“Kid, the next time I say, “Let’s go someplace like Bolivia,” let’s GO someplace like Bolivia…”*
…because, after all, the scenery there is astonishingly beautiful! A couple of days ago while perusing Netflix for something to watch, I came across the movie “Blackthorn” starring Sam Shepard, Eduardo Noriega, and Stephen Rea. Boy, was it gorgeous. It’s 1927 and we learn that the eponymous character, James Blackthorn, is actually Butch Cassidy, who did not die in that infamous shoot-out all those years ago when he was Paul Newman. Having recently learned that the Sundance Kid’s old paramour, Etta Place, has passed away leaving a son behind to whom Blackthorn feels connected — the young man represents Blackthorn’s only connection to the people he loved — he decides to go back to the U.S. Blackthorn sells off everything, saddles up, and heads out only to lose it all, including his horse, when he is waylaid by an incompetent thief on the run (played by the handsome Spanish star, Eduardo Noriega), who bears a notable resemblance to the Sundance Kid (we know from flashbacks). Troubles ensue.
The film is low key, deliberately paced, and lyrically focused on Bolivia, which is as much a character as any of the humans. The cinematography is fabulous.
Equal parts lush and barren, the landscape is like a Venus flytrap — deceptively beautiful but deadly. It’s vastness highlights man’s puny insignificance; (most) people, especially outsiders, become helpless in its grasp.
And I think that’s the point. The characters seem either lost (Noriega) or resigned (Rea and Shepard).
When on the point of death two of the characters (I won’t say who) say almost scoffingly, “Bolivia,” in recognition of the ironic fact that they went there seeking something — refuge, fortune, or results — but found only entrapment and downfall. Even the Pinkerton agent (played by Rea), who chased Butch and Sundance all the way there, could never leave, eventually sinking into a horrible, somnolent and meaningless, existence. He, too, became trapped.
I very much enjoyed this film, although I didn’t realize that I had to turn on the subtitles and so missed everything they said in Spanish (and there’s a lot of it!). No problem. It will give me an excuse to watch it again. The music is also excellent. Don’t be fooled by the Butch and Sundance angle — this is not really an action movie (although there is some action). It’s a sad story about friendship, loss, and surviving the indifference of the universe with one’s integrity in tact.
Watch the movie and let me know what you think!
*Butch to Sundance in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”