18 February 2009

Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here

I don't know if it was the particular mood I was in or what, but this movie really knocked my socks off. For all its oddities and cheesiness (Katherine Ross in "Native"face is particularly gross), it's a really fascinating movie. Apparently based on a true story, the film traces the tale of a Paiute man named Willie Boy who's on the run from the law. The Law, as tends to be the case in Westerns, is part legal entity (ie, the sheriff, played by none other than Robert Redford) and part murderous posse who's really just interested in killing injuns. The usual debates of law, honor, justice, etc are somehow more compelling than usual in this film, and I'm really not sure why. Perhaps because they're working in tandem with a kind of inquiry into the ways in which people humiliate each other, and the force of shame. On the one hand, there's racism, masculinity, saving face and maintaining authority, which would be intriguing enough, but gains an added dimension in this film by a meditation of how this works in relationships. 

Alongside its chase narrative, the movie examines two romances - that between Willie Boy and Lola, ie, the fugitives, and that between the Sheriff and a very curious character, a frontierswoman/doctor/anthropologist lady who runs the Indian reservation. It is the latter relationship that is really fascinating, and kind of horrible. It's sheer power play. It's like something straight out of Ayn Rand, actually, except taken up a notch. It's like watching a sort of train wreck, and it's so fascinating that the rest of the movie almost pales in comparison. But then there's this amazing contrast between the two relationships that becomes totally absorbing.

Oh man, it really is an amazing movie. Highly, highly recommended. 

For those on Netflix, it doesn't seem to be available as a dvd (I saw it at my wonderful campus theatre, on 35mm), but it IS available for Watching Instantly. 

No comments: