Thursday, May 26, 2016

THE WILD BUNCH (1969) - Cinematic Trauma

I recently recorded a guest spot on the excellent podcast Cinema PSYOPS to discuss one of my favorite movies - THE WILD BUNCH. But the format of this particular podcast isn't tied to talking about movies you love. No, no! The idea is to talk about movies that you saw at far too young and age for the content or tone to be healthy. Exploring the often self-inflicted cinematic trauma of childhood is a ripe topic and hosts Cort and Matt do a great job of digging into why and how when quizzing their guests.

When they graciously asked if I'd be willing to participate I was thrilled and knew immediately what movie to discuss because the screen magic of Peckinpah's grandest work is something I could talk about any day of the week. Of course, what disturbed me about THE WILD BUNCH when I was a lad is no longer what gives me tsursi as an adult viewer. I had a blast on their show going through this brilliant film and it was a lot of fun to really compare notes with friends about a movie so good on so many levels. But there is the problem for a lunatic like me - I had so much fun I forgot to talk about dozens of the ideas bouncing around inside the film. I never mentioned the old vs. new theme, the concept of the regrets of middle age and its attendant creeping fear of obsolesce, the problems of maintaining an ethical code in a complex world and what it means to betray and be betrayed. Nope! I talked about the things that messed me up when I was a kid!

As you might expect, when I was younger it was the obvious stuff that made me go wide eyed. The violence and callous disregard for other human lives laced with bloody violence shocked and stunned me. But now that I'm older and watching the film those things don't disturb me nearly as much as watching what seems to be positioned just to the side of that violence almost all the time -  children. In every major action sequence except the train robbery Peckinpah goes out of his way to show children being put in harm's way by the violence around them. And then the final shot that kills Pike is fired by a child playing at war. It's this running theme that bothers me these days and it's a much more troublesome concern. 

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