Friday, November 8, 2013

Walker (1987)

WHO: Alex Cox directed and co-edited this.

WHAT: The first American (co-)production to be shot on location (for the most part) in Nicaragua.  A truly bizarre film about a bizarre piece of 19th-century history, it stars Ed Harris as William Walker, the mercenary filibuster from Tennessee who tried to make Nicaragua become one of the United States the way Texas (among others) became one: through Anglo settlement and conquest.

Such a brutal history makes for a sometimes brutal movie, and director Cox drew inspiration from violent Western epics like The Wild Bunch and Once Upon a Time in the West to create his most lavishly morbid film.  But he also broke all the rules of period pieces by connecting the historical events to the contemporaneous Reagan-era policies in the region, in a way I wouldn't want to spoil for those who have not yet seen this.

WHERE/WHEN: Tonight only at the Roxie, at 11:59 PM.

WHY: Walker is the capper to the next-to-last MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS triple-bill of 2013, and it's a doozy. Starting this summer with the MiDNITES showing of Dario Argento's Tenebrae these three-prong events have involved a crawl from a Castro Theatre double-bill to the nearby Roxie for the final show. This will be my first time embarking one of these crawls, and I couldn't be more excited for the line-up.

First up is my favorite big-budget Hollywood movie in recent memory The Lone Ranger, which I wrote about when it was still in cinemas this past August. I very much look forward to an upcoming piece on the film by my friend and fellow fan Ryland Walker Knight, but in the meantime I'm excited to attend the my first 35mm viewing of a film that was shot largely on 35mm by Bojan Bazelli (cinematographer for Paul Schrader's Patty Hearst and Abel Ferrara's King of New York and Body Snatchers among other films on his very interesting resume), but that has until tonight only shown at digital-only theatres within San Francisco.

The second program in the trio is Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man, one of my favorite films of all time but one I have never seen on a truly huge screen like the Castro's (it frequently played at the Red Vic when that was still a going concern). It was Jonathan Rosenbaum's 1996 article on this film that made me first aware of a sub-genre known as the "acid western" that describes it, Walker, Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie, Monte Hellman's The Shooting and other films, and that tonight's MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS event borrows for its title.

As far as I know, Rosenbaum has thus far not weighed in (or perhaps even seen) The Lone Ranger, so I don't know how he would react to it being grouped with the other two films. But I think it might just work. It has a hallucinatory quality and a sense of existence as a counterpoint to mainstream filmmaking (though its status as a highly-budgeted Disney release surely complicates this quite a bit; the friction here may help account for its poor showing with critics).

Obviously tonight's triple-bill is meant to highlight the approaches toward portraying the clash of Anglo-Saxon and indigenous American cultures in the eighteenth century, in ways that draw from and rebel against the traditional ways Hollywood filmmakers have portrayed this topic in Westerns during their heyday in the 1910s through 1970s. It's probably a coincidence that this triple-bill is occurring in the middle of the 38th annual American Indian Film Festival, which is one of the country's best showcases for films made by and about the modern descendents of native peoples from this continent. If you've never sampled this excellent festival, I highly recommend doing so before its screenings end tomorrow. Also probably a coincidence is the Sunday evening 16mm screening of Kent MacKenzie's unique 1961 film The Exiles at the Berkeley Underground Film Society. I recommend that too.

HOW:All films tonight screen via 35mm prints.

1 comment:

  1. And the missing link between Brando and Walker is Burn!.