International Writers Magazine: Film
Pat Garrett (James
Coburn) used to be Billys (Kris Kristofferson) friend, but they
both took different turns in their lives. Billy remained a dangerous disobedient
gunman, Pat became a sheriff; a man longing for peaceful life or a man
afraid to risk his life in the way he and Billy used to. The result
is the same he is now supposed to get rid of Billy. But he
doesnt want to betray him. It is an honourable or at least open
fight. They are both from the same old school. Unlike those people
who made Pat sheriff, whilst following their own secret deadly agenda,
as youll come to know right at the beginning of the movie, for the
story is told in retrospective. Friendship and honour are indispensable
ingredients in this genre. Death is always ready to collect and
men are ready to kill or to die. Blood has here slightly different
colour than we are used to, but somehow it suits well the movie, as well
as the cast.
Garrett and Billy the Kid
Directed by Sam Peckinpah,
written by Rudy Wurlitzer,
starring James Coburn, Kris Kristofferson, Bob Dylan
Pat Garrett is a 35 year old film about an event hundreds year ago
which never actually happened, taking place in setting which, at
best, only resembles the reality. It is a western, a genre that
has been virtually moribund for two decades in spite of a few quite
recent attempts to resurrect it (3:10 to Yuma, The Proposition,
Deadwood). Yet it is a brilliant movie that still excites an audience,
maybe more than ever before.
Coburn and Kristofferson are literally living out their characters.
Others inhabitants of the Wild West are mostly supposed
to look tough and they do, so good work there too. To cast Bob
Dylan as a rookie-gunman was maybe rather strange idea, but thanks
to the music he made himself look like a narrator of the story.
It gave a balladic flavour to the film. Editing is very
impressive, especially in opening and closing scenes. The
brilliant cinematography is evocative of the era.
To talk about historical accuracy in western is probably meaningless.
Sure, there were people named Billy the Kid, Calamity Jane and others.
There were Indians and buffalos. But it all became legend
and created its own myth that became part of our (or at least of mine)
Westerns were, and still are, fairytales for adults, fairytales with its
heroes fighting for the truth, ready to kill for their ideals, however
immoral sometimes, ready to die for them, fighting in a world where good
and evil were quite distinguishable and the future was just about to change
everything. You could see the new world arising from the sand; everything
was going to be better and bigger. Sam Peckinpah turned those heroes
against themselves and let them die. The New world didnt need them.
Because that world was about building and prosperity, comfort and conformity,
not about renegades big gestures and living really free life. Through
an impressive time mask Peckinpah showed us the actual face of the present.
Its time to forget the old heroes, theres a new world to...
© Josef Fiser November 2007
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