Band of Outsiders / Bande à Part (1964)

Band of Outsiders / Bande à Part (1964)

“Arthur said they’d wait for night to do the job, out of respect for second-rate thrillers.”

Synopsis:
When a young woman (Anna Karina) in love with two petty thiefs named Arthur (Claude Brasseur) and Franz (Sami Frey) tells them about a stash of illictly gotten money hidden in her neighbor’s cupboard, the trio begin making plans to steal it.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • French Films
  • Heist
  • Jean-Luc Godard Films
  • Love Triangle
  • Thieves and Criminals

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “quirky Jean-Luc Godard film is sort of a mix of Breathless (where Belmondo performs crimes in the nonchalant manner he saw in gangster films) and Les Enfants Terribles (where the two males and one female commit petty crimes for fun),” given that “pals Sami Frey and Claude Brasseur play-act crime movies… much as little kids imitate heroes from war or western movies.”

Because “their mutual girlfriend [?!], Anna Karina, wants to fit in,” she “offers a real crime to them: they can steal her aunt’s money” — but “the three bumbling… amateurs… can’t distinguish between fiction and real life.” Peary notes that “when they put on their movie criminal guises, they think of themselves romantically, as do Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen in Badlands [1973] when they commit equally unromantic crimes; but, as is the case with Spacek and Sheen, their guns shoot real bullets and people get hurt.”

Peary points out that “the overlapping of reel life and ‘real life’… is disorienting because we have a hard time figuring out the logic of the characters’ actions” — however, while he argues this is “excitingly original,” I simply find it frustrating. We know far too little about these three uninteresting characters, other than that Karina’s Odile is for some reason hopelessly insecure (she wears primarily one expression — worried and uncertain — throughout the film):

Sadly, this makes sense on a real-life level, given that according to TCM’s article, “At the time Karina was recovering from losing a child during her pregnancy followed by a suicide attempt… The relationship between Karina and Godard was also on shaky ground by this point in their marriage and they would soon go their separate ways after working together on Alphaville (1965).”

However, it’s frustrating as a viewer watching this beautiful young woman (who has a dark side of her own) caving in time and again to her (occasionally abusive) male partners; they bullishly get their way, but at obvious and inevitable costs. And what, exactly, does Karina see romantically in Brasseur? I understand the notion of a “bad boy” attraction:

… but he’s neither charming nor handsome (rather, he’s oafish and crude). To that end, Jonathan Rosenbaum points out that “The melancholy trio of Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise (1984) … — two dandyish, deadbeat best friends and the shy, younger woman they’re smitten with — would have been inconceivable without Godard’s adorable threesome;” however, I’m not a fan of Jarmusch’s movie, and don’t consider the trio here (or there) to be anything close to “adorable”.

One of this film’s most memorable scenes occurs when Karina, Frey, and Brasseur get up and begin dancing “The Madison” in a line:

Indeed, Quentin Tarantino was smitten enough with this sequence to pay homage to it in Pulp Fiction (1994), when Uma Thurman and John Travolta boogie on the dance floor; but here it’s merely a diversion rather than — as Godard’s somber voiceover claims — an opportune moment to offer “a digression in which to describe our heroes’ feelings.” While most film fanatics will be curious to check out this historically influential film, I don’t consider it one of Godard’s must-see movies.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Raoul Coutard’s cinematography

Must See?
No, though as stated above, most film fanatics will likely be curious to check it out.

Links:

Carabiniers, Les (1963)

Carabiniers, Les (1963)

“In war, anything goes.”

Synopsis:
A pair of doltish peasants (Marino Mase and Albert Juross) are convinced by their wives (Catherine Ribeiro and Genevieve Galea) to go fight for their king in return for untold fulfillment of their desires.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • French Films
  • Jean-Luc Godard Films
  • Play Adaptations
  • Satires and Spoofs
  • Soldiers

Review:
Jean-Luc Godard’s fifth feature film is an odd-duck tale even for him — an adaptation of an adaptation (by Roberto Rossellini) of a play by
Beniamino Joppolo that is at first (for quite a long portion of its short running time) merely puzzling and annoying, but ultimately makes a powerful satirical punch in the face of consumerism, gullibility, and blind patriotism. It’s hard to believe how incredibly stupid and trustful Ulysses (Mase) and Michaelangelo (Juross) are when told that their king (their king?!) has personally invited them to serve him, in exchange for taking and doing whatever they want while at war.

