I Found It At the Movies: 1969–The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah)


Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.

1969: The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah)

I’ll never forget the first time I saw this movie. It was in 1995 at St. Louis’ Tivoli Theatre. I must have gone to something like the 8:00 showing, and when it was over I remember seriously considering staying for the 10:40 show. I was that blown away.  

The desire to see a movie for the second time immediately after my first viewing had never happened to be before, nor has it happened since. It’s safe to say that the action sequences in The Wild Bunch, particularly the first and the last, were the most exciting I had ever seen. They literally showed me another way of doing things. Peckinpah’s combination of different film speeds and his offbeat, elliptical editing style were a revelation. John Woo, and also Takeshi Kitano and Wong Kar-Wai, have referenced Peckinpah’s innovations, but the original still packs the greatest punch for me.

I think that the syncopated opening of The Wild Bunch is one of the strongest in the history of film, and I find myself moved by its themes of friendship. The movie looks so real that I feel like I can almost smell it. And what can I say about Robert Ryan and William Holden? The movie almost serves as an argument for casting more of our legends at later stages in their career. There’s simply a depth and effect that come from their presence that the younger guys can never provide.  

What moviemakers can learn: Don’t ignore the great actors once they become older. They can bring an element of depth and a lifetime of cinematic history to your movie.  

Other contenders for 1969: I still have quite a number of titles to see. These include: Costa-Gavras’ Z, Jean Eustache’s Santa Claus Has Blue Eyes (Le père Noël a les yeux bleus) and Jacques Rivette’s L’amour fou. I need to revisit George Roy Hill’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as it’s been too long since I’ve seen it to know where it would place on this list. I really like Paul Mazursky’s Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. I love Eric Rohmer’s My Night at Maud’s (Ma nuit chez Maud) and Jean-Pierre Melville’s Army of Shadows (L’armée des ombres). And my closest runner-up is Ken Loach’s Kes.

After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors. Goodman is now at work raising money for his next feature, Peril.

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