Little Big Man

1970 big little epic

Rating: 18/20

Plot: A 120 year old bag of wrinkles shares his life story--raised by Indians, lived with a preacher and the sultry Faye Dunaway, worked with a snake oil peddler, drank with Wild Bill, became a gunslinger, married an immigrant, lost his wife, married an Indian, became a hero, became a drunkard, and was the lone white survivor at the Battle of Little Bighorn. But he might be fabricating a bit.

You know, it just occurred to me when I typed the above that the climactic moment takes place at Little Bighorn and Dustin Hoffman's character is Little Big Man. I love this epic Western funk despite some flaws. Every time I see this, I laugh the first time Hoffman's character speaks in the flashback. His deep, nasally voice just doesn't seem to fit his appearance. I'm not sold on his old man voice either exactly, but even kind of pulling off playing the same character as a teenager and a 120 year old is impressive. One could accuse Little Big Man of being too episodic or a little jumpy, but the narrative structure works as it lends credence to the idea that Jack Crabb could be making the whole thing up. Plus, there are plenty of parallel episodes to pull it all together by the end. Little Big Man is often very funny and often very poignant and sometimes both simultaneously which really makes the movie special. As much as I love what Hoffman is doing here, it's Chief Dan George who really steals the show as the wise and goofy grandfatherly Cherokee chief. It seems like every single line he has in this movie is either hilarious or beautiful, delivered with perfect timing and cadence and hitting you just right. I loved his reference to "the black white man," his inquiry about whether Hoffman's white wife shows "pