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Old 04-02-2004, 23:55   #1
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Peckinpah: the greatest director of them all?

Just finished watching Straw Dogs Criterion and then with commentary back-to-back, and have never been in so much awe of a director

The guy was an incomparable genius, and his films so complex in symbolism, narrative and characterisation, that it has led me to believe that he was the greatest director the world has ever seen.

The fact that most of his films (bar the Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs) are virtually unknown and have limited DVD releases is an unfathomable crime which I put down to today's superficial big-budget low-attention-span culture, and is a hanging offence.

The fact that many of his films are dismissed as exercises in misogyny and gratuitous violence astounds me. Seeing so many bland and shallow movies must have ruined any capacity these people had to assess a film on anything but face-value.

So, does anyone agree with me, or am I the only one that sees any sense here
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Old 04-02-2004, 23:57   #2
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Mmmmm..............

I was really annoyed with Straw Dogs cos Dustin Hoffman was more protective of his house than his wife

bloody rain man!
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Old 05-02-2004, 00:36   #3
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Ermmmm.......

"The fact that most of his films are unknown......."

Please don't paint us all with the same brush.
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Old 05-02-2004, 00:43   #4
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I've been known in the past to say that Peckinpah was the greatest director of the 20th Century. I've since modified that view to the point where I think he was potentially the greatest director who at his best produced work which is unparallelled in world cinema - "The Wild Bunch" is the best film I've ever seen bar none. But in terms of actual achievement over the course of a career, I'd say John Ford, Howard Hawks, Hitchcock, Welles and Ingmar Bergman probably shade him. He's undoubtably in the top ten though. The romantic view is that he was artist who suffered from endless studio interference, which is certainly true to some extent but a more realistic view is that he was more than capable of screwing up his own films given half a chance through drink, coke, self-loathing and sheer obstinacy. If he'd had more self-control and less temperament, he could have been the greatest ever but as things stand, I think he blew it. He's in good company - Welles blew it as well, and he was another one who was fond of blaming everyone but himself. The list of great directors who could have been unbeatable is much longer than you'd think - Nicholas Ray, Robert Aldrich, Arthur Penn, John Boorman all immediately spring to mind. All of them had or have the talent. What they lack is an ability to work in moderation within the system. Ford realised that if you play the studio game then you can get away with incredibly personal work time after time. Peckinpah never quite managed to stop himself throwing knives at producers and so on. I don't think it's just the drink, it's the way he was.

That's a tragedy but only in one sense. There's not a single film he made which is totally devoid of interest. Even the studio massacred "Pat Garrett" had many saving graces and while the so-called "Director's Cut" emphasises them, many of them shine through in whatever version you see. I'd still much rather watch one of his lesser films - "The Killer Elite" say or "Convoy" - than sit through most American films released in the past five years. It may also be the case that without his treatment at the hands of Columbia, Warners and MGM, we would never have got the gloriously cynical comment on life, work and Hollywood power politics, "Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia" which is one of his finest achievements. Peckinpah is a case where you can't disjoin the movies from the man and the flaws of the man which led to him not being the greatest director of all time may well contribute to the things which made him as great as he is.
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Old 05-02-2004, 08:44   #5
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I've only seen Straw Dogs and Wild Bunch, didn't like the former very much, but loved the latter. Want to watch more of his films, but such a shame his body of work is poorly represented on DVD.
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Old 05-02-2004, 09:04   #6
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Ironically I jsut finished watching Straw Dogs last night. Put it like this, I'm not surpirsed I saw it on sale for Ł3.99. Very overated in my book. Not a good film. I dont really care for the "character" buildl up for prety shallow characters. Was way too slow aswell. The rape scene for which the film gained it notoriety seemed to have little impact on the plot. Just to prove how scummy the guys were. I could have done that more concisely and with better effect.

However I thought "Wild bunch" was pretty good.
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Old 05-02-2004, 09:14   #7
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As Mike has so eloquently written, Peckinpah's own self-destructiveness probably bars him from the 'greatest director' tag.

What if he'd stayed off the booze, the drugs, had lived beyond his 59-years? Who knows? He didn't have it within him to play the studio game, and even deliberately went to war with them, a war he plainly couldn't win as his own self-destructive nature took hold.

As for 'virtually unknown' only a few weeks ago I would have said you were terribly mistaken willsteptoe, but the fact that the forthcoming SE of The Osterman Weekend (late Peckinpah, but welcome nonetheless) seems to have excited relatively few around here and at the HTF, may point to Sam's star fading. I hope not; in a CV any director today would envy, The Wild Bunch is the work of a directorial genius at the height of his powers.

Warners are allegedly at work on a Peckinpah box set for release this year; I sincerely hope so.

---
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Old 07-02-2004, 11:35   #8
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BTW, I've just read elsewhere that MGM's forthcoming R1 of Junior Bonner will feature a commentary by the 'usual suspects' - David Weddle, Garner Simmons, Paul Seydor - does anyone know if the transfer will be anamorphic?

MGM have a fairly dismal track record on that front, but I cannot believe they would go to the trouble of recording a commentary and not give us a decent transfer.

---
So many films, so little time...
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Old 07-02-2004, 12:48   #9
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Posted about Junior Bonner last week Don't know if it will be anamorphic though. Will review it as soon as I get hold of it.
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Old 07-02-2004, 15:32   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mike
Posted about Junior Bonner last week
So you did; apologies. Like buses, you don't get a Sam Peckinpah DVD for ages then all of a sudden along come two, and I think I got them mixed up!

Looking forward to your review Mike.

---
So many films, so little time...
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Old 07-02-2004, 16:12   #11
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Just wish they'd bring out a decent version of Cross of Iron, Surely it's worthy of the treatment that Straw Dogs got. Anyone heard of a new version coming out??
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Old 07-02-2004, 21:23   #12
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Be nice if we could discuss Sam in a forum like the one suggested here .

---
So many films, so little time...
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Bring Me the Head of Alfr, David Samuel Peckinpah, Deadly Companions, Junior Bonner, Major Dundee, Noon Wine, Pat Garrett and Billy the, Ride the High Country, Straw Dogs, The Ballad of Cable Hogue, The Getaway, The Killer Elite, The Wild Bunch, Wild Bunch

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