In between watching Ulysses and Michaelangelo’s brutish, self-serving exploits, we see and hear snippets of letters they write home (taken from real-life letters of soldiers):

It’s only once the men return home and show the “spoils of war” they’ve collected to their wives that we understand the depth of absurdist irony Godard is reaching for. This unusual film is most definitely not for all tastes, but will — of course — be of interest to hardcore Godard fans.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Raoul Coutard’s cinematography

  • The truly surreal postcard sequence

Must See?
No; you can skip this one unless you’re curious. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

Links:

Petit Soldat, Le (1963)

Petit Soldat, Le (1963)

“Accused of being a traitor, my only way out was to hit on the enemy.”

Synopsis:
During the Algerian War, a French special agent (Michel Subor) is sent to Geneva to assassinate a member of the National Liberation Front of Algeria, but gets distracted by his love for a beautiful woman (Anna Karina) with dubious political affiliations.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Assassination
  • French Films
  • Jean-Luc Godard Films
  • Spies

Review:
Jean-Luc Godard made his second film — about the incredibly sticky topic of France’s involvement in Algeria — in response to critics who claimed his debut film (Breathless) was too apolitical. Ironically, Godard himself didn’t actually have strong views on the topic; he simply wanted to explore such ideas through cinema. It’s most notable for didactic scenes of torture, which resulted in the film being banned in France until 1963 despite being made in 1960:

Film fanatics may be most interested to see the scene in which Subor voices one of Godard’s most famous quotes:

“Photography shows the truth. Cinema shows the truth at a rate of 24 times a second.”

Indeed, the film is (not surprisingly) quite talky and philosophical, with characters often simpy walking across or in front of one another while saying things like:

“When you take a picture of a face, you take a picture of the soul behind it.”
“In the ’30s, young people had a revolution: Malraux, Drieu la Rochelle, Aragon. We have nothing. They had the Spanish Civil War; we don’t even have our own war. Aside from ourselves, our faces and voices, we have nothing.”
“PeopIe look at me, but they don’t know what I’m thinking. They’ll never know!”

These quotes exemplify Godard’s obsession with meaning-making vis-a-vis a camera lens. Fans of his work will of course want to check this one out, but it’s not must-see viewing for all film fanatics.

Note: The film’s title seems to stem from a scene in which Subot has Karina complete a “test”:

“You know this is a test? It’s a drawing to discover a person’s character. I often use this on women. They love to be called little girls and to play like children.”

Along with additional lines like the following:

“Women should never get older than 25. Men become more handsome as they grow older, but women don’t age well.”

… we have yet more ample evidence of Godard’s objectifying views towards women.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Raoul Coutard’s cinematography

Must See?
No. Listed as a film with Historical Importance and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

Links:

Some Came Running (1958)

Some Came Running (1958)

“Bumming around can only help to make you a bum.”

Synopsis:
A veteran and aspiring writer (Frank Sinatra) returns to his hometown on a bus with a woman (Shirley MacLaine) he barely knows, and quickly causes consternation for his socially conscious brother (Arthur Kennedy) and sister-in-law (Leora Dana) — and his would-be love interest (Martha Hyer) — when he gets into brawls and befriends a hustling gambler (Dean Martin). Meanwhile he tries to mentor his naive niece (Betty Lou Keim), who is mortified to discover her father having an affair with his secretary (Nancy Gates).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Arthur Kennedy Films
  • Dean Martin Films
  • Frank Sinatra Films
  • Morality Police
  • Shirley MacLaine Films
  • Siblings
  • Small Town America
  • Veterans
  • Vincente Minnelli Films
  • Writers

Review:
Vincente Minnelli directed this adaptation of James Jones’ second published novel — his follow-up to the enormous success of From Here to Eternity (1953). Some Came Running is notable for bringing together members of the Rat Pack (Sinatra and Martin and ‘mascot’ MacLaine) for the first time:

… for being directly referenced in Godard’s Contempt (1963), when Piccoli’s character mentions wanting to emulate Martin in not ever taking his signature hat off:

… and for earning radiant young MacLaine an Oscar nomination:

