Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

(On Cable TV, October 2017) One of the peculiar pleasures of re-watching older movies is that you get to experience the same mystifying questions as previous generations of moviegoers. In Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, that means watching the “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” montage and smiling while wondering what such an atonal sequence is doing in a western movie. Reviewers have been asking that question for nearly fifty years, so I feel in good company. Not that this is the only question left unanswered by this film, which seems dead-set on not doing things the conventional way. While the buddy chemistry between Paul Newman and Robert Redford is next-level fantastic, everything else seems made to defy convention. Our charming but quixotic characters are out of time, too late for western heroics and too early for gangster drama. They flee rather than fight, but find themselves caught by fate several minutes later. There’s comedy overlaying a heavy drama (and one of the most famous tragic endings in movie history, overlaid with comic markers). But it works, largely because screenwriter William Goldman knows what he’s doing, and because of the great actors taking on the lines. The comic moments work—the “enough dynamite” sequence is still very funny. The result has survived the year reasonably well, largely because few studios would be willing to take that many chances with a big-name film these days.

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