Saturday, 17 April 2010

'The dead are dead. You ought to bury them.'

Dir. Martin Ritt
(Twentieth Century Fox 1966)

A Newman western, it works, but it's not exciting, the plot dozes away. It literally is 6 people in a carriage, hitching a ride, getting from A – B in Death Valley country. Newman is John 'Hombre' Rusell, a white man who leaves his adoptive Apache community to live among 'civilised' people. Newman eulogises about his community but we don't see them suffer, we don't get to understand how these Indians live, the whole Apache thing appears on the surface.

Newman's performance is minimalistic and apparently based on his research of an Indian who standing outside a general store, with one foot up against the shop front and both arms crossed, hours later when Newman passed by again, the Indian hadn't moved position. Newman's stillness maybe serves to hide all the suffering he's seen, maybe you can begin to grasp the horrors of the Appache community with Newman's lifeless character. But then Newman's performance is thrown back in our face when he decides to be the hero come the credits rolling. Richard Boone's Ciero Grimes plays a great villian, he really doesn't give a shit about people, an essential ingredient for a bad guy. The women are too eloquent here for this period, Diane Cilento, articulating her place in the world to any guy who will just cringeful. Death Valley looks nice, as everyone rides this stage coach, but it's never really explored – it's wide shot after wide of the coach meandering along a track. Newman's reserved demeanour, his solemn body movements suggest an interesting and complicated character, but everything here, the actors, the landscapes all seem a little squandered.

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