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Mike Barnard

Published July 22nd, 2007 | by Mike Barnard

Requiem for Billy the Kid Review

Classification: U Director: Anne Feinsilber Rating: 3/5

Many tales have been told of Billy the Kid on the big screen, as a legendary Wild West gunslinger he has the bad boy story which can thrill audiences with shoot outs and horse chases. Requiem for Billy the Kid is an entirely different way of telling how the 21-year-old outlaw came to be gunned down by his friend Sheriff Pat Garrett in Lincoln, New Mexico on July 14th, 1881. It’s a love letter to the American West past and present, told at a ponderous pace.

Feinsilber’s approach to exploring the life of Billy the Kid is set over several levels which must be attentively followed to take in fully. She takes the lead as a narrator, interviewing Kristofferson who reprises his role from Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, impersonating the outlaw as he rises from the dead to give his own account of events. Together with this fiction, Feinsilber adds lingering shots of the Wild West, Billy the Kid experts who talk wistfully and incisively of the outlaw, a guitar strumming soundtrack and poems by Rimbaid and Verlaine which evoke a romanticised image of the period. Requiem for Billy the Kid captures the spirit of a land where the gun ruled and the job of sheriff came with a health warning; coming from a Frenchwoman, it’s impressive how effectively she conveys such an American time.

Fascinating in it’s detail, Requiem for Billy the Kid is undoubtedly a beautifully shot and carefully edited treat, though it is hard work unless you are as dedicated to the subject matter as those involved here. Listening to one man go at great length to tell of how he found blood on a set of stairs only because there was a power cut that night allowing for a solution to shine luminous when applied to the soiled surface will not excite you unless you are compelled to know all there is to know about Billy the Kid and the people he rode with. Watching Arthur Penn’s The Left Handed Gun staring Paul Newman as Billy the Kid might be more appealing to a general audience who want to find out more about the outlaw, and brief scenes are interspersed here, though as a clear labour of love for the director and any wannabe Wild West historians, this can make for gripping viewing.

EXTRAS
Trailer, stills gallery


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