The Shooting Screen 8 articles

The Shooting

1966

The Shooting Poster
  • Constructed around a central absence, THE SHOOTING recalls the absurdist dramas of Samuel Beckett--which Hellman staged in Los Angeles, incidentally, before becoming a filmmaker. [It suggests] an advancement on the already minimal WHIRLWIND, but in fact they were shot simultaneously.

  • Their long, tense interactions and existential situations refine the stripped-down westerns that Budd Boetticher made in the late 1950s. In their despair of meaning and noncomic absurdity, they seem a cornfed equivalent to the modernist cinema of Michelangelo Antonioni and Ingmar Bergman. (Akira Kurosawa is an influence as well.) You might even term them neorealist westerns.

  • Monte Hellman's remarkably hip avant-garde western (1967) was sold straight to television in the U.S.; while overseas it became a standard reference point for cinephiles, here, alas, it remains a cultist legend that's never received the attention it deserves... With its existentialist approach to treks through the wilderness, this is one of the key forerunners of Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man.

  • Hellman's spatial dynamics are disorienting and his compositions remarkably political. In one shot, Hellman uses a tree trunk to split his frame in two: on one side stands the character played by Perkins, on the other stands Oates and Hutchins. Most startling, though, is Hellman's refusal to give evil a definitive face.

  • Reportedly envisioned as a disorientating mirror of the decade’s political assassinations, this is a crossroads of old and new myths where characters flicker gradually from irritable ramrods into projections of haunted states... Fantastically concentrated, ultimately closer to Frost than to Sartre, and the heat-cracked realm out of which Jarmusch and Almereyda and Reichardt ride.

  • Hellman’s De Chirico–like compositions, unorthodox framing, abrupt contrasts between pregnant close-ups and vast, patient long shots sans dialogue (the thieves’ struggling capture and lynching in Whirlwind are virtually silent), the tactile relationship the characters have to the ominous topography around them—all told, it’s a visionary strategy, and it’s where the antiwestern, as a modernist commentary on and inversion of this most simplistic of all-American genres, was truly born.

  • Ride in the Whirlwind is unquestionably a great movie, with its direct performances, gorgeous imagery, literate, densely jargoned dialogue, and inventively bifurcated duel-siege structure. ButThe Shooting is the masterpiece of this set: a hauntingly spare and poetic revenge film that gradually transforms into a parable of a snake eating its own tale.

  • Monte Hellman’s low-budget Western, from 1965, offers primal violence with a modernist chill... Hellman’s tight telephoto shots press the characters entomologically against the barren landscape; he revels in the technical charms of the medium and the scruffiness of his B-movie budget as audaciously as a French New Wave director. The blank, cerebral ending is as ingenious as it is mysterious.

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