Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

29 January 2012

Butch Cassidy

I love Sam Shepard. I don't love all of his plays, but there are some truly wonderful ones and, because of this, I love Sam Shepard. So: a movie where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid get away instead of getting killed in that shootout and where Sam Shepard plays Butch Cassidy twenty-five years later? I'm in!

The film is directed by Mateo Gil, who has written some excellent films over the years (Mar Adentro, Abre los Ojos), and is from an original screenplay by Miguel Barrios. The very fact that this is an original screenplay makes me happy, actually; it feels as though there are so few of those out there.

Blackthorn is the kind of revisionist western we're used to seeing these days, and you might say it is filled with clichés, and in a genre that is tired and old. But the thing is, Blackthorn is just so enjoyable. The film focuses on this old, tired bandit and what he knows will probably be his last adventure. Shepard is paired up  with Spanish matinee idol Eduardo Noriega (You'll recognize him. He was the star of Abre los Ojos, El Espinazo del Diablo, Plata Quemada and a whole bunch of other stuff.) and the two are enjoyable to watch together.

I'm not saying the film particularly breaks new ground. The very idea of this new world being no country for old men was explored gorgeously by the Coens, and I don't expect too many films to deal with the outdatedness of the cowboy as well as that one. But, I didn't ask this film to do that, and Blackthorn is more interested in morality than the Coens, Blackthorn is more of a meditation on living with oneself after one has done things one regrets, on how to craft a life out of loneliness, on the difference between who we love and who we are.

Blackthorn might not be your thing if you're not into westerns, and I wouldn't blame you. This one is gorgeously shot but slow-paced and more contemplative than action-packed. But if you want to watch an old legend play an even older legend in a very well made genre-film, Blackthorn is for you.