Sunday, April 24, 2011

Parting shot: The Proposition

As per usual, a proper understanding of what's happening in this article can only be attained after reading the original review at Bill's Movie Emporium.

I guess the feud was never going to last very long. After two weeks of Wild Bunch talk in which you and I had some legitimate issues of contention, we find ourselves yet again, for the most part, agreeing on a given film.

My reaction to John Hillcoat’s film (and, I guess because the poster insists on it, John Hillcoat’s film WRITTEN BY NICK CAVE) was positive, quite positive in fact despite a few caveats. Yours was positive on another level altogether. Where I enjoyed the film, was intrigued by high-stakes but very character centric plot and even found some perverted pleasure in some of the violence thrown onto the screen, judging by the language in your review of the film it would seem as though you had found the holy grail of the western genre. So be it, I’m not going to try to change your mind since, in the end, we both like the movie. It’s also Easter, and there was a long, long hockey game on last night, so I’m not much in the mood for picking a fight.

There is something to be said about Captain Stanley, who insist on taming a wild land which, as you cleverly stated, does not want to be civilized. In fact, I really like how you pointed how uncivilized his strategy of vanquishing Charlie Burns is. Incarcerate the youngest, possibly less dangerous brother and threaten to hang him unless Arthur manages to locate his elder, clearly more dangerous brother, and kill him. That is taking the law into one’s own hands and adapting oneself to the viciousness that permeates throughout outback. I think it was Winstone’s performance that made me see a glimmer of civility in his Captain Stanley, or the fact that he could have someone like Emily Watson as his wife. She has a lot of class as an actress, so if your character has her character as a wife, that automatically means that you must have some iota of decency in your blood. In the end however, despite what vile techniques he used to track down his prey, I was still rooting for him…or rooting ‘more’ for him than I was for any of the Burns brothers. Knowing that he was doing his job for what can be deemed altruistic reasons (bringing a sense of order to land that only invites death) managed to earn my, I guess empathy is the correct term. Not sympathy, but empathy. Now, he may be acting foolishly in thinking that he can bring civility and that is another discussion altogether, but the fact that he at least wants to do something that is right (in a sense) made in the ‘good guy’ or the ‘less ‘bad’ bad guy’ for me. It was his motivation and the growing sense that he was going to fail in his mission that moved me. I don’t think anyone watching this movie can ever possibly be under the impression that this is going to end well for him, and maybe that got to me as well.

That really does consist of the only point of contention that hit me upon reading your review last Sunday. You kept saying that the film does not feature any character we viewer can root for, but I sided comfortably with the character of Captain Stanley. However, even that is just a small matter of personal taste, philosophy, cultural inclinations, etc. For the most part, your review was basically ‘the film is beautiful in its bleakness and I loved it because of that.’ That’s fine by me, although I don’t have much to say in terms of a rebuttal. I also enjoyed the film for its bleakness, but the existence of Captain Stanley was important for me, otherwise the odds are I would not have liked the film as much as I did. I think that had the film been any bleaker, I would have been turned off to a degree. He was the window through which I was looking this depressing world. 

And that's that. A short rebuttal, and quite frankly not much of a rebuttal at that, but them's the breaks. 
Next week: The Quick and the Dead. Better be quick, Bill, otherwise you'll be dead!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can see your take on Captain Stanley. I saw the civility you speak of, but I thought that his actions overrode that civility. Captain Stanley and his wife still clung to the civilized world they knew, but the uncivilized place they now lived in was ridding them of said civility.

That was my read at least, so I do see some of the civility you do, I just viewed it differently.