By: Henry J. Fromage (A Toast) –
I recently watched the Billy Bob Thornton-directed, Matt Damn and Penelope Cruz starring adaptation of All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy, which has to be the most beautiful and heartbreaking book I’ve ever read. The movie wasn’t quite as successful, although studio meddling is likely to blame and an elusive 3 + hour cut survives out there somewhere.
Or, if it’s anything like Blade Runner, four or five of them
One of the scenes that did work was when Damon and his buddy enthrall a Mexican ranch by breaking a whole herd of wild mustangs. Just the image of a cowboy riding a bucking bronco into submission is one of the manliest things in the whole American experience, and it was done especially beautifully here. Just man’s will and wile against beast’s under the wide Western sky.
Buck is a documentary about a real-life cowboy who was more successful at this craft than those boys ever could be. Buck Brannaman, besides having the manliest name this side of Rip Torn, is a real-life Horse Whisperer, who forgoes the machismo and coercion the boys used, which is the traditional way, in favor of a gentler, psychological approach.
Which turns out not to be for pussies, this notwithstanding
The most immediately arresting aspect of this film is Buck’s skill with the horses. He can have difficult, untrained horses following him around like the family cocker spaniel in a matter of minutes, all without laying a hand on the horse or even raising his voice. His technique is not based on fear, but instead understanding and permission, and he spins this out into an unobtrusive but gratifying life philosophy.
He’s an obviously humble, gentle, yet confident man, which is made all the more remarkable when the movie delves into his troubled past. That he could endure all of that and emerge the man he is has to be the most affirming and satisfying thing about this film. Plus, he can also do sweet rope tricks.
Of course he has a daughter that looks like Hayden Panettiere. The man’s good at everything.
This isn’t the flashiest documentary in the world (although the music for one is handled impressively), but you’d have to be a particularly hardened cynic not to find something valuable within it.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time a horse shows some sass
Take a Drink: every time Buck’s past is alluded to
Drink a Shot: whenever someone chokes up (make it a double if it’s you)