Friday, January 7, 2011

The Unseen #56: 800 Bullets

Why’d I Buy It?: Was bequeathed to me during the legendary Insomniac closing.

Why Haven’t I Watched It?: I have absolutely no idea. It wasn’t like nobody told me.

I first heard of 800 Bullets when it was released and made it on half the top ten lists of the AICN guys (and say what you will about them, but they’re commitment to spreading world cinema was and is admirable). I filed it away in my “must watch” bin and then never got around to seeing it.

Then the Insomniac closed and I was given a copy. “Sweet” I thought, “Now I can get around to finally seeing this!” And then I didn’t.

THEN Neil over at Agitation Of The Mind raved about the film (He's also responsible for the below screencap). I pulled it out of my Unseen pile and went “Yep now it’s finally time to watch it.” AND THEN I STILL DIDN’T DO IT!

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him watch a kick ass movie while he’s there.

How Was It?: You know how there are certain movies you’re pissed you didn’t watch sooner because that means by its very definition you’ve limited the number of viewing you have of it?

800 Bullets is one of those.

Imagine a movie Steven Spielberg might have made if he was obsessed with spaghetti westerns and binged non stop on tequila and whores through the writing, shooting and post production of the film.

800 Bullets is the story of a fatherless boy who discovers his grandfather is still alive and travels to Portugal to find him. The Grandfather a “legend in his own mind” stuntman lives and works at “The Village.” An old set for Spaghetti Westerns that no one ever bothered to tear down. There are he and a band of miscreants from the old days perform a Wild West Show For increasingly small and nonplussed crowds. Telling the same old stories about being friends with Clint Eastwood and fucking Raquel Welch, which become less believed in each repeating. After the usual gruff rebuffs turn to affection arc, Grandfather and Grandson bond over whores, hard drinking, arson, violence and mayhem and the rest of the code of the Spaghetti Western way. The kids like eight. It’s awesome.

The Grandfather is a fascinating character. A hard living blowhard made lovable despite his flaws. The movie deserves credit for never flinching from those flaws. The film never excuses him. But there are moments and I’m being vague here to keep from giving away the film, were the bravado drops and you see the decades of pain and self doubt that have been eating him alive behind the façade for years.

If the first half of 800 Bullets is surprisingly sweet natured (somehow in all the years of hearing about the film I never really figured out it was centered around a child) the second half grows apocalyptic and while it’d be unfair to say just how this happens, suffice to say the ending of 800 Bullets could easily rival The Great Silence for starkness, while always holding on to the romance that the greatest Spaghetti Western’s promised under all the grime.

Still no matter which mode it’s in 800 Bullets is the type of exuberant filmmaking, headily in love with both the world of spaghetti westerns and the world of it’s ramshackle characters.

The only problem I have with 800 Bullets is the harsh digital stock it’s shot in is completely wrong for the film. DV is a great tool and sorely tempting for any filmmaker on a budget, but if ever there was a film that begged for the soft dusty tones of it’s ancestors it’s 800 Bullets. And the fact that such a loving tribute to Spaghetti Westerns looked nothing like one, annoyed me.

Still don’t put off a viewing of 800 Bullets like I did. It will only lead to terrible regret.


Anthony said...

It is now at the top of my Queue.

Neil Fulwood said...

Thanks for the mention. Great write up - glad you loved the film as much as I did.

This sentence:

"Imagine a movie Steven Spielberg might have made if he was obsessed with spaghetti westerns and binged non stop on tequila and whores through the writing, shooting and post production of the film"

... conjured up a wonderfully irreverent mental picture and put a smile on my face.

Bryce Wilson said...

@ Anthony: Thanks man hope you like it.

@ Neil: "Shyme da one who made Raiderz of the losh arkk. You'll doo wat I shay!"

Buttfuck McGee said...

Good review, but Almeria is on the Costa Del Sol, not in Portugal.