Monday, September 3, 2007

September 3rd Log

1962, Sam Peckinpah, United States
1st Viewing, Turner Classic Movies

Before completely reimagining the western genre with his groundbreaking 1969 film The Wild Bunch, Sam Peckinpah made Ride in the High Country. The film is his first western and above all the film seems to mark a swan song for its lead actors, Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott, both of whom had long lasting careers in the western genre. Here they play two aging gunmen who are hired by a bank to deliver gold from a mining camp. The narrative is quite simple and certainly nothing innovative, but the lyrical direction of Peckinpah combined with the powerful performances by McCrea and Scott (in their last significant roles). Even before making more definitive film of his style, Ride in the High Country stands as one of Peckinpah’s better films. One that captures his trademark realism and complex morality. It is also an important tribute to a genre and of two of it’s long lasting figures.

2001, David Gordon Green, United States

Repeat Viewing, IFC

My friend George said that he was gonna live to be 100 years old. He said, He said that he was going to be the president of the United States. I wanted to see him lead a parade and wave a flag on the Fourth of July." In his first feature film, filmmaker David Gordon Green wrote / directed the fascinating and artistic George Washington. It's a very creative and original vision, which draws inspiration from the masterful work of Charles Burnett’s essential 1977 masterwork Killer of Sheep, as well as the films of Terrence Malick (specifically Days of Heaven). Much like these influences, Green stretches the boundaries of plot and storytelling to create a unique quality, while remaining honest and respectful of the viewer and the films characters. The characters (and audience) never get cheated or manipulated. More so then plot, George Washington relies on a series of incidents to examine the minds and feelings of it's young characters (who ALL are perfect, despite absolutely NO acting experience). Despite the films minor plot, it still manages to be powerful and creates a mood and sense of humanity to keep viewers interest in it's study of poor kids in an adult world, which seems to be decaying around them. The impact and strength of the film (like Days of Heaven) can mostly be credited to the outstanding cinematography by Tim Orr (who Green respectfully shares the end credit with). The train tracks, junk-yards, pools, bathrooms, and homes which surround George Washington have an equal role to it's characters. Green and Orr brilliantly capture atmosphere and mood, and their work has such a timeless and placeless quality to it. Race, class, or even corporations are nonexistent in this films world. While George Washington may not be absolutely perfect, it's still an excellent film from a gifted young filmmaker, and highly recommended to those who enjoy the artistic vision and poetic power of cinema.


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