Tuesday, June 27, 2006

TV: Broken Trail (2006)

AMC stopped calling itself American Movie Classics around the time it began running Chuck Norris Missing in Action-thons. That’s also when I stopped watching. But I’m slowly coming around. The con man series Hu$tle is good fun. And AMC’s first original movie, a two-part western, is a gem. It’s also a ratings success.

Two trail hands driving horses across the Pacific Northwest find themselves protecting five Chinese women who have been sold into prostitution. But Alan Geoffrion’s script is all about the details. Bad news is always bearing down on us, one and all; what matters is what you do before it reaches you. As Rosemarie said, “I didn’t think it was possible to cry at the end of a Walter Hill movie.”

Thomas Haden Church delivers an impressively taciturn turn. And you can keep your Yoda. I’ll take Robert Duvall’s grizzled cowpoke, dispensing hard-won wisdom as off-handedly as a request for more coffee.

Hill, a filmmaker I’ve admired for years, has plenty of wisdom of his own to share in this L.A. Weekly interview. Here he’s asked about how the superhero film has supplanted the action genre:

Yeah ... The kind of Burt Lancaster/Steve McQueen/Lee Marvin tough-guy movie, they don’t make very many of those. This, of course, is a shattering blow to me. [Laughs] Both as a filmmaker and as an audience. I love those things.

You and me both, Mr. Hill. I like superheroes as much as the next fanboy, but give me a badass who can bleed any day of the week. He also passes along this observation:

I remember having lunch with Jacques Demy once ... and he said he thought that Americans were losing contact with one of their greatest artistic discoveries in filmmaking: that the perfect playing time for a motion picture was 90 minutes. It’s the right amount of time you could sit and ... go without food, drink and going to the bathroom if you were in reasonable health. [Laughs] I’ve never forgotten that.

No doubt it will come back to me during the five hours I spend watching Superman Returns and Pirates of the Caribbean 2. Both parts of Broken Trail air again Thursday night. Do yourself a favor and tune in.

Miscellaneous: Link

The newly-redesigned Slate kicks off Summer Movie Week by asking filmmakers and critics what film they’ve seen the most. Regular readers already know my answer.