The Sundance Kid

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My dad would be exactly his age, if he was alive. I always kept count of their ages together; in fact, I knew how old Bob was first, and only then, my dad’s age.

Robert Redford was probably my very first celebrity favourite; I remember my aunt Babu taking me to the movies, to see Barefoot in the park in Marosvásárhely, Romania. I was about eight, or nine; we had some slushy ice-cream with the flavour of pistaches, and drank some Coke, which at that time tasted magnificent- it still had the taste, I assume. The movie was great fun even for a little kid. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and Bob would be engraved in my memories forever. As I grew older I started to appreciate his movies more and more; the ones that as a teenager I found slow and uninteresting, now I like the most. They are the movies that deal with one’s bodily and spiritual freedom, our choices as humans living among other humans, our will to surrender part of us for the sake of another. Jeremiah Johnson, Brubaker, Out of Africa, The electric horseman are just a few of his wonderful roles. He always plays someone who takes responsibility for his actions, someone who is aware of social inhibitions, and is willing to abide by the rules, as long as they protect a man. When that is no more the case, he becomes an outlaw. He is always free when he choses to be, whether alone in the North, fleeing white settlers, or alone on the run followed by a cruel sheriff, or in a relationship with a very possessive, beautiful woman, or as captive of a slightly deranged person, waiting for a ransom to be paid.

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Funny thing, I have loved Bob for almost two decades now, and his raw, physical beauty never let the fact shine through that he is a wonderful actor. I mean, he was so ridiculously handsome in his youth! Athletic, muscular, with that impertinent smile almost befitting a tooth-paste ad; only the bumps on his face made him believable. Yesterday we watched The three days of the Condor, and Vili suddenly said after about fifteen minutes, “There’s no other actor who has such a screen presence: the moment he walks in, the human eye is drawn to him”. How true, yet I never realized, because I have always been blinded by his attractiveness. Thank you, love!

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Oh, the great characters he has played… the millionaire, who is ready to pay for an adulterous night with gorgeous Demi Moore (oh hell, I was not the only one who would have given her arm to see the cut love-scenes from the infamous prepaid for night; and then, I think there is no woman on earth who, given a million, would not sleep with RR, wed or not, straight or lesbian); the alcoholic ex-rodeo star, who steals a beautiful horse from the claws of the oil industry, and sets him free among the mustangs; The Sundance Kid, who lives and dies as an outlaw, next to Butch Cassidy; the humane prison warden, who moves in as an inmate to experience first hand the conditions he wishes to change; the adorable computer-criminal; the hazard-player, who likes to help revolutionaries in Cuba; oh, and probably my favourite so far- wonderful, wonderful Tom Booker, who whispers and heals, horses and humans. The last movie available with him is An unfinished life, a wonderful and humane story of a man who lost his son and is not willing to make up with his daughter-in-law, whom he blames for his son’s death. The list is miles from being full, or over; right now, Mr Redford is working on another movie, Lions for lambs, who will star himself, the wonderful, wonderful Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise (no comment on that). He is also negotiating with Paul Newman, his co star in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; it is said that Mr Newman wishes to film one last movie, and he wants it to be with Robert Redford. I am close to tears just writing this down.

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And I haven’t even mentioned that Bob won an Oscar for Best Directing in 1980 for his Ordinary people. I think he is a marvellous director; he tells stories, simple and true, without any additional frills or dramatic effects. Stories that could happen to any one of us, stories that teach all of us a lesson.

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Robert Redford is one of the reasons why I still love America; he is in that small, secluded shrine of mine, with Robert Altman, Hal Hartley and Tori Amos to name a few. Robert Redford will never give in for anyone, and he will always fight for righteousness, and the preservation of his beloved Montana, alongside the whole of the wild America. He has started The Sundance Institute, which has already given us unforgettable movies, and which is one of the last towers of independent America.

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Years keep going, and I always think of the yearly Sundance Film Festival, and how each year I miss it, for financial reasons. To be in the state which is so dear to Bob, and maybe stand next to him- but it would be too much, I would feel overwhelmed, though I am sure he never means to cause such an effect. He is simple, modest, he hates stardom.

I wanted to insert some links here, but I did not find any. I do not wish to comment on this.

2 Comments

  1. Posted January 2, 2007 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Indeed, he is pretty exceptional. And something you forgot to mention in your post is Redford’s role in making American independent cinema what it is today. Although it would be an oversimplification to claim that Redford single-handedly made it all happen, his role with Sundance has certainly been very influential. And without Sundance we might either not have, or at least not have heard of, films like Sex Lies and Videotape, Donnie Darko, Memento, Thumbsucker and Little Miss Sunshine, just to name few.

    As for Redford’s screen presence, I think there actually are a couple of other actors who are equally possessive of the frame. Take Toshiro Mifune, for example — it is really difficult not to pay attention to him when he is there. In the first Kurosawa film where he appeared (Drunken Angel), he was supposed to play a support to Takashi Shimura (another giant of the screen), but simply because of his performance his character more or less became the centre of the story.

    Then there are those who can possess the frame if they want to — Anthony Hopkins has that marvellous ability to either blend or completely steal the show.

    In any case, I must say that I really liked the last half an hour of Three Days of the Condor. That the writers and Pollack had the guts to not solve the Joseph-Kathy relationship, and that they also left the whole outcome of the story unresolved is something I don’t think they would be able to do today. I am really looking forward to watching the film with the commentary.

  2. Posted January 3, 2007 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    You’re right, he did more to the cinema industry than most people in the business. You know how alert I am whenever the tag Sundance Festival comes up 🙂 over the past few years I have been watching movies merely because they were screened in Sundance, and I have to say, not once was I disappointed.
    Mifune is amazing- I think I started liking Japanese cinema thanks to him. 🙂 I guess Seven samurai did the trick 😀
    I have to mention Gérard Philipe; only in his most insignificant first roles is he someone you could neglect; even in the worst movies he’s played (and there are many, unfortunately, which don’t come up to the expectations of movie-goers with a refined taste), he is there like someone who wants to be there, like someone with a purpose. I can never grow tired of watching him, as in fact I will never grow tired of Robert Redford.
    The movie (TDotC) was much better than I remembered; of course, I saw it like ten years ago, when romance and excitement were a different notion; I agree with you that the movie is very clever and not overdone, and I was just thinking about it the other day that thrillers or crime stories these days tend to be so over the edge, with shrill music and loud noises, extreme feelings and situations. Whereas they just lose their credibility. Pollack is a good director and his cooperation with Redford over the decades was as fruitful as for example Almodovar’s with Penelope Cruz. Some directors find their best actor and never let go, for a reason.

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