31 May 2008

A rollicking good time


It's not in my top 100 movies of all time but in some ways "Little Big Man" (directed by Arthur Penn, 1970) creates the ultimate film experience. You want drama? Check. How about pathos? Check. Care for a little humor? Check. Like epics? Check. Want history? Check. Brilliant acting interest you? Check. I could go on.
I remember seeing "Little Big Man" in a theater when it debuted when I was a teen and I was blown away. What a life for a young man-to-be to contemplate. The imagination of an all ready imaginative young man was enthralled. Today my middle age imagination is still taken in by "Little Big Man."
How to capsulize such a story? Not easy but here goes: All family but a sister wiped out by hostile Indians, taken in by Cheyenne to, in the main character Jack Crabb's words, not just play Indian but to be an Indian. Only to be subsequently taken back into white society after "rescue" in battle. Then to be given a bath by Faye Dunaway. (Mmmmmm.) From there to be a swindler, gun fighter, family man, mule skinner, Indian again and one with a family at that. Having the "chore" of making love to your wife's three young widowed sisters....Then tragedy at the hands of General Custer. THE Custer!
With dignity and life's meaning seemingly gone to be a gutter drunk. Dickensian re-encounters with earlier characters and all this against the backdrop of the Wild West. Then to be at Little Big Horn...
"Little Big Man" is by no means a perfect film but it is a perfectly wonderful way to tickle one's interest in U.S. History and have a rollicking good time. Hoffman is superb in the title role making the character at once an everyman and larger than life. Viewers can both relate to Crabb and wonder at his incredible life (as can readers of the marvelous book of the same name and its sequel).
What a lot of fun.

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