Friday, June 8, 2007

The Wild Bunch (1969)

Directed by Sam Peckinpah. Starring William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, and Robert Ryan.

Much like GRAND ILLUSION, Peckinpah's classic Western deals with men whose way of life has become obsolete, but in terms of style the two films couldn't be more dissimilar. Peckinpah's film is bleak and violent, with the criminals' credo being "if they move, kill 'em!" Holden, a somewhat shallow screen presence during the 1950s, matured into a fascinating actor as he grew older, and he's great as the leader of the bunch, confronting the issue of his age and the new century which will see the end of the Old West. Most strikingly, we see his history with Ryan, a former member of the bunch who is now leading a group of men hunting them down. The film's violence has been described as "balletic", and indeed Peckinpah uses slow-motion and editing to find a kind of harsh beauty in the carnage. But for all the artistry, the violence doesn't get any easier to watch- which is precisely the point.

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