The professional mercenary Sir William Walker instigates a slave revolt on the Caribbean island of Queimada in order to help improve the British sugar trade. Years later he is sent again to...
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Valentine "Snakeskin" Xavier, a trouble-prone drifter trying to go straight, wanders into a small Mississippi town looking for a simple and honest life but finds himself embroiled with problem-filled women.
The professional mercenary Sir William Walker instigates a slave revolt on the Caribbean island of Queimada in order to help improve the British sugar trade. Years later he is sent again to deal with the same rebels that he built up because they have seized too much power that now threatens British sugar interests.Written by
When working conditions became impossible in Colombia, Marlon Brando insisted that the location be moved. Even though there was less than two weeks on the schedule, the film was finished in Morocco. See more »
Looking through his spyglass, Sir William can see Jose Delores up close. Later, when he hands the glass to a British officer the view is much more distant. Spyglasses of that era (1850s) would have had 3X-6x magnification. The extreme close up view would be impossible. See more »
Sir William Walker:
Now we must realize, gentlemen, that if we are to succeed in eliminating José Dolores, it's not because we're better than he is or that we're braver than he is, it's simply because we have more arms and more men than he has. And we must also realize that the soldier either fights to earn his pay or because his country forces him to do so. But the guerrilla, on the other hand, fights for an idea.
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The complete version of this film runs 132 minutes. A 112-minute version under the title "Burn!" was released in the USA and the UK. See more »
This is, without doubt, one of the best films ever made which deals with the festering malaise of racism, and, by distancing it into the past, Pontecorvo brings home truths that are entirely appropriate to the present day. He brings an almost psychological precision to his films.
Working in close association with Ennio Morricone who augments so many scenes with his stunning score, Pontecorvo creates a film of ideas presented as adventure, with scenes of breath-taking spectacle which are on a par with those of the earliest silent days of cinema, when one could be overwhelmed by the sheer number of extras employed and the vast panoramic canvases presented to us. In a sense, these images of a collective mass of humanity are in themselves an abstract call to insurrection and rebellion; a fearsome judgement on the over-wheening arrogance of white Christian and colonial culture in the past, and those remnants of it that still echo to this day. As those who read my postings may well guess, I believe music plays a tremendously creative role in film, and is a contributory factor of immense importance, and QUEMADA utilises music almost like a weapon in its armoury!
Brando has said, in an interview published some years ago in `Playboy' magazine, that he and Pontecorvo didn't get on well together during the production of this movie, (one perhaps forgets now that when QUEMADA was made, Brando's career was at a very low point!), and yet there is no hint of this in the movie itself, as Brando turns in one of his most measured, considered and subtle performances. So suave, and so genteelly treacherous! Pretending to `do what's right', but eventually `doing what's white'.
Fine and thought-provoking dialogue is a plus: `Freedom is not something somebody gives you. It is something you take for yourself', and there is a powerful scene where, in an unguarded moment of temper, the character played by Brando, who, up until then has shown himself to be the benign white liberal, suddenly hurls a racist epithet at his prisoner, thus reminding us, that every `brother' ain't always a `brother'!
Pontecorvo's films always seem to manage to upset both the Left and the Right of the political spectrum, (from my own libertarian point of view, a source of deep satisfaction), because he has always refused to traffic in slogans or short-term solutions to complex and long-gestating problems. He knows always that human nature is not consistent, and that, (as Shaw once said), `People don't have their virtues and vices in sets; they come all mixed up, anyhow'.
Finally, mention must be made of the superb title sequence; such a stunning and exciting `overture' to the content of the film to come, which stimulates and excites from the very outset.
Gillo Pontecorvo has not made many films, (and whatever happened to OGRO?), but in my view, he has made three masterpieces, and this is one of them. One could almost get nostalgic for the days when, to show the East how laid-back and freedom-loving we in the West were, we allowed heretics to make the occasional movie that dealt with IDEAS... Now that such fine points no longer need to be made at International Film Festivals, seems like `ideas' as an ingredient in films, have been put on the back burner! No doubt we shall all live to regret it!
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