August 26th, 2012


Prototypes, Stereotypes, Archetypes, and Brigitte Bardot

If you're looking for a good example of how to fill a movie with characters without giving them personalities, I would perhaps point you to 1968's Shalako, a Western starring Brigitte Bardot and Sean Connery in which characters consistently resist following up on established traits with any meaningful pay off or reversal. Instead, people seem to behave as limp archetypes. It's decently shot, Bardot and Connery are great, but I wouldn't recommend watching this movie.

I remember first hearing about Shalako years ago and I seem to remember hearing it described as a misstep for Connery because no-one would buy James Bond as a cowboy. As is pointed out in an opening crawl quote from Louis L'Amour, there were European game hunters in the old west and of course many European settlers besides. The movie's largely about a group of such game hunters blundering into a recently established Apache reservation and Connery plays the American forced to baby-sit this spoiled bunch.

If I can accept him playing an Englishman, I see no reason not to accept him as Shalako, an American with an unexplained Scottish accent. The real problem is that there's not much else to him. He's simply a good guy--he tries to get the hunters out of the reservation, he escorts them away when there's trouble, he falls in love with Brigitte Bardot, he fights the savages when attacked. That is all.

Bardot doesn't get interesting material, either, as the only one of the hunters with the integrity to agree with Shalako all the time. There are awkward moments where the movie feels compelled to remind us, where after Shalako's delivered a bunch of instructions, Bardot says something like, "I agree with Shalako."

Her hair also varies in length throughout the film, from the middle of her back to the middle of her butt. We get a nice scene of naked Bardot back late in the film, which I suspect was seen as obligatory with Bardot at the time.

Not quite as much back as she's known for, but this isn't a movie terribly interested in rocking the boat.

It's funny seeing how civil rights issues are played out in movies from the late 60s and early 70s. With Westerns in particular, their attempts at being progressive often seem to make them even more backward than movies from the 50s and earlier. A lot of dialogue at the beginning to given to point out the Indians are humans, too. Then the movie goes ahead and shows them being remorseless murderers and rapists. The progressiveness here seems to be the white people patting themselves on the back for giving them the benefit of the doubt.

I'd sure like to see a really good Brigitte Bardot movie. So far it's looking like Contempt is her best. But I will keep looking. She is great to watch in Shalako. You can tell she barely understands the lines she's speaking which just slew me. I loved how she pronounced "another" like two words; "an other."