Wednesday, July 27, 2005
We don't need no badges
Classics shouldn't be revered simply because they've been revered. You know what I mean?
I think Gone with the Wind is an insufferable bore. The Godfather is pretty from a technical standpoint, but is it really the best...film...ever? The Wizard of Oz is maudlin. Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge over the River Kwai are two hours too long. The defense department should consider showing D.W. Griffith's filmography to detainees as an alternative (and more lethal) form of torture. I don't care if Intolerance or Birth of a Nation were watersheds in movie history; they may have pointed the way to better cinema, but that does not make them good cinema themselves.
That said, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is surprisingly stale. I saw it for the first time on the National Mall on Monday. Maybe it was the unforgiving humidity, or the bugs, or the distance from the screen. Or maybe it was the plodding, repetitive story. Or the lack of any sort of action or excitement. It's a Western, goddamnit. Let's run around a little bit.
Instead, Bogart, Walter Huston, and Tim Holt bum around the mountains of Mexico looking for gold. They get greedy, they got accosted by the natives, they go a little mad (it is kind of interesting to see Bogart bonkers). But it seems like John Huston never figured out what kind of movie he was making -- was it a shoot-'em-up adventure pic? A moral fable? The first Western noir? It's all of those, and each motive seems to be jockeying for position, thereby elbowing out any sort of pleasure or entertainment.
And why do people like Alfonso Bedoya's line: "Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges"? The otherwise sedate, sleepy crowd burst into applause when he said it.
It's one of the most famous movie lines ever, and I just...don't...understand.