July 9–August 7, 2011
Butch cassidy and the sundance kid
Saturday, July 23, 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, July 24, 7:00 p.m.
1969, 110 mins. 35mm print source: Criterion Pictures
Directed by George Roy Hill. Written by William Goldman. Produced by John Foreman. Photographed by Conrad L. Hall. Edited by John C. Howard and Richard C. Meyer. Music by Burt Bacharach.
Principal cast: Paul Newman (as Butch Cassidy), Robert Redford (The Sundance Kid), and Katherine Ross (Etta Place).
Review by Nathan Rabin for the A.V. Club, June 14, 2006:
Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid might not have invented the modern buddy comedy, but it may as well have. While Lethal Weapon screenwriter Shane Black was still toddling around playing cowboys and Indians, director George Roy Hill, cinematographer Conrad Hall, composer Burt Bacharach, stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and screenwriter William Goldman were meticulously crafting the gold standard for movies about rugged pals quipping and wisecracking their way through one perilous bonding situation after another. Goldman has criticized his Oscar-winning screenplay for being overly clever, which is akin to job applicants who cite their biggest flaws as “I’m too hard-working” or “I’m too much of a perfectionist.” But Goldman has a point. Butch Cassidy’s dialogue is so unrelentingly sarcastic and irreverent that the film sometimes feels like an especially sharp Mad Magazine parody of itself… Hill is reported to have complained following a screening that people were laughing at his tragedy. But tragedies are seldom this glib. Then again, they’re seldom this fun or consistently entertaining, either.
In performances that cemented their iconic status, Newman and Redford star as two of the Old West’s best-looking and quickest-witted outlaws, genial gentlemen bandits who flee to South America rather than face a “super-posse” representing a railroad baron the duo repeatedly robbed. Newman and Redford try to outrun their past, but their enemies aren't about to let them off easy.
Though Hall’s stunning vistas and gorgeous exploration of wide-open spaces hearken back to John Ford, Butch Cassidy otherwise radiates the youthful energy, manic pop playfulness, and antic clowning of the French New Wave. The film’s subversive attitude toward genres and genre-mashing echoes the pioneering work of Jean-Luc Godard, and Newman and Redford deliver an extended master class on the uses of old-school, twinkly-eyed movie-star charisma. Though the encroachment of the modern world in the form of super-posses, vengeful tycoons, and the taming of the once-wild West spell doom for the film’s loveable anti-heroes, that smartass, incorrigible modernity is precisely what ensures Butch Cassidy's timelessness.
Review by Sarah Artt for EyeforFilm.co.uk:
The two lovable outlaws Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and The Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) rob trains and banks all over the American West until the law gets too close. Rather than face the prospect of jail, they flee with wayward schoolteacher Etta Place (Katherine Ross) to South America, where they continue to hold up banks, this time in broken Spanish. Their high life on the lam comes to a close as the Pinkerton detectives (an early species of bounty hunter) turn up in Bolivia.
The film opens, self-consciously sepia-toned, more brown-and-white than black-and-white, immediately suggesting tattered “Wanted” posters, with a long take of The Sundance Kid—Redford was a virtual unknown then—glaring balefully from underneath his Stetson, as he plays cards, followed soon afterwards by one of the first big lines of the film, “Hey kid, how good are ya?” as he displays his marksmanship.
The film doesn’t pass into color until Butch and Sundance cross a wide expanse of prairie, and the gradations of color well up, dissolving this initially gritty vision of America’s past. Watching the first half hour of this movie, you start to understand why people love it. The pairing of the silent, brooding tiger-like masculinity embodied by Sundance with the quick wit of Cassidy is a classic formula. This and what was perhaps the unexpected humor of the film at the time of its release, when Westerns appeared so earnest, is undoubtedly what made it a runaway hit.
Butch and Sundance’s decision to flee America also made a timely parallel with the draft dodgers in 1969, lending it a particular cultural relevance. The film has aged remarkably well—Redford and Newman’s performances still feel fresh and amusing. The scene that strikes me as being very much of its time is the one where we first see Sundance and Etta together. The audience is unaware they are already lovers when Sundance sneaks into her house and waits in the darkened bedroom. When he surprises her, she gives no sign that she knows him, as he orders her to undress at gunpoint… When Sundance and Etta finally embrace, the tension is dispelled by her petulant remark: “You know what I wish? That once you'd get here on time…”
Like her co-stars, Ross is subtly charming as the bored schoolteacher who abandons it all to throw in her lot with the outlaws. Some of her funniest scenes are those where she attempts to coach Butch and Sundance in the necessary Spanish vocabulary to carry on robbing banks in Bolivia. While Butch has no gift for languages, he seems determined to master Spanish, while Sundance merely glowers darkly in a corner, scoffing at any attempt to learn.
The film is well paced, moving smoothly towards its dramatic finale, a feat that is not easily managed when much of the story is comic and the dialogue filled with snappy one-liners… a masterful, entertaining film.
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