Friday, January 27, 2006

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Dir: George Roy Hill (The Sting)


In honor of Paul Newman's 81st birthday, it only seems fitting to celebrate by viewing one of his many great films (and coincidentally, Sundance film festival is currently in full swing). For me, I have lists of what I consider the best films in history and my list of personal favorites; there is some overlap between the two, but Butch Cassidy falls cleanly into the latter. Quite simply, this film is just fun. It does not boast a complex narrative or stirring intellectual insights (the anachronism of our beloved bank robbers notwithstanding), but the spirited performances and the inspired banter are well worth the price of admission. The screen is not big enough to contain Newman's charisma as the affable bandit. Likewise the chemistry he shares with the stoic Sundance (Robert Redford) is the model for all "buddy films." (I hesitate to call them anti-heroes, for they are too charming for such a invidious term).

The plot is simple. As infamous (which means more than famous) bank robbers, Butch and Sundance lead the Hole in the Wall gang on playfully, yet fortuitously successful, trainrobbing excersions ("is that you Woocock!?"). That is until they become too hot to work in the States, fleeing from "Who are those guys?". Therefore, the two (along with Sundance's signifcant other and apple of Butch's eye, Katherine Ross), head to Bolivia to exploit their talents and met their match.

In a time where cynicism dominates my view of Hollywood celebrities, Paul Newman is an icon of sincerity and goodwill. Being married for nearly fifty years to the same woman and donating more than $100 million to various charities (not to mention being a superb actor) will always get my respect. I'll admit, I have little brand loyalty. But more often than not, I purchase Newman's Own products. I'll always support child welfare and a good salad dressing. Newman is one of the last vestiages of classical Hollywood. The man is all about good looks, charm, humility, and grace. Mr. Newman, Happy Birthday. The world is a much better place with you in it.