Unfortunately, MacLaine’s performance — along with William H. Daniels’ beautiful Cinemascope cinematography — are the best aspects of this otherwise frustrating melodrama, shot through with sexism (Martin’s reprehensible “Bama” repeatedly refers to women, MacLaine in particular, as pigs) and trite dialogue (“We’ll have no more of that; I’m not one of your bar-room tarts!”). Sinatra’s world-weary character is sympathetic but underdeveloped:

… and his choice of Hyer as a marriage mate makes little sense:


Yes, she’s beautiful and has intense interest in his writing — but doesn’t she otherwise represent everything he’s scornful of in his brother’s small-town life?

Poor MacLaine gets the worst deal of all, playing what the video reviewer for Trailers From Hell (screenwriter Sam Hamm) casually refers to as a “dimwitted mattress back” (ouch!). MacLaine infuses more life and interest into her character than everyone else combined, yet is treated reprehensibly throughout.

(I’m not surprised that Godard and his male protagonists in Contempt — who likewise objectify the women in their lives as sex objects and workers — found connection with this film.)

The other female characters in Some Came Running are similarly posited as merely background context for the men as they live their lives and/or work out their neuroses (or not). Dana is a classic shrewish housewife who drips with condescension and entitlement, and casually “has a headache” the night Kennedy proposes some nookie (“What do you say we — go up… Sort of — relax?”)

It’s no wonder he flies into the arms of his conveniently working-late-at-night secretary (Gates) (though why they are stupid enough to drive to a common make-out spot in town is truly beyond me).

Meanwhile, Hyer seems to simply be emulating Grace Kelly in her blonde ice princess act, and is given terrible dialogue to work with (“Oh, Dave, we’ve met exactly three times. What do I know about you? What do you know about me?”). We at least have some sympathy for poor Keim, who is justifiably mortified to learn about her father’s hypocrisy, and gets to flee to New York by the end.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Shirley MacLaine as Ginnie
  • Fine cinematography



Must See?
No, though it’s worth a one-time look for MacLaine’s performance and for the adulation it’s accumulated.

Links:

Vivre Sa Vie (A Film in Twelve Episodes) / My Life to Live (1962)

Vivre Sa Vie (A Film in Twelve Episodes) / My Life to Live (1962)

“I think we’re always responsible for our actions. We’re free.”

Synopsis:
After leaving her husband (Andre Labarthe), an aspiring actress (Anna Karina) eventually turns to prostitution to earn a living, working for a pimp (Sady Rebbot) with questionable morals.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Character Studies
  • French Films
  • Jean-Luc Godard Films
  • Prostitutes and Gigolos

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that in his “exceptional fourth film” — after Breathless (1960), Le Petit Soldat (1963) (actually completed in 1960), and A Woman is a Woman (1962) — Jean-Luc Godard presents “Karina’s prostitute,” a woman who “winds up a prostitute in order to pay her rent,” as “detached, not because he doesn’t care about Karina but because his remote style is meant to underscore the fact that this woman makes no emotional connection with the men she has sex with.”

He argues that “Godard’s point — made by the old philosopher (Brice Parapain) with whom Karina converses”:


… “and proven to her by the young client she comes to love… is that pleasure and fulfillment come less from the sexual act than through a stronger form of communication: talking, the interchange of words.” Peary adds that “as in all early Godard films, he experiments with his camera (i.e., juxtaposing abstract and real images in order to express ideas)” and “makes thematic references to films, literature, [and] music.”


While this film isn’t a personal favorite, I appreciate both Godard’s innovative style and Karina’s gripping performance. Even in an elusive role meant to distance us somewhat (Godard’s approach to her prostitution lifestyle is strictly clinical), Karina’s humanity shines through, and she’s a pleasure to watch on screen.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Anna Karina as Nana
  • Raoul Coutard’s cinematography

Must See?
Yes, for Karina’s performance.

Categories

  • Important Director
  • Noteworthy Performance(s)

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Links:

Contempt / Mepris, Le (1963)

Contempt / Mepris, Le (1963)

“I have to know why you despise me!”

