploited in the best and worst sense of the word over the years.

Straw Dogs is essentially a film about a man who ends up overcompensating for his weaknesses. It features a rape scene that evolves into a love scene and then back to a rape scene and leaves a bad taste in the mouth, as the intent is ambiguous and in Cinema, few rape scenes are ambiguous, as it opens a Pandora's box of worms, eels, snakes, crocodiles and hysterical liberals.

The Ballad of Cable Hogue is a beautiful little film with a wonderful central performance by Jason Robards and is even-handed with its characters and is more or less free of graphic violence.

Junior Bonner is one of the great films about the common man and his family being fucked over by capitalism.

Is there anything offensive about The Killer Elite? Not really. It's a bit bland after the first act.

Pat Garrett, though flawed, is one of the most literate Westerns of the late 60s/70s, I feel. Here we have factual history: Pat Garrett betrayed his friend William Bonney because times were changing fast and there was no space left for outlaws. It may be a "simple idea", but that was the state of affairs.

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Mr Sheldrake
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#72 Post by Mr Sheldrake » Tue Jun 26, 2007 8:30 pm

I found this a fascinating thread, but I think one possibility may have been missed in the debate over Peckinpah's attitude towards rape and women. That is, that he was a bad storyteller. To provoke so much confusion in audiences over scenes involving a horrendous act simply doesn't cut it with me. Peckinpah had an eye for composition, and a feel for dynamic editing, but he was a primitive artist that worked from the gut, a gut too often filled with booze, drugs and half-baked ideas.

On the commentary to Alfredo Garcia, the idolaters describe how Sam decided on Vega for the female lead because she exuded such natural earthiness. Since her performance is merely adequate, I suspect Sam chose her instead for her spectacular tits, and her willingness to allow Sam to give them as much screen time as he could fit in, which turned out to be alot. I think that is, essentially, how he liked to view women.

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#73 Post by Mr Sausage » Tue Jun 26, 2007 10:55 pm

To provoke so much confusion in audiences over scenes involving a horrendous act simply doesn't cut it with me.
Yeah, how dare violence be ambiguous and complicated! I'm with you! People should be told what's going on in the simplest manner because life is simple--everyone knows that. How brutish of Peckinpah to think otherwise.

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#74 Post by Mr Sheldrake » Tue Jun 26, 2007 11:29 pm

The subject of sexual violence against women might need a deeper context than a Sam Peckinpah movie is able to provide. I don't know what Peckinpah is saying in these rape scenes, I don't think he did either, they don't ring true to me, storytelling-wise.

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#75 Post by Andre Jurieu » Wed Jun 27, 2007 12:55 am

Mr Sheldrake wrote: ...I don't think he did either, they don't ring true to me, storytelling-wise.
I'm not even sure what you mean by this. How exactly are they supposed to ring true, storytelling-wise?

I'm constantly astounded that viewers dismiss Peckinpah's film-making methods so casually and yet these same viewers are so willing to give other film-makers extraordinary leniency just because they share a similar perspective on the topic at hand (this isn't directed at any specific viewer, just a general trend with directors such as Peckinpah). Why are other film-makers allowed to submerge themselves in ambiguity and vagaries when exploring topics that are already ambiguous and vague, while somehow still being considered a genius within their field, whereas a film-maker who creates uncertainty with customary morality is deemed an ignorant, incompetent, amateurish brute? Why are viewers so quick to be dismissive of audacious choices made while cloaked within traditional film-making techniques, instead of perhaps taking some responsibility as a viewer for conceivably not understanding the film-makers intentions?

When I watch the work of any respected film-maker and don't immediately find a common perspective, I usually don't just assume the film-maker to be an idiot, unworthy of my time. Instead, I usually assume some of the responsibility and usually attempt to reduce the distance between my own perspective and the film-maker's viewpoint, which is usually more rewarding than just assuming he/she is a total idiot without any tangible skill.

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