Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 191: Tuesday July 12

Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (Peckinpah, 1973): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 6.10pm

This is screening as part of the Passport to Cinema series and will be introduced by Richard Combs.

This movie, one of my all-time favourites, was one of the films central to my developing a passion for cinema. As is now widely known director Sam Peckinpah had the film taken away from him soon after completion and his work was substantially re-edited in order that the studio could put out a truncated 105-minute version which they thought would prove more popular in cinemas.

Peckinpah arranged for his original cut to be stolen and hidden away and it was this version, which was found after his death and released in 1988, which will be shown tonight. The beginning and end are radically different and scenes integral to the understanding of the relationship of the two main characters are included in the director's 121-minute cut.

I saw the film at the Cornerhouse cinema in Manchester and that experience, plus reading Combs's article in the September 1989 issue of the Monthly Film Bulletin, had a major impact on me.

Here is the Time Out review:

'Restored and reassembled, this is the full and harmonious movie that Peckinpah wanted to be remembered by before the butchers at MGM got their hands on it. Starting with a framing sequence from 1909 which shows Coburn's aged Garrett being gunned down by the same men who hired him to get Billy the Kid back in 1881, the additional 15 minutes introduce the menacing figure of Barry Sullivan's Boss Chisum, a frolicsome brothel scene ('Last time Billy was here it took four to get him up and five to get him down again'), some engaging Wild West cameos, and a less obtrusive use of Bob Dylan's soundtrack. All in all the film is more playful, more balanced, and very much an elegy for the old ways of the West, rather than a meandering bloodthirsty battle between Kristofferson's preposterously likeable outlaw and Coburn's ambivalent survivor, Garrett. Like Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, it both records and condemns the passage of time and the advent of progress; and there is a sombre, mournful quality which places the film very high up in the league of great Westerns.' Steve Grant 

Here is an extract on YouTube with commentary on the scene.

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