Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

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What a film. Saw it last night at the BFI in London. Two glorious blood-spattered hours of extraordinary cinema. But actually, despite the remarkable levels of violence and the number of deaths, this wasn’t a gore fest as we’ve come to know them from ironists like Tarantino. Unlike his work, where you struggle to find any content below the surface, this was all about remarkable depths: the significance of the landscape, the threat to tranquility of life posed by the arrival of capitalism and, perhaps most important of all, an astonishing depiction of how death can be part of life. With the exception of the by-now-corrupted Pat Garrett, who has chosen the path of avarice and is afraid of death, most of the characters live freely alongside death, welcoming it tenderly as an integral part of life. Time and again, Billy (the brilliant Kris Kristofferson) shows such delicate grace after yet another killing that he gets beyond conventional morality: the deaths are neither good nor bad, they just are. There is no inauthenticity in his life, which contrasts with Garrett (the equally great James Coburn) who is visibly corrupted by his own choices. The Kid, meanwhile, retains his beautiful, soft-skinned baby looks right to the end when Garrett finally raises his pistol and shoots him. Unforgettable.