Friday, 3 October 2014

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid


To view Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) is to have your fill of a Western -- complete with lovely horses, shootouts, money and mayhem, What strikes one it the marked difference in the personalities of Butch (Paul Newman) and the Kid (Robert Redford). Apart from the fact that they share the same woman Etta (Katherine Ross), which complicates things. Butch is just not cut out to be in the annals of a shootin hero. 'I have never killed a man,' he tells the Kid when he is queasy about taking down some gringos in Bolivia. 'A fine time to tell me,' retorts the Kid. The scene seconds later is just smoke form the guns which is the epitaph on Butch's baptism by fire.

Though Etta tries to make them eschew violence and their life of crime she gives in anyway because in this lonely world it is these two men after all who love her. She leaves the security of her (too?) cosy home and becomes a drifter with the other two. The threesome are not unlike the trio in Jack Kerouc's On the Road. They wilfuly break the law, experiment with life and refuse to take no for an answer. In so doing they realise some modicum of happiness in the togetherness they share, even if they have to pay the price for it. They have the courage to stand for their beliefs.When the Kid surprises Etta in her bedroom the reader is caught off guard, only to realize minutes later that it was part of the foreplay.

But there is an innate goodness and likableness of the duo. Even when the friendly Sheriff warns them  that their heyday is over, they ignore him good naturedly. The fresh start they aim for in Bolivia sees them repeating their old ways and the Bolivian troops which hunt them in the end for some reason reminded me of Che.

Cinematically the movie of almost 2 hours directed by George Roy Hill grips you, even though there is not much headway in the plot. The long shots of the country are poetic and the close ups detail the whimsicality of the Kid and the terror of Butch. You seem to feel for these fellas and ask what pushed them into this life of crime.

As history informs us Butch and the Kid robbed trains in the Wild West of the 1890s. Butch was born in Utah in 1866 and saw action in Wyoming. With the law at their heels the three fled to New York for a better life and then sailed to Argentina. Reports by Bolivian police say the duo was killed in 1908.
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History source: history.co.uk; pix source:  collider.com

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