Synopsis:
An aspiring screenwriter (Michel Piccoli) hired by a crass American producer (Jack Palance) to support an adaptation of “The Odyssey” by director Fritz Lang quickly finds his marriage to his beautiful wife Camille (Brigitte Bardot) on the rocks when he encourages her to take a drive with Palance.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Brigitte Bardot Films
  • French Films
  • Fritz Lang Films
  • Jean-Luc Godard Films
  • Hollywood
  • Jack Palance Films
  • Marital Problems
  • Writers

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary doesn’t write very much in his review of this “slow but beautifully shot and unusually insightful Jean-Luc Godard adult film about movie-making and marriage,” other than noting that “Piccoli and Bardot give fine performances”:

… “as does Fritz Lang (playing himself), the philosophical director of Palance’s travesty.”

Peary does comment that “since The Odyssey is, in part, about a wife, Penelope, who waits 20 years for her husband to return from his journeys, Godard is obviously making a comment on the fickleness of lovers today — particularly women”; however, I think that’s far too reductive of a stance to take. Indeed, I was surprised and impressed by how much subtlety there is in Bardot’s performance and character:

Her Camille is an insecure yet savvy woman who understands that the men around her put value almost exclusively on her beauty and sexual availability, and she refuses to simply play this game without protest.

Visually speaking, the movie is bright and colorful — and as always, Godard makes interesting use of space, unique sets, and montage.

Georges Delerue’s score is also integral to this film; indeed, the orchestral theme song is so instantly recognizable that I was surprised to learn it’s part of the original score for this movie rather than a classical piece.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Brigitte Bardot as Camille
  • Raoul Coutard’s cinematography


  • Georges Delerue’s indelible score

Must See?
Yes, as an intriguing classic.

Categories

  • Genuine Classic
  • Important Director

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Links:

Quest for Fire (1981)

Quest for Fire (1981)

“80,000 years ago, man’s survival in a vast, uncharted land depended on the possession of fire.”

Synopsis:
While out seeking fire, three prehistoric members of the Ulam tribe — Amoukar (Ron Perlman), Naoh (Everett McGill), and Gaw (Nameer El Kadi) — encounter various predators and competitors in addition to a love interest (Rae Dawn Chong) for Naoh.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Historical Drama
  • Prehistoric Times
  • Survival

Review:
French director Jean-Jacques Annaud has had an interesting and varied career, with his debut film — Black and White in Color (1976) — earning an Oscar as Best Foreign Language Movie of the Year, and this subsequent movie breaking numerous conventions by taking place 80,000 years ago and not containing any known language (the limited dialogue spoken by various tribes was written by Anthony Burgess). At first it’s challenging not to laugh at the depiction of Paleolithic humans acting more like violent, primitive monkeys or gorillas than the “civilized” beings we associate ourselves with:

… but we quickly grow to see the three main characters as individuals, and can believe their interactions as authentic. The make-up (which took up to five hours to apply each day), costumes, and body movements are impressively realistic:

… and the location shooting by cinematographer Claude Agostini is often breathtaking. With that said, your interest in the storyline may or may not hold, given that there’s no discernible dialogue, and the plot points all concern either base survival (i.e., the trio sleeps in a tree to avoid saber-toothed tigers):

… or cultural interactions with different tribes:

Interestingly, we see this leading to evolution-in-action, as individuals quickly learn from and mate with one another, thus ensuring future generations will be even better prepared to face life’s challenges.

While this isn’t must-see viewing for all film fanatics, it’s certainly worth a look as a one-of-a-kind movie.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Authentic-seeming makeup, costumes, and body language

  • Beautiful cinematography


Must See?
No, but it’s recommended for one-time viewing. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book.

Links:

Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959)

Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959)

“Why deny the obvious necessity of remembering?”

Synopsis:
While making a film in Hiroshima, a French actress (Emmanuelle Riva) having an affair with a Japanese architect (Eiji Okada) reflects back on her doomed romance with a German soldier (Bernard Fresson) during World War II.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Actors and Actresses
  • Alain Resnais Films
  • Cross-Cultural Romance
  • Flashback Films
  • French Films
  • Mental Breakdown
  • Nuclear Holocaust
  • World War II

