Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Ballad of Cable Hogue

Theresa was out at a "bachelorette" party last night, so I watched a Sam Peckinpaugh movie. Seemed like a fair trade! Last night's feature was THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE. First let me throw a caveat out there: It's not for everyone. They shoot a lizard at the beginning. Seems like at the beginning of every Peckinpaugh movie, some poor animal gets it. Chickens in PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID, a scorpion in THE WILD BUNCH. I like to pretend it's Hollywood magic, but I have my queasy doubts. HOGUE's cast features "blog" "faves" Stella Stevens and Slim Pickens. There's also a cameo by frequent Jerry Lewis co-star Kathleen Freeman (who appeared with Stevens in THE NUTTY PROFESSOR). It would be tempting and lazy to call Ms. Freeman Jerry Lewis's Margaret Dumont, but she was his cohort more often than his foil. Nor do the Jerry Lewis connections end there. There's a bit with an animated five dollar bill that comes straight out of Lewis's mentor Frank Tashlin. And people run around in comical fast motion a lot (though that's more Richard Lester than Jerry Lewis, I think). So it's not a typical Peckinpaugh movie, though it is typically strange. The strangest sequence of all is a duet between Stevens and Jason Robards, an anachronistic hippie number in which they pine for "Butterfly Mornings and Wildflower Afternoons." Gulp! In fact, there are quite a few musical moments, though they're abrupt and abbreviated compared to the duet. Why did I keep thinking of Godard's "A Woman Is A Woman"? Maybe because I'm fancy! And the seemingly arbitrary shifts of tone do put one in mind of the French New Wave. The biggest caveat for us modern people with our big city ways is how the camera crawls all over Ms. Stevens in a mode that can only be called "sleazy." I mean, sleazy! The remarkable thing is the wonderful performance Stevens gives in defiance of the treatment she receives. This is a movie to watch alone, because your friends will laugh when Jason Robards starts to sing, or they will object with good reason to the way that a certain amount of misogyny is taken for granted, and you'll get mad and kick them out. And they won't be your friends anymore! But you want to see where this weird movie is going. And the ending, despite all odds, is tender and moving.