LNH: Untold Tales of the Looniverse #2

Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Sun Sep 24 21:30:29 PDT 2006

You know, I certainly don't want to get this any more off-topic than it
already is, but as long we're discussing pacing in storytelling...

I just finished watching THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE, directed by Mr. Sam
"Misogynist?  No!  I love women!  Especially the soft parts!"
Peckinpah.  And I thought it was an absolutely terrific film.

I loved the performances (God bless Jason Robards!  and Stella
Stevens!), the music, the story itself and especially the pacing: it
was a nice slow amble of a film, as shaggy as Robards's beard.  Cable
Hogue is left in the desert to die by two no-goods, and upon finding
water, he sets up a watering hole and waits for those no-goods to cross
his path again.  And, over three years later, those no-goods do indeed
cross his path.  And I looked at the timer on my DVD player and found
that we weren't in the last ten minutes of the film, or even the last
twenty: there was a full half-hour left in the film.

Could the film have been tighter?  Sure!  It could have easily lost
forty minutes and still be a respectable eighty minute film.  Certainly
there could have been less zooms on Stella Stevens's bulging bosom.
But you know what?  It wouldn't have been the film I saw.  The soul of
the film came from its editing rhythm and pacing.

My own film <plug> "Milos, life and times of a dreamer", was recently
recut into seventeen three-minute "webisodes" for consumption on
youtube.com.  All in all, the film lost about a half-hour of its
running time.

And you know what, all the plot is there, most of the character
moments-- but none of the breathing room.  It's the same story, but
it's a different piece of work, it has a different vibe.

I still think it's good (and you can find all seventeen episodes on my
website </plug>), and maybe the Ballad of Cable Hogue would have been
good if it was shorter and tighter.  But while I would have enjoyed
that imaginary version of the film as a slicker comedy-western, I
wouldn't have loved it like the one I loved this evening.

People and art should always be, more than anything else, the things
that they are.  Make Martin Phipps and his writing a little bit more
like mine, and he ceases to be Martin Phipps: the qualities I love
about his writing would not be there.  And, make my writing a little
bit more like Martin's, it would not be my writing: the things that
(presumably) people enjoy about my work would be noticably absent.

The same goes for you, Jesse.  I might not like a lot of what you
write, and a lot of your choices irritate me, but you've got to be true
to yourself first.

I never mean in my reviews to tell anyone what to do.  It's advice, and
you can take it or leave it, but the decision is yours and yours alone.
 You've got to do what you're comfortable with and write for yourself.

I spent a lot of time in the nineties writing stuff I wasn't passionate
about, but that I thought others would enjoy.  They didn't, and had I
been writing something that was really important to me, I think
everyone-- reader and writer-- would have been happier.

That's another problem, I think, with the Nostalgics: I'm not really
all that thrilled about writing in first person.

Be passionate and be yourself.  (Hell, that's what Cable Hogue did!)


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