This is a great movie that doesn't subvert the Western genre as much as it supplements it.
I just don't get the "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" sequence.
Paul Newman is Butch Cassidy and Robert Redford is Sundance in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. This looks at the two leaders of the "Hole-In-the-Wall-Gang" as they come to deal with a changing America. Suddenly, robbing banks isn't so easy so they take to robbing trains which only serves to get a "superposse" on their trail. Decamping to Bolivia (along with Sundance's girl, Etta; played by Katherine Ross) things are good for awhile until their reputations and the "superposse" catch up with them. Forced to take straight jobs (which really aren't that straight), Butch and Sundance soon find themselves in a climatic shootout with the Bolivian Army.
This film is filled with so much comedy and the brilliance is how Newman and Redford play it. The situations aren't funny but they become funny because our leads are not going for laughs. While I found the "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" sequence to be highly jarring, not even those few minutes can impact what is truly one of the best films ever created.
There are two tracks on here to choose from. One is with director George Roy Hill, Lyricist Hal David, Documentarian Robert Crawford, Jr. and Cinematographer Conrad Hall. There is also a separate commentary with William Goldman. I chose to just listen to the Goldman commentary because as a budding screenwriter, I wanted to get some nuggets. Goldman talks about being a novelist, writing on spec (being a novelist let him know what it was like to write without a contract), how nobody knows anything and his contempt for film critics. This was all very interesting but I found it odd that the New York film critics skewered this film when it was first released.
All Of What Follows is True
A brand new documentary has been put together which talks about how Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was a different kind of Western. We hear from William Goldman, Robert Redford, Paul Newman and others, with the end result being that they all keyed into the postmodern approach to this film. It's whole goal was to be unconventional and it most certainly was.
The Wild Bunch
The historical perspective of this movie is looked at here. Did the stuff we are seeing on film happen? Did it not? It's basic approach is what is fact and what is fiction, and how sometimes the biggest goal is just telling a good story. This piece talks about the rules of the old West and how it used to be that just hearing someone's name was enough to instill fear in someone. This segment is mandatory viewing for fans of the Western genre.
Vintage Documentaries and Interviews
Comprised of a section titled History Through the Lens and 1994 Interviews, we get a very well rounded expose on this film from Redford, Ross, Goldman, Newman and the others. Butch and Sundance were the outlaws of the time, so the central question seems to be how much should they be glorified? There is also a look at the making of this movie, in that an actor will say one thing and then another actor will contradict them. Essentially, the whole idea of truth vs. fiction is called into question.
An interesting assortment of pictures and film clips are narrated here by the director and stars of this film. They talk about the material, their characters and cover just about every facet that we would probably be concerned about. While I wasn't sure how much of this I would be able to watch (I like to see talking heads talk), it is cut so well that I ended up watching it and being almost sad when it was over. To see the past and then hear the past at the same time, it creates a very visceral viewing experience.
The scene here is called "Tent" and it originally took place after Etta tells Butch and Sundance that she is going to be leaving Bolivia. Somewhere along the line they lost the audio component so like it or lump it, this has to be watched with subtitles. George Roy Hill also talks over this scene (in an optional commentary), giving us some more information about it and why it was taken out of the movie.
Widescreen - Anamorphic 2.35:1. This movie never feels out of it's period. Even though it was created in 1969, the muted colors and everything else really feel rich within the production design of this film. One can see the idea at work, to take a western and infuse it with the look and feel of the time. Kevin Costner does very good work within the genre because he keeps it simple, but I have to wonder what someone like John Singleton (who also reveres the genre) might do with such a film. Rosewood was certainly a good start.
Dolby Digital. English - Stereo. English, Spanish and French Mono. Close Captioned. Subtitled in English and Spanish. I had to turn up the audio on my TV a little louder than normal, but that was the only thing I noticed about the sound. Aside from the "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" scene, the music and other ambiance of the film really worked well. There is a gritty, dirtiness that this movie has that I think lends itself to interesting sound being heard on a good system.
A shot of both Paul Newman and Robert Redford grace this front cover. It has a bronzed look but they have let the grain remain so this image really stands out. The cover offers up a black and white picture of our two stars, a description of the film, a Special Features listing and technical specs. Both of the discs in this set have been economically stored in one amaray case. There is a cardboard cover (which was previously described) and then the actually cover contains all of the same information, except the front cover shows Butch and Sundance wielding guns and the back shows has them on horseback. I really like the simplified look that this cover has achieved.
Paul Newman has started talking about doing one more film and then retiring. There is talk that he wants to ride into the sunset of his cinematic career with Robert Redford. As these guys have done The Sting and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, I think that this is a highly fitting way for this great actor to finish up his career. Having accomplished so much it would seem like all they would need would be the right screenplay to maximize their potential together. While I am sure there are people wondering if stylistically these guys would appeal to today's generation, I am willing to bet that anything they did (involving William Goldman wouldn't hurt) would most likely be pretty spectacular.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was released September 23, 1969.