Friday 7 June 2013

The Shooting [1966]

Monte Hellman counted Sartre and Camus among his idols, and their philosophical influences were evident in this stark, moody, disorienting and existential, albeit little known, B-Western, The Shooting. Hellman kept gun-plays, dialogues and plot intricacies to a minimum; in fact, very little really happened in terms of the narrative. He instead deployed a constant sense of tension, paranoia and fear for the unknown in this deliberately paced film with an intriguing and involving build-up. The film begins with Willet Gashade (Warren Oates), a former outlaw, being hired by a pretty, enigmatic and unpredictable young lady (Millie Perkins), for a mysterious quest on account of his deep knowledge of the landscape. Will’s simpleton and dim-witted side-kick (Will Hutchins) joins them in the trail and immediately falls heads over heels in love with the coquettish lady; Will’s feelings for her are more complex even though he too becomes strangely enamoured by her. During their journey Will finds that they are being followed by an ominous stranger, and before long the person is revealed as a charismatic and ruthless hired gun (Jack Nicholson). The understated but strongly palpable game of psychological one-upmanship that ensues between these characters, against the arid and lifeless backdrop, and with all their fates hanging in loose balance, formed the principal thread of the yarn, as they traverse further and further into the unknown. The sparse aesthetics, though on account of its low budget, nicely counterpointed the moody and fatalistic tone. The film was well enacted with the young Nicholson particularly noteworthy.

Director: Monte Hellman
Genre: Western/Revisionist Western/Psychological Western
Language: English
Country: US


Sam Juliano said...

Yep this is another that is usually given short shrift, but you again frame all the aspects that make it well worth seeing by western fans! Excellent, insightful piece!

Shubhajit said...

Thanks Sam. Its surprising that despite having Nicholson in it, it continues to be so unknown even today.