A more than fitting tribute. Name required. Mail will not be published required. Submit Comment. Niteblade Fantasy and Horror Magazine. Peckinpah: An Ultraviolent Romance By. A recurring theme, hammered into your head. You wallow in it, you might say. Possibly as happy as a porcine in feces.
Possibly my own. I agree that one post for each film would be good. In the mean time, here's another long post with a list of books about Peckinpah. I remember the time when we were discussing how there were not enough books, DVDs or documentaries about Peckinpah on the old forum, and although things are not perfect nothing is, in life , I realise a lot has been done in the last years. Anyway, I may have forgotten some things. There is no particular order, more just how it went in the order I found in my library. Sorry about the different sizes of the pictures. Has been translated in Spanish and Japanese.
Quite opened my eyes on how to look at Straw Dogs.
Includes an analytic comparison by Paul Seydor of the film with its script which shows how Peckinpah used to work once he was on set. Precious putting in context with the historic reality of the the life of women in USA in the 19th century. Contains reproductions of nice japanese posters and programs. Graphic screen violence has become an obsessive feature of contemporary filmmaking. We cannot, it seems, go to the movies today and avoid for very long the spectacle of exploding heads and severed limbs, or escape the company of the screen sociopaths who perpetrate these acts.
If we trace this contemporary fetish for graphic bloodletting to one of its chief sources, we arrive again at Peckinpah's films. Violence is what his work was chiefly known for in its day, and it continues to be the central attribute that many people think of when his films are mentioned.
This is with good reason. We have already noted that Peckinpah showed subsequent filmmakers how to stylize scenes of graphic violence and that his techniques have become the standard tools of the trade. Moreover, the rise of ultraviolent movies is tied to the impact of Peckinpah's work on the American cinema. Violence, I will argue, is the central preoccupation of his cinema. Does this not damn his work? If we correctly, I believe tie the current cinematic fascination with graphic bloodshed to his groundbreaking work of the late s and early s, and if we accept that contemporary movie violence is excessive and produces harmful social effects, does this not tend to invalidate any claims we might make on behalf of Peckinpah's work?
We could seek to legitimize that work by claiming that its violent content is only a secondary and lesser component of other thematic or stylistic interests that lie essentially elsewhere e.
But if we argue, as I do here, that the inquiry into violence is the most important, and basic, component of Peckinpah's work, and if we can see clearly where that inquiry has led contemporary cinema, then this might seem to foreclose on the usefulness of closely studying these films. After all, doesn't their violence make them a known quantity?
But this is not the case. By confronting the violence issue directly and unraveling the volatile problems with which it is entangled, we can position Peckinpah's work more precisely and gauge its singular importance in the history of American cinema.
We must try to differentiate his films' focus and moral attributes from the unfortunate tradition of movie violence that they have helped inspire. Peckinpah is a major figure and his filmmaking a major force in postwar American film, and the value we should accord to Peckinpah's work rises or falls on the violence issue. We must confront this issue to understand the work, and this task becomes more urgent given the pervasiveness of the bloodshed in recent film. What follows, then, is a systematic and comprehensive examination of Peckinpah's use of cinema to inquire into the phenomenon of violence in human life and an analysis of the consequences of this inquiry for contemporary cinema.
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This focus necessarily imposes boundaries. I do not systematically cover all of Peckinpah's films in depth. For instance, in The Ballad of Cable Hogue and Junior Bonner Peckinpah notably moved away from the violent screen worlds that he more typically rendered. Accordingly, these films do not receive an extended treatment here.
The less said about Convoy , the better. Of his other work, I principally examine those productions from The Wild Bunch in to Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia in , a period that is arguably the most significant portion of his career.
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Before , Peckinpah was constrained by the MPAA Production Codes and could not explore the violence issue as he did in the years that followed, and after , his work becomes quite checkered. These factors motivate the rationale for the principal time period covered by this study. Furthermore, the study is organized conceptually, and individual films are examined with reference to the particular issues and problems at hand. I do not proceed chronologically, film by film; neither do I completely analyze a given film in any single chapter.
Rather, I reexamine the films across the chapters according to the particular frames of reference that are important within a given topic or focal area. I trust that this method better clarifies the structural features of Peckinpah's cinematic inquiry into violence, features that transcend their incarnation within any single film. Given the nature of this study's focus, it does not deal with other vital aspects of Peckinpah's work.
His Westerns, for example, helped decisively to revise that genre, shifting it away from the chivalric and idealized West of Ford toward a more pyschopathic and mud-spattered landscape.
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This territory has been ably explored by Paul Seydor, and I consider it in Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch , a collection of essays dealing with that film and Peckinpah's use of the Western. Peckinpah's remarkable ability to elicit superlative performances from actors is evident in the outstanding work contributed to his films by William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Susan George, Robert Ryan, James Coburn, and others.
Furthermore, the memorable stock company comprised of R. Jones is an indelible part of his work. But assessment of these sterling performances properly belongs in a more traditional study of Peckinpah as dramatist. A detailed assessment of the production history of Peckinpah's ongoing collaboration with composer Jerry Fielding, cinematographers Lucien Ballard and John Coquillon, and editors Lou Lombardo and Robert Wolfe also falls outside the purview of this study.
To understand Peckinpah's approach to, and stylistic rendering of, screen violence, we must first grasp the social preconditions that fueled his worldview and allowed it free expression, before turning to the aesthetic properties of his distinctive mode of presentation.
Chapter One examines the social preconditions, which fall into two broad areas: transformations within the film industry and changes within society at large. When Peckinpah returned to feature filmmaking with The Wild Bunch , he was able to take advantage of sweeping changes in the codes governing acceptable screen content and of the film industry's willingness to champion new kinds of films and filmmakers. The years from to saw a series of key economic, sociological, and artistic changes that predated Peckinpah's innovative work on The Wild Bunch and helped make it possible.
The first chapter profiles these changes and discusses their relevance for Peckinpah's filmmaking. In style and sensibility, Peckinpah was a late s filmmaker, and to understand his work, he must be situated in reference to an industry that was dramatically reorienting and reinventing itself to keep pace with a changing society. These larger shifts in society constitute the second broad arena in which Peckinpah's work should be located. Chapter one also examines the numerous ways in which Peckinpah reacted and responded to the era's tumultuous events. Some of the responses address specific events that appalled and agitated him, such as the My Lai massacre and the murders of John Kennedy and Sharon Tate.
But, more generally, Peckinpah's attitudes and views toward the nation, particularly the era's ongoing social violence, resonate with the radical, New Left critique of American culture that was being developed and applied during those years.