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that “Alain Resnais’s complex first feature, a seminal film of the French New Wave, could better be described as a mood piece on love and madness or a visual examination of the subconscious than as a straight narrative; in any case, it invented new ways to tell a story.” He notes that “the film is known for the breakthrough use of the subjective (rather than chronological) order during flashbacks” (though Resnais disliked the use of the term ‘flashbacks’, insisting that memories of the past are part of one’s present reality); “flash cuts from images the character is currently seeing to those past images the character is reminded of”:

… and “parallel montage whereby juxtaposed shots of [Riva’s hometown of] Nevers] and Hiroshima are filmed similarly and at the same speed — so that the unity of past and present (an important theme) is conveyed.” Also unique to this groundbreaking film are “surreal tracking shots of empty Hiroshima”:

… and “the insertion of footage from the Japanese film Hiroshima [1953], with its grisly shots of A-bomb victims.”

However, Peary posits — though I and many others disagree — that “while the film’s technical achievements are vast, there are problems with the central storyline.” He argues that despite “Resnais and Duras den[ying] that they were trying to draw parallels between the Hiroshima holocaust and the tragedy that befell Riva in Nevers at the same time,” they nonetheless “offer as a theme that love will vanquish terrible memories,” “suggesting that the memory of Nevers is as tragic to Riva as the memory of Hiroshima is to Okada but presuming that the Japanese are trying to forget about Hiroshima in order to move forward.”

Frankly, I don’t see any of these ideas playing out in the film. Love is not presented as a way to eradicate terrible memories; rather, sensual connection is shown as a form of visceral engagement with uncomfortable truths. By pointing out parallels between the bombing of Hiroshima and Riva’s past — when the German soldier she was in love with “was killed by a sniper on Liberation Day” and “she had her hair shorn by villagers, and her parents locked her in a cellar,” and “at one point she had a mental breakdown”:

— Resnais and Duras are simply making note of the many (indeed, uncountable) tragedies that befall people across the globe as they go about their daily lives during wartime.

Peary seems to be part of a critical camp asserting that “a major problem” with this film “is that Duras did not know what to do with Okada, or know what he represents,” so “Duras concentrates on Riva and foolishly, and insultingly, ignores Okada’s story.” Peary adds: “That Riva tells [Okada] her past and doesn’t ask him to reciprocate and that he accepts this suggests that Duras regarded the white woman as being more important to the film than her Japanese lover.”

However, we now understand that attempting to represent someone else’s lived experience in art — while occasionally successful — is generally not recommended; rather, one should write about or from one’s own truths, which is exactly what Duras does here, to strong effect.

Since the publication of Peary’s GFTFF in 1986 and 1987, we (film fanatics) have many more resources available to help us understand and contextualize the titles he’s listed and reviewed — including restorative DVDs with commentaries and online analyses and discussions (i.e., through blogs and videos posted on YouTube). This film is, to me, an example of where Peary’s reviews begin to show their age: he was writing at a time when nuclear threat (though still very present and real) was at the forefront of everyone’s minds, and I believe he writes about this film through that Cold War-era lens of (justifiable) paranoia.

What our country did to Hiroshima remains undeniably controversial (to say the very least), and of course a false equivalency should never be made comparing this catastrophic event to one young woman’s shaming at the hands of fellow villagers. But what Resnais seems to be saying here (though he has professed he doesn’t analyze his own films — he simply makes them) is that grief and unspeakable trauma at all levels resonate across geographic, gender-based, and cultural boundaries; only by deeply listening to one another can we begin to process the harm we cause each other — and yes, Okada’s character should be given a chance to make a film from his own unique perspective (it’s a movie I’m sure we’d all be eager to watch).

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Strong performances by the leads
  • Michio Takahasi and Sacha Vierny’s cinematography



  • Marguerite Duras’s screenplay
  • Giovanni Fusco’s score

Must See?
Yes, as a most unique and powerful New Wave film.

Categories

  • Good Show
  • Historically Relevant
  • Important Director

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Links:

Je T’Aime, Je T’Aime (1968)

Je T’Aime, Je T’Aime (1968)

“I love confusion — things that change.”

