Whiskey River Take My Mind

Buffalo Bill's
        who used to
        ride a watersmooth-silver
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
he was a handsome man
                      and what i want to know is
how do you like your blueeyed boy
Mister Death

                                                                     —ee cummings

More alcohol is consumed in this film than in any of his previous work, and one of the things the film embodies is that haze, that peculiar kind of edgelessness that alcohol induces and is in part consumed to induce. This is not to suggest that river flowPeckinpah drank deliberately to get this effect; more than likely the drinking itself produced it. It hardly matters, as Peckinpah tended to work closer to his instincts, intuitions, and feelings than almost any other director. The previous criticisms of pace and performance notwithstanding, the distended rhythms, the utter lethargy with which everyone moves, the slowness with which they speak, the swollen pauses, the faces that come wearily into focus before the replies, the overall sense of drifting, of languor, apathy, and melancholy—over the course of the film these gradually develop into a style and bring into focus a vision that is unique and almost nakedly expressive of Peckinpah’s condition and state of mind at this time in his life.

It is precisely this quality—that is, an embodiment in the very style of what it is like to be continuously drunk—that led Richard Burton, no stranger to the abuse of alcohol, to once tell Peckinpah that if he ever directed Under the Volcano, he, Burton, would play the part of the consul for nothing. Hearing this, a friend wrote Peckinpah: “It should be directed by someone who’s had that experience of having one aim for several weeks at a time—getting another drink, and who’s woke up one morning wondering why he’s still alive after a night in a cantina.”

—Paul Seydor, Peckinpah: The Western Films



3 Responses to “Whiskey River Take My Mind”

  1. 1 nancy December 2, 2012 at 11:19 am

    I recently saw this film again — there on one of my forced long marches through The Western Channel..

    Wish i would have read this first — Perspective as they say : )

    The cummings and Kesey add a perfect touch — thanks, as always…

    • 2 bluenred December 2, 2012 at 2:04 pm

      Thanks. And I want to thank you for the Tony S thing the other day. I had never seen that clip. Actually, I had never seen any of the show at all. I spent a couple hours going down the rabbit hole of that thing. Pretty bleak. I don’t like that blackness. ; (

  2. 3 nancy December 2, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Hey — me either.. Although the show was well done…Godfather for TV i guess…

    But it ain’t easy being a Mobster.. Or one of The Wild Bunch : )

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When I Worked

December 2012
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