Arthur Penn – The Missouri Breaks (1976)

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A wonderfully quirky Western, brilliantly scripted by Thomas McGuane, which strips all the cute whimsy away from the Butch Cassidy theme (outlaws on the run from a relentless lawman), replacing it with a kind of pixillated terror. Playing the ‘regulator’ as a camp Buffalo Bill with an Irish accent, Brando makes his entrance playing peekaboo from behind his horse, and at one point even stalks his prey in a dress and poke bonnet. But he is also a legalised killer, expert with a rifle but preferring (as the flail of God) to use a harpoon shaped like a crucifix. And as his gloating sadism shades into hints of bizarre perversion when he dedicates a love song and a kiss to his horse, the tone gradually darkens to a kind of horror. It’s one of the few truly major Westerns of the ’70s, with a very clear vision of the historical role played by fear and violence in the taming of the wilderness. Continue reading

Arthur Penn – Alice’s Restaurant (1969)


Arlo Guthrie’s song is converted into a motion picture.
Arlo goes to see Alice for Thanksgivng and as a favor takes her trash to the dump. When the dump is closed, he drops it on top of another pile of garbage at the bottom of a ravine. When the local sheriff finds out a major manhunt begins. Arlo manages to survive the courtroom experience but it haunts him when he is to be inducted into the army via the draft. The movie follows the song with Arlo’s voice over as both music and narration.
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Arthur Penn – The Chase (1966)

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A cluttered, erratic, uncertain movie (1966)–and, if you can see past the blowsy trappings of southern gothic, a good one. Robert Redford is the Christ-like convict who escapes from prison and heads toward his small-town home; his expected arrival (get it?) stirs a flurry of moral and social upheaval. Marlon Brando, as the sheriff, provides a gradually crumbling center of strength and certainty; the balance of the extraordinary cast includes Jane Fonda, Angie Dickinson, Janice Rule, James Fox, Robert Duvall, E.G. Marshall, and Miriam Hopkins. The screenplay is by Lillian Hellman; the direction, nervous and attentive, is Arthur Penn’s. Continue reading