Friday, August 29, 2008

Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid/Knockin' on Heaven's Door

I just finished watching Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid--part of the continuing obsession with Bob Dylan, inspired in part by the film I'm Not There. It helps to see the former in order to help make some sense of the Richard Gere-Billy/Garrett scenes in I'm Not There. But the film is of course supremely worth watching in its own right. I had seen the original, when it appeared in 1973, and I remember being underwhelmed. Now I know why--MGM butchered it. For some time the director's cut has been available, and I'm so glad I got to see it. I think it really tops what I used to regard as Peckinpah's masterpiece, The Wild Bunch. It's much more lyrical, understated, and moving.

I was particularly moved by the scene where Sheriff Colin Bear (played by Slim Pickens) is shot, knows he is dying, and goes to sit by the pond, to die, as the son goes down. His wife, played by Katy Jurado, sits near him, crying. No words are spoken, but Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" comes on, for the first time in the film. Watch it, I can't imagine that this scene won't just slay you.

Mrs. Bear/Katy Jurado, by the way, plays the only "strong "woman in this film. Which I seem to remember is typical Peckinpah, and typical sixties. Women in the film are mostly just there for men to sleep with (either whores or girlfriends) or cook food, and--probably most important--to show their breasts for the presumed male viewer. Rita Coolidge never says anything in the last scene, but she does show her tits. Mrs. Bear is middle aged and probably not worthy of objectification. So she goes with Pat Garrett (James Coburn) and her husband to hunt down some of Billy's pals, and she shoots them down, just like a man would, with her shotgun. (After shooting, she pulls new shells out of her cleavage--which we don't see.)

And wasn't Katy Jurado just great in High Noon?

I had an earlier "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" moment" when I saw I'm Not There. During the credits, a version of the song by Antony and the Johnsons comes on. I had never heard it, and was instantly hooked. One of the best Dylan covers I've ever heard. Since then, I bought the terrific soundtrack for I'm not there, with Dylan covers by the likes of Sonic Youth, Cat Power, Yo La Tengo. But the Antony and the Johnsons track is still the best. I'm obsessed. Check it out:

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