Monday, July 7, 2008

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid; western, USA, 1973; D: Sam Peckinpah, S: Kris Kristofferson, James Coburn, Bob Dylan, Richard Jaeckel, Katy Jurado, Chill Wills, Jason Robards

New Mexico, 1881. Outlaw and former sheriff Billy the Kid meets his old friend Pat Garrett, a former outlaw who in the meantime became a sheriff. Pat now works for the rich and dubious Chisom and explains Billy that he has to leave the country for his own good. Pat even arrests him for murder, but Billy manages to escape. After almost two months of search, Pat finds and kills him. Several years later, Pat gets shot himself.

Together with the bizarre revisionist western "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid", there lies an interesting fact - the magical song "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" by singer (and here also actor) Bob Dylan, composed especially for this opportunity, enchanted music lovers, but even became longer lasting than the film itself. That doesn't mean that the film doesn't have any virtues. Actually, it has plenty, from the brilliant role of James Coburn up to unusual situations, like the one where the cottage by Billy the Kid is surrounded by Pato's shooters who advises him to surrender and he will even get a "warm lunch". But, that doesn't mean that it doesn't have any flaws at all: such creepy scenes, like in the opening shots in which Billy and his friends are shooting at living chickens, buried in sand, and thus literally make their heads explode, not only don't have anything to do with the story, not only are pointless and disgusting, but also add it to the controversial queue of questionable films that allow animal cruelty for entertainment. By mixing melancholy and anarchy, drama and grotesque, beauty and realism (Pat shoots Billy first, and then the reflection of himself in the mirror, adding to the symbolic fact that those two characters are one and the same), the controversial - sometimes wise sometimes annoying - and slightly loony Sam Peckinpah got an interesting movie that isn't for everyone's taste - but a better author would manage to push forward such a style and achieve a movie for everyone's taste.


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