CLIO FINAL - page 28

When thinking of the genre of cinema
that includes ‘historical film,' one may consider
Braveheart, Schindler’s List or perhaps even
Titanic. Whichever films come to mind, Butch
Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is probably not one
of them, though the film was set in an era seventy
years prior to its release. The reason for this com-
mon oversight is the fact that we do not usually
associate films of the cowboy genre as being part
of history - their styles and plots are seemingly too
flamboyant to have any place in ‘true’ history.
Yet Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid begins
with ‘most of what follows is true’, which at least
attempts (if slightly ironically) to paint a picture of a
story that has been researched even if it isn’t accu-
rate (in that it would follow true events). Accuracy,
however, is not the only possible way to derive
historical interest from this classic of cinema. One
of the most engaging things about it is the parallel
drawn between the events of the film and the time
it was written – both coming at the end of an era.
Lots of extra meaning can be drawn from the
film using a comparison of its themes and events
with that of the time in which it was made: it was
the end of the 60s and cowboy films, once a staple
of Golden Era Hollywood, were becoming less pop-
ular in favour of edgier more counterculture films.
This could be seen as a parallel with the end of the
‘wild west’ in the film, quelled by the rising efficacy
of the police force in America.
Butch and the Kid are down and out after a
botched train robbery thwarted by a posse, com-
prised of skilled trackers and sheriffs out for their
blood. Seeing the imminent removal of their sole
livelihood, the pair try to bypass this rising threat by
fleeing to Bolivia, where they have a sort of ‘sec-
ond act’ of their lives. Here they become famous
separately from their US personas, this time as
Los BandidosYanquis, robbing banks with garbled
Spanish taught by Sundance’s girlfriend Etta Place,
and generally living the high life.
But even this brave and almost excessive shift in
location (if not lifestyle) does not seem like enough
to escape the new breed of law enforcement they
had hoped to leave behind, as, while dining sur-
rounded by finery in a Bolivian restaurant, the pair
spot a man wearing a distinctive white skipper, the
hat synonymous with lawman Joe Lefors, leader of
the superposse. This marks the start of a downward
spiral for the two outlaws, as the new era of order
finally catches up with them.
It is interesting, when comparing the two times –
the turn of the 20th century and the 60s, to realise
Butch Cassidy and the
Sundance Kid
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