Cannes 1995: Day 12: May 28
The Quick and the Dead, USA, dir. Sam Raimi
Many people need no help appreciating Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man. If you're me and can't help feeling agnostic, recuperating more admiration for Jarmusch's affected earnestness and genuine idiosyncrasy is a lot easier after seeing a revisionist Western as flat and plodding as Sam Raimi's The Quick and the Dead Or Sharon Stone's The Quick and the Dead (she also produced), or whoever's The Quick and the Dead. Even the mid-90s' reigning Goldilocks can't save the movie from being too much or too little at all times. The narrative disarray is total—as evidenced by a major flashback tucked into the last ten minutes, which, incidentally, unfolds a scene the audience has already worked out—but even disarray is more interesting than the utter stasis of so many shots where Stone or Russell Crowe or Gene Hackman just stares at people, or the brute momentum of the shootout scenes where the same same same thing happens as the field of contestants winnows down to an utterly foreordained foursome. Raimi's attempts to wake himself aren't any more interesting than the impressions of Raimi asleep at the wheel. But rather than keep laying on Cannes's closing night film, I'm inclined to put pressure on the oft-invoked phrase "revisionist Western," because the John Ford retrospective that unfolded throughout the festival—25 features in ten days—shows that even peak-period Westerns by figures as major as Ford were "revisionist" as often as not. Few have been as austere in their outlook, albeit frequently purple in their prose, as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. This 1962 James Stewart/John Wayne vehicle, which could not possibly be more cannily cast, challenges and complicates so many myths of the frontier, the ballot box, the law, the state, and the gun that you're hard-pressed to find any Western trope that survives intact. I wish I'd had time for more of the Ford films, but boy was I glad to have saved them up so that I didn't finish on Raimi's folly, and I could take in a rounder, wider, bitterer scale of revision than the simple notion of a girl with a gun.
The Quick and the Dead
(Out of Competition: USA, dir. Sam Raimi)
My Response: "If something on Earth had to be absolutely no fun, why the Sam Raimi western with Sharon Stone as shootist? ..." Grade: C–
Tim Brayton's Review: "... Raimi does what he can to spike things with his usual cartoon flair, and the opening quarter-hour is a marvel of camerawork, weird characters, and comic energy. He even manages to make the endless series of gunfights all feel meaningfully different. But he mangles the tone as the film goes on, turning a playful satire into a leaden, straightforward slog ..." Rating: 6/10
Steamboat Round the Bend
(Ford Retrospective: USA, dir. John Ford, 1935)
My Response: "Spry, ambling Ford. Not rigidly shaped, which appeals. Indulges stereotypes but also burns false idols ..." Grade: B/B+
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
(Ford Retrospective: USA, dir. John Ford, 1962)
My Response: "Law, literacy, rhetoric, press, votes, violence: six chambers in America's gun. Purple, but deep ..." Grade: A–
Coming later tonight: Our jury has reached its decisions!