Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Where the Buffalo Roam

Where the Buffalo Roam; comedy, USA, 1980; D: Art Linson, S: Bill Murray, Peter Boyle, Bruno Kirby, René Auberjonois

Journalist Hunter S. Thompson is writing a story about a lawyer he knew, Lazlo, so he remembers their misadventures: in '68, on a trial, Lazlo defended teenagers who were indicted for possessing marijuana, but was subsequently jailed himself for contempt of court. Lazlo and Hunter were a good match due to their free spirits and a 'wild' perspective on life. Lazlo persuaded Hunter to abandon the coverage of the Super Bowl and accompany him to an isolated house where several Mexicans bought some weapons. Hunter also drugged a reporter, Harris, to take his identity and meet presidential candidate, Richard Nixon, a man he detested. After a final meeting in an airplane, Lazlo was never heard off again.

A semi-biopic of the 'untorhodox' journalist Hunter S. Thompson, "Where the Buffalo Roam" distorted his adventures to such an extent that people unfamiliar with his opus might ask themselves what's so special about him in the first place - Thompson here simply turned out to be a primitive bum, while his philosophy and sharp observations are absent. Or if they are, they were not transported to the screen adequately: the movie is an inarticulate mess, consisting of unconnected episodes of buffoonery (playing football in a hotel room, shooting at an anwsering machine...) whose purpose or cohesion evade the viewers, whereas even though the legandary Bill Murray did a surprisingly good job of mimicking Thompson's mannerisms (especially his mumbling), the story just showed him in a backward, hillbilly edition - even more problematic when one has in mind that he prolongued this illiberal persona even in his later films, "Caddyshack" and "Stripes" - and resorted to low-comic level, which is problematic since Murray always coped the best in more sophisticated comedies, where he played more intelligent individuals with a (clear) cynical jab aimed against someone. Unfortunately, the jab here isn't aimed towards anyone in particular (with the exception of Richard Nixon) whereas the only solid source of a point was achieved in the small courtroom sequence where Lazlo defends youngsters because he considers marijuana something unworthy of a jail sentence - at least he had an ideal and a cause one could identify with, but that was quickly buried in the sea of bizarre vignettes, just as the whole film. Still, there are a few good jokes here and there, whether visual (a 'two-in-one' accident: in front of a hospital, Lazlo accidentally hits his car with another one, while the turbulence even causes a statue to topple and smash onto the latter) or in dialogues ("They never search me, I have an honest face", says Thompson after he reveals a knife on a plane; "Orientals, and even those suspected of being Orientals..."; "We are experiencing turbulence. And the plane hasn't even started yet.").


No comments: