Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Miscellaneous: Words of Wisdom

(Sam) Peckinpah was a good writer, but he only had one voice. He could just write his kind of thing: Westerns, hard guys, bitter-enders. But he wrote them quite well. He was good at structure and good at finding the ironic moment. On dialogue, it’s a little harder to be completely generous. He was good at finding short catchphrases for characters that described their inner workings, but I always thought he was way too explicit in having characters baldly state thematic ideas.

The contrast with John Huston I think is interesting. Huston, like the more traditional screenwriters, could write in many voices. For instance, it’s impossible to imagine Sam writing Dr. Erlich’s Magic Bullet, Jezebel, or Wuthering Heights. But one can certainly see him doing Treasure of the Sierra Madre. This sounds like a criticism of Peckinpah but isn’t meant to be. I actually think you are much better off writing in as narrow a voice as possible (produces higher quality work and a more personal statement), but the other side of that coin (and Sam is illustrative of this), you probably burn out faster.

Walter Hill, in an interview in Backstory 4. For Ray Banks.