Pinned on August 1, 2012 at 12:30 am by Linda Ramos
A History Lesson, Of Sorts. I too first saw this film in a theatre in 1976 after its release; I was with a few other people and to this day none of them probably care for this movie.I read a lot on the west and have several books about Buffalo Bill Cody, so I wanted to see what Mr. Altman had done with this movie. I can not argue with anyone who doesn’t care for this picture, would not try to couch my review so that they would.Though I realize that the film doesn’t give a total picture of what was going on at this time in the still unsettled west it does have a quality of those times to it. Buffalo Bill here is not the young, agile Army Indian Scout of old, nor the brazen hero awarded the Medal of Honor, he has been tempered both by age and the bottle; but let no one doubt that he in fact had done many things that were historical. He was notable and respected in his time, and more over he was a capable western man and scout. Later he was bankrupt not only in money but also in spirit; and his final show days with the 101 Wild West show are pitiful to this day.One needs to remember, too, that shortly after Sitting Bull left Wild Bill’s show, he was savagely murdered by his own Indian Police tribesmen at Pine Ridge Reservation. Though the movie doesn’t bring this out, and that was not never its intent, the ‘west’ was yet an unsettled area in some places, with several places being very dangerous. There are some western writers who claim the Apache were still making raids out of the Sierre Madre into the 1930s.But men like Buffalo Bill and Frederick Remington who realized not only that the western times were changing, saw their ‘west’ disappearing, being replaced by something alien, with which they were totally unfamiliar. Each man attempted in his own way to keep “their” west alive in order that later people could visually see and understand it as they had experienced it. Today both men have come in for more than their share of disrespect. In the several college history of art courses I took, not a single painting of our American west was ever to be found in either text book or on mid-term exam.Some of the flux existing in these times has been captured brillantly on film by Mr Altman, whether that was his intent or not. Even Burt Lancaster’s character, Ned Buntline, is at odds & ends and seems to be very much adrift in that new west that is replacing the old west. Even his blue G.A.R. uniform of Civil War days harkens back to a more familiar time, and as he rides off for the final time he doesn’t have a clue where he is going.I treasure this movie and watch it not only for its surrealism, symbolism, and realism, but because it does attempt to show the physical being and personalities of the Wild West Show itself. I’m old enough to have heard and read of what this show looked like, but thanks to Altman’s sets I can more plainly realize it, and realize it in blazing color.I think and have always thought that this is a very worthwhile movie.Semper Fi.
Best movie about Indians I’ve ever seen well, all I can tell you is having grown up in western oklahoma with lots of real indians this is the best movie about INDIANS i have ever seen. Not only do real Indians play Indians (as opposed to Italians playing Indians) but they actually sound and feel like real Indians. I saw this movie over twenty years ago and it has haunted me ever since. Although I really don’t think Buffalo Bill was as big a fraud as he is portrayed here (in fact the Indians in his Wild West show LIKED him and remarked on his generosity and compassion) I think of him (in this movie) as a symbol of how we (whites) view ourselves and of our tendency towards superficiality and phoniness.
Misunderstood Robert Altman’s “Buffalo Bill and the Indians (or Sitting Bull’s History Lession)” has largely been forgotten while his other films from this period have been rediscovered as classics. While maybe its time for this one too.
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