Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969

Entry for Tuesday’s Overlooked Films, Audio and Video over at Todd Mason’s blog Sweet Freedom. Click on the link and discover films and television series you may have missed.

In a cheeky post on Facebook a few days ago, I observed that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) could well have been the original Brokeback Mountain (2005). I’m sure this is not a new thought. It has probably occurred to others who have seen both films and written about it too.

Partners in crime, Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and Sundance Kid (Robert Redford), don't share the sexual relationship and emotional chemistry that Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) do in Ang Lee's heartbreaking film.
 

Yet, the relationship that Cassidy and the Kid have, as they rob trains in the US and hold up banks in Bolivia, is no less special. They nurture a strong bond of friendship and mutual respect. The outlaws are together from the beginning of the film—covering each other’s backs, drawing comfort from one another, each finding strength in the other's presencetill the very end.

The Cassidy-Kid relationship is not as complicated as that of Ennis and Jack, who marry their girlfriends eventually. They are not physically intimate nor do they pine for each other, although they do sleep with the same woman, Etta Place (Katharine Ross), the Kid’s lover. But it's not about her.

My favourite part in the film is when Cassidy and the Kid get to know each other better during a prolonged run from a dogged US posse, through barren lands and rocky mountains. In one particular scene, the Kid dumps his horse and rides behind Cassidy in an effort to throw off their pursuers. It doesn’t work. It is this adventurous journey, characterised by quiet fear, mild candour and wry humour, that brings them closer in a nonsexual way.

The final scene, when Cassidy and the Kid try and shoot their way out of a hopeless situation, is somewhat reminiscent of a Bollywood film where two lovers jump off a cliff because their parents oppose their relationship. The "boys" ride into the twilight together.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a very likeable and an entertaining western film that could have also been a poignant and tragic gay story. Had it been one, it'd probably have been ahead of its time. What do you think?


9 comments:

  1. Interesting take on the movie. I've not seen Brokeback. I was sure it was too sad for me. I also wish they hadn't jumped off the cliff. I'm a sap for happy endings. :<))

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  2. I watched half of Brokeback Mountain before switching off, it was boring me. It's been a fair few years since I saw Butch Cassidy. Definitely the more entertaining film of the two in my book. I suppose you could attribute gay undertones to all male friendships if you really wanted to. A bit of a stretch in my opinion.

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  3. This one, as still one of the highest-grossing films so far, is pushing the limits of OVERLOOKED...and the romance between the protagonists wasn't missed by many at the time of release, no (even or particularly when they were bedding with the same woman). But clearly there are those who haven't seen all of this one and BROKEBACK...

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  4. This is one of my favourite movies - both for its great trio of stars (Katherine Ross' luminous and subtle performance is too often overlooked), the ravishing cinematography of Conrad Hall and the terrific script by William Goldman. The is, I think, inevitably a homo erotic element to a same-sex buddy story, much as there would be a potential romantic element in a more traditional pairing (by traditional I mean one where the possibility of a sexual relationship , whether same sex or not) would not, in the context of the story, remain purely as part of the subtext. It is part of the charm I think.

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  5. I liked this film a lot, though when I rewatched it not long ago I found some sections slower than I remembered. The characters really did have that chemistry. I recently watched Bill Bryson's story, a walk in the woods, which Redford made. Turns out he bought the rights years ago and wanted to make it with Paul Newman, who was his good friend. I would have loved to have seen that.

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  6. Great comparison Prashant, made me smile. I have always loved Butch Cassidy, and the friendship between the two men is a delight, whatever is behind it.

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  7. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is, to me, a classic film, Prashant. It's one I've always absolutely loved, and it's quite nuanced. We really care about these guys, and that, to me, is part of what elevates the film.

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  8. I never heard any gay undertones regarding Cassidy/Kid, but what the Hell?

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  9. Prashant – Thanks for the post. I had not compared these two movies. Here’s something you might be interested in finding. There is a paperback copy of William Goldman’s “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” I bought it, thinking it was a novel. But it was his original screenplay. It is a hoot and it reads with the pace and humor and style of the movie. If you ever see it at a used book sale, grab it.

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