The Films of Budd Boetticher, “Camp de Thiaroye”

The Films of Budd Boetticher, “Camp de Thiaroye” (photo)

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The last of the red hot Golden Age Hollywood genre buckaroos, Budd Boetticher represented a long-vanished prototype: the man’s man studio director who, before turning gruffly to making pictures, had spent years being a boxer or a stevedore or a soldier or what have you. Today, filmmakers pay their dues by earning six figures shooting shampoo commercials; then, a man who made westerns or war movies or gangster films was a man who had lived in the world and returned with a heartful of brutal and hopeful business you can’t learn by watching other movies. In a sense, Boetticher outdid the competition by becoming a professional Mexican matador right out of college — a scenario difficult to beat for hard-won iron-man chops in Tinseltown. Of course his biography influences how his best films — the westerns he made between 1956 and 1960 — have been perceived and why they’ve been canonized, as they have been now in the new, lovely tombstone of a DVD box set from Sony. Such are the pratfalls of auteurism.

That’s not to drain air out of the films’ reputation: “Seven Men from Now” (1956), “The Tall T” (1957), “Decision at Sundown” (1957), “Buchanan Rides Alone” (1958), “Westbound” (1959), “Ride Lonesome” (1959) and “Comanche Station” (1960) are all still shockingly unique, realistic, weathered, fatalistic and never less than adult. (The DVD cache elides “Seven Men From Now” and “Westbound,” which both had different producers.) Looking at them anew, they remain quietly revolutionary, but, insofar as it matters, the achievement seems to be not only Boetticher’s, but a fortunate meeting of minds between the director, his aging star Randolph Scott, their producer Harry Joe Brown and screenwriters Burt Kennedy and Charles Lang. The films are not notable for directorial flourishes, but for a subtle, cohesive vision of humanity and community. It’s clear that this team was set, within the framework of B-movie westerns, on cleaning out the genre’s penchant for childish, mythic baloney and remaking the western the way it should be, as convincing, minor-key battles between real grown-ups in a more or less lawless landscape.

11112008_thetallt.jpgThe films, of which “The Tall T” and “Ride Lonesome” are the best and the most fully inhabited, stick to skeletal plotlines in which honor and justice are mutable, fragile things; they are as well full of convincing frontier detail (such as the recurring use of the lonely, vulnerable “swing station” outposts for stagecoach lines). The dialogue can be prototypically hokey in some of its details but utterly tough and believable in its textures, density and unmelodramatic understanding. Outlaws (like “The Tall T”‘s Richard Boone and “Ride Lonesome”‘s Pernell Roberts) are rueful bastards who would like a second chance to live normally, while Scott’s ramrod hero is both beaten by a long life and sometimes sadly holding onto his dignity as the last thing on Earth that’s his. Of course, by winnowing away the western’s accumulation of playground ethics and movie-movie reflexes Boetticher and Co. happened to reinvent the western myth in a modern mode, as an existential conflict, where even trivial actions question the point of trying to live a good life, and where time is everyone’s hardest enemy. In the lineage of the western’s profound revitalization in the postwar years, these films raised the bet of the slightly earlier Anthony Mann-James Stewart films, and paved the way for Peckinpah, Hellman and the very idea of an “anti-western,” which is when the genre ceased being just an all-American daydream and became as much a global expression of humanist despair as film noir.

It’s when movies pass from being a litany of mere particulars to being totemic and universal that we swoon for them the most, and few filmmakers made such a point of pride out of the transformation of the specific into metaphor as Ousmane Sembene, who’s most expansive film, “Camp de Thiaroye” (1987), appears finally on video for the first time. A perpetual motion machine of ethical ambiguity and confrontational tension, Sembene’s was one of the first African films to explore contemporary native history, and was the first Pan-African feature produced completely without European technical aid or co-financing — it took nearly 30 years, but with this Algerian-Tunisian-Senegalese co-production, West Africa could truly be said to have its own film industry.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.