New Movies: Double Vision

  • Share
  • Read Later

"I got vision," brags Butch Cassidy, "and the rest of the world wears bifocals." Unfortunately, the rest of the world includes the makers of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Every character, every scene, is marred by the film's double view, which oscillates between sympathy and farce.

The sympathy is understandable. Cassidy and the Kid were two gen-u-wine outlaws whose future narrowed along with the Frontier. By 1900, the West was getting settled, the banks and trains were well guarded, and there was no place to go but down—to South America. In the newly rich country of Bolivia, they attempted to recapture the past by becoming badmen again.

But the time of the pistol-packing renegade had run out—worldwide. In 1909, they met their appropriately gory end, undone by two new enemies, the federates and the 20th century. As Butch and the Kid, respectively, Paul Newman and Robert Redford are afflicted with cinematic schizophrenia. One moment they are sinewy, battered remnants of a discarded tradition. The next they are low comedians whose chaffing relationship —and dialogue—could have been lifted from a Batman and Robin episode.

But the cast is merely reflecting the film's deeply split personality. Scriptwriter-Novelist William Goldman (Boys and Girls Together) purportedly spent six years researching his subjects, yet he provides them with neither background nor a sense of their own transitional time. Director George Roy Hill abruptly annihilates the nostalgia with a scat-singing sound track by Burt Bacharach at his most cacophonous. Coupled with a mod love song, Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head—wedged in while Newman does stunts on a bicycle —the score makes the film as absurd and anachronistic as the celebrated Smothers Brothers cowboy who played the kerosene-powered guitar.