Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Kael of the Week: On Sam Peckinpah


“There’s no way to make sense of what has been going on in Peckinpah’s recent films if one looks only at their surface stories. Whether consciously or, as I think, part unconsciously, he’s been destroying the surface content. In this new film, there aren’t any of the ordinary kinds of introductions to the characters, and the events aren’t prepared for. The political purposes of the double-crosses are shrouded in a dark fog, and the company itself makes no economic sense. There are remnants of a plot involving a political leader from Taiwan (he sounds off about democratic principles in the manner of Paul Henreid’s Victor Laszlo in Casablanca), but that fog covers all the specific plot points. Peckinpah can explain this disintegration to himself terms of how contemptible the material actually is—the fragmented story indicates how he feels about what the bosses buy and what they degrade him with. He agrees to do these properties, to be “a good whore,” and then he can’t help turning them into revenge fantasies. His whole way of making movies has become a revenge fantasy: he screws the bosses, he screws the picture, he screws himself.”

-From "Notes on the Nihilist Poetry of Sam Peckinpah--The Killer Elite"
The New Yorker, January 12, 1976

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