Monday, December 21, 2009

Movies! - "I don't have to show you any stinking badges!"

There's one scene in Treasure of the Sierra Madre that shows just what a master director John Huston is. It deals with the banditos trying to sell their stolen donkeys only to get caught and put in prison to be executed later. The scene plays out for about five minutes or so (if I remember correctly) and every character speaks in Spanish. There are absolutely no subtitles, and even though I don't speak the language, I was able to completely understand what was going on, not even realizing until afterward that there weren't any subtitles to help me figure it all out.

I first picked up the film when I heard that some other senior teacher who had retired would show it to go along with Macbeth. Actually, that was my mistake, as he showed it to go along with "The Pardoner's Tale" of The Canterbury Tales - which makes a hell of a lot more sense. I bought it blind the day it came out on DVD, and it instantly became one of my favorite movies upon the first viewing.

Just like with Casablanca and Citizen Kane, there probably isn't much that I can say about this film that hasn't been said before. It's not as high up on the AFI 100 best films, but it made the list. I guess the only new thing I can say is that when I did show it to students, the reaction was actually pretty positive. Oddly enough, it was often my Hispanic students who really seemed to like it, which is surprising considering the stereotypical banditos. I guess in all fairness, the movie portrays a lot of different Mexicans, and not all of them bordered on being caricatures. I suppose they might also like the role-reversal as how you have white Americans searching for work in Mexico.

The one thing that this movie really did for me was get me to appreciate how great Humphrey Bogart is. Sure, I was already a fan of Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon. I had also seen a few of his other films as well. Still, his character in "Treasure" is so completely different than anything else in which I've seen him. It's great to see how he goes from being somebody who'll settle for a few pesos to somebody who's completely consumed with greed.

For those who are wondering, it ties into "The Pardoner's Tale" because it essentially has the same theme - the love of money is the root of all evil. I've read that it's supposedly based on the Pardoner's tale, and you can find more similarities here and there, but really it's more about exploring the theme a bit more realistically and thoughtfully. After all, the Pardoner only tells his morality tale so he can gain from the very thing he preaches against. The film doesn't have a narrator. Also, all three of the guys who go after the gold have completely different personalities, and only Dobbs (Bogart) is like the "rioter" of the original tale.

I actually haven't had time to show this movie in a few years. I think I'm going to need to watch it again soon.

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