• Doggedly nihilistic, immaculately photographed (Lucien Ballard as DP) and perfectly performed by the talented ensemble of actors
  • The transcendent trait though, and what makes it a top 100 all-time film, is the editing—yes- the freeze frame washed out titles in the opening (gorgeous)—but the slow-motion action editing sequences are Peckinpah’s grand achievement
  • Peckinpah adores Kurosawa – both content and style. Kurosawa’s band of outlaws/warriors here, we have the dog eat dog nihilism – literally here we have a swarm of ants attacking scorpions and kids with them. This has such thematic and formal implications. It’s foreshadowing the final massacre (the scorpions are the wild bunch outlaws) and it tells you about Peckinpah’s worldview—its bleak— he even involves women and children in the murders here and yelling “bang bang” at the dead people – there are no good guys in the effed up world
Peckinpah’s great theme here
  • The opening and closing massacres—tremendous bookend set pieces and scenes—Peckinpah’s an editor like Eisenstein— Average Shot Length here very low
  • Like Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid after it, The Getaway, I appreciate the love and art Peckinpah puts in his opening sequences and credits—freeze-frame washed out titles here
artistically rendered freeze-frame washed out titles
  • The lie of the outlaws in uniform
  • The film as tragic as Shakespeare–  Or Kurosawa who adapted Shakespeare often
  • It’s a colossal achievement for William Holden—and to a slightly lesser extent Robert Ryan and Ernest Borgnine—Warren Oates and Ben Johnson and the unrecognizable Edmond O’Brien with the laugh (there’s a little Walter Huston in Sierra Madre there) and black bean teeth—4 Oscar winners and Ryan (the one who isn’t) is a great actor with 19 archiveable films
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  • A smaller role is Strother Martin as part of Ryan’s gang. He’s great, too. How about his year in 1969—this, Butch Cassidy (just stealing scenes from Newman and Redford) and True Grit
  • The slow-motion isn’t just the opening and closing massacres—we get the horses falling off the Dune—the sequence where Mapache is trying to learn the machine gun and accidentally fires at his own people
  • the Borgnine casting here is important- he can look Holden in the eye and not back down and he’s probably one of the few in 1969 in Hollywood who could. They have a great argument about giving your word to something
  • Ballard is a talented DP- but this isn’t about picturesque beauty throughout—the masterpiece is the editing—the formal/motif elements with the scorpions, “The Walk”
  • The railroad owner here is Harrigan—in Butch Cassidy it’s E.H. Harriman—
  • Idyllic village in Mexico as a surrogate for Vietnam—Eden, pond, greens, hammock, music, dancing, kids playing
  • Advent of the airplane, car
  • Zoom-heavy—really well used
  • Dialogue like “$10,000 cuts an awful lot of family ties” delivered by Holden (I have this as Holden’s single best role and have him as the #15 actor of all-time – another one delivered by Ryan this time is “We’re after men… and I wish to God I was with them”
  • It’s extremely well-edited throughout. We have the sauna scene intercut with the two brothers with the whores—a great sequence.  We also have the intercutting of the train set piece and the soldiers struggling to get off the train
  • Another big bridge explosion set piece featuring William Holden (Bridge River Kwai)
  • There’s a great mini-montage (with zooms) with the Mapache soldiers as one fires upon the wild bunch from the cliff and the wild bunch break out the machine gun
  • It’s about age, being defeated, the sense of obligation to a fellow brother—both Mapache (drunk here) and the wild bunch have the same weary look to them just before they die
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  • “The Walk” is a justifiably iconic scene. “Let’s Go” and no dialogue after that. It’s the cinema art form—same with the montage battle. You can’t write it. There’s acting involved (these are 4 stoic figures), music, drums, the Mexican singers and the telephoto lens as they’re essentially walking in place. An ode to these warriors
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simply “the walk”
  • And the final montage ballet of bullets— 132-136 minutes into the movie—it’s 4 minutes long roughly and it ranks up there with Eisenstein’s Odessa Steps
transcendent art through editing
  • A masterpiece