Synopsis:
A suicidal man (Claude Rich) is taken from the hospital to a secret laboratory, where a team of scientists send him back in time to relive a minute of his life — but instead he’s caught in a back-and-forth journey between the lab and his memories of loving a woman named Catrine (Olga Georges-Picot), whose death he feels guilty about.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Alain Resnais Films
  • Flashback Films
  • French Films
  • Science Fiction
  • Suicide
  • Time Travel

Review:
Peary lists nearly all of French director Alain Resnais’ pre-1987 feature-length films in his GFTFF, from his debut, Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), to Life Is a Bed of Roses (1983) — but I’ll start by jumping in with a review of his fifth title. Je T’Aime, Je T’Aime falls exactly within the paramaters set forth in Wikipedia’s description of Resnais’s work as “frequently explor[ing] the relationship between consciousness, memory, and the imagination” — and, given that Resnais was known “for devising innovative formal structures for his narratives,” it’s no surprise that this movie jumps back and forth in both time and genre. It begins as a mystery-filled sci-fi flick (what are these scientists up to — and why is Rich so willing to go with them to their laboratory?):

… but eventually shifts towards a non-linear exploration of (Rich’s) memory, guilt, and sense of reality. Certain random scenes from Rich’s past are replayed repeatedly (i.e., a snippet of his snorkeling adventures on the beach):

… while others are merely flashes of conversations or glimpses into his life at work or play:

We never fully understand what happened with his lover Catrine, who was clearly depressed:

… or whether Rich will successfully return from his experimental jaunt through time. It seems he’s stuck in a series of loops — much like his own obsessive thought-process — and we don’t know what’s ultimately in store for him. Your appreciation of this film will depend entirely on your interest in avante garde cinema — i.e., stories more concerned with exploratory impressions and philosophical wonderings than with anything resembling a logical trajectory; though to Resnais’ and co-screenwriter Jacques Sternberg’s credit, the entire affair does cohere.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • A unique storyline and narrative approach

Must See?
No, but it’s worth a look for its historical relevance. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.

Links:

Run of the Arrow (1957)

Run of the Arrow (1957)

“There’s no hiding place for what ails you, son. We’re all under one flag now.”

Synopsis:
An embittered Confederate veteran (Rod Steiger) who refuses to concede the reintegration of the United States of America meets an aging Oglala scout (Jay C. Flippen) and joins his tribe, making peace with its leader, Blue Buffalo (Charles Bronson), and living with a Sioux woman (Sara Montiel) and her adopted ward (Billy Miller). However, when a U.S. captain (Brian Keith) — with assistance from the man (Ralph Meeker) Steiger shot but didn’t kill on the last day of the Civil War — leads a group of soldiers in building a fort nearby, and the Sioux want to attack, Steiger’s loyalties are once again tested.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Brian Keith Films
  • Charles Bronson Films
  • Cross-Cultural Romance
  • Native Americans
  • Rod Steiger Films
  • Sam Fuller Films
  • Veterans
  • Westerns

Review:
Writer-director Sam Fuller’s tenth feature film was this “revisionist western” in which taken-for-granted tropes of westerns and American history are turned on their head. From the opening scenes, we’re asked to relate to a protagonist (known simply as “O’Meara”) who — even against his mother’s advice — refuses to concede the Confederacy’s loss, thus becoming a man without a nation:

Given that O’Meara’s sentiments reflect those of many in our nation today, this feels like an especially intriguing and worthy tale to pay attention to as it unfolds. Like Kevin Costner’s Lt. John Dunbar in Dances With Wolves (1990), O’Meara attempts to escape through assimilation with the Sioux, after “winning” a contest from which the title takes its name:

(Note, however, that Chris Smallbone of NativeAmericans.co.uk informs us this supposed custom — of an arrow being shot out onto the land, and the accused person attempting to outrun his assailants once he reaches the arrow — was made up by Fuller.)

The thrust of the film centers on whether and/or how O’Meara will eventually reintegrate into his original society, and what tensions will inevitably emerge during this transition. While it’s jarring seeing Charles Bronson as a Sioux chief:

… and hearing (uncredited) Angie Dickinson’s voice dubbing Montiel as “Yellow Moccasin”:

… it’s still refreshing to see what appear to be authentic Native Americans hired as extras.

This compact, character-driven tale remains worth a look despite its limitations — but be forewarned there’s quite a bit of violence, including yet another supposed Sioux custom (skinning alive) that isn’t authentic.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Fine cinematography and direction

Must See?
Yes, as yet another unique outing by Fuller. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book.

Categories

  • Important Director

Links: