19 October 2008

Monte Walsh

Some weeks ago I caught up with 1970 western Monte Walsh.  It's the tale of aging cowboys Monte Walsh and Chet Rollins, and their women, facing their fading culture and the rising future culture not theirs.  The story plays out in western of good guys who do honest work, their gals, and the bad guys who impede them in their efforts to adjust.  Lee Marvin and Jack Palance play Monte and Chet, and Jeanne (my heart goes . . . buh-boom . . . buh-boom . . . buh-boom . . . Moreau plays Monte's saloon hall gal.  These are good people.

Marvin and Palance play against their types with both displaying interior lives of emotional flexibility, range, and depth.  Playing against their types is a reason I like this western.  I can understand why both male actors might have enjoyed playing these roles. Marvin was 5 years beyond his Academy Award winning role of Kid Shaleen in Cat Ballou.  Marvin and Palance were in an era of transition in their careers, cultural mores and attitudes were shifting, and maybe both felt unsure how to respond and how to extend their careers. These roles in Monte Walsh mirror a late 19th century cultural shift and challenge.  In so acting Marvin and Palance act out and work out how Monte and Chet chose to live into the story in their time.  Both, all the good characters really, do this humanely, humorously, honestly, and without and self-conscious irony.   Not many on screen men today would display such interior elasticity; witness the advertisements for the contemporary Appaloosa, I have not actually seen the film though I would like too, with Ed Harris and Vigo Mortenson.  Anyway Monte Walsh is a nice movie and worth a Netflix rental.

So why do I care?  Well besides getting to recommend grown-up entertainment, with a humane story line,  I identify with Monte.  To mix in a '60's metaphor I feel like Bob Dylan's voice singin' in It's All Over Now, Baby Blue, "the carpet too, is moving under you." Oh the sense of uncertainty and change.  I too am in transition in my era and in my career.  I too am part of a fading cultural era. I too am part of a dawning cultural era.  This new time is one in which we are all in the midst of, but it is one in which both of my grown children already take for granted are shaping and creating. I'm playing catch up. 

So I pray I may do it humanely, honestly, and humorously, just as Monte did in his mid-career reflection to me from 1970.

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