Sunday, June 19, 2011

Parting Shot: The Shootist

For a better appreciation of the article that follows, a proper reading of Bill's review for The Shootist over at his Movie Emporium is in order.

How ironic that you and I have rebuttal articles to write and publish in the aftermath of our respective reviews for Don Siegal's The Shootist. I frequently liken these 'parting shots', as I jocularly refer to them as, to the 'aftermath' of our reviews. They consist of what we have we left to say about our individual thoughts after all the cards are left on the table. In the case of this week's rebuttal post, I it feels more like a post-mortem. Not only have our reviews clearly expressed our positions on this important film, but, as everyone familiar with the movie knows, the greatest icon of the western genre, John Wayne, fires his final bullet in the story as well. In that respect, one could almost say that today were are publishing our 'post mortems.' Eerie.

Today I feel the need to put away my pistol. While I had some issues with Siegal's picture, I was nodding in agreement with a lot of what you elaborated on last Sunday. What I found significantly pertinent in your article was how at times our thoughts echoed one another's. You even made use of the term 'meta' in describing the symbiosis existing with the story's principal character, J.B. Books (who I mistakenly referred to as Brooks before someone from Filmspotting sent a personal message pinpointing the error). Spot on, kind sir, spot on. Well, that may have been one of the easier topical aspects of the film to notice, but the fact that it affected you and I in similar fashion was nice to learn. I imagine that Wayne was close to the age of retirement, not to mention that he plays a sickly (literally) character, which coupled together heightened the sense of a final performance. And the actor does deliver in spades, does he not? The scenes in which Books, and perhaps Wayne as well, admits to his inner feelings, some of which are grand in how humane and decent they are instead of super macho, hit all the right notes.

Another aspect to your review which made it all the more interesting was the fact that, as chance would have it, you wrote about several qualities which I had thought about inserting into my own text but left out due to various factors, the most important being length, since I know my reviews have a tendency to be long-winded at times. Your assessment of the director's style was the most important. Siegal indeed holds backs from adding any serious sense of style to the picture. Having seen a couple of Siegal movies, I do not think he is a director that has all that much style about him, but I understood what you meant. There was something quite simple about the cinematography and editing which lend itself to the important story. It was as though everyone involved in the making of The Shootist knew exactly how special the project was and decided that the scenes, as found within the text or script,should do the storytelling. I still thought Siegal was doing some interesting things, visually speaking. Whenever characters, usually Books and Mrs. Rogers, were walking through the halls from a bedroom to the kitchen or a living room, the camera would suddenly adopt a hand held style, which enabled it to follow both people for the entirety of their march from one room to the next. That was very neat because it allowed the viewer to discover the building at the same time as J.B. Books did. There were also a few nice low shots where the camera look up to the people walking by or cars and carriages riding on the street. Overall however, I agree that style per say is not what the film was going for, nor should it have been.

I already know that we do not entirely agree with how the films eventually does away with the character of Books. I still stand by my statements from last week, if only because I still don't get what the heck the barman had to do with anything. The film makes it clear that Books has a reputation that does not always serve him well. Is it implied that the barman was related to someone Book's sent to jail or possibly even killed? I am not saying that is impossible, because of course it is, but the film hints not hint at that, the barman is almost never seen throughout the film and the murder happens during the final 3 minutes. I was left sitting on my couch going 'Wait, where did this guy come from and what's his beef with Wayne?!?' In that sense the climax felt cheap, as I wrote briefly in my review.

On the whole, it seems as though we reacted rather similarly to the film. It is a very well made and well acted piece of cinema. You just may be correct in saying that it features Wayne's best performance. I love him in True Grit, but he is at least equally excellent here in The Shootist. Even though there was almost no disagreement, this was a fun rebuttal article to come up with just because the film is so fascinating in its treatment of JohnWayne, the man, the actor and the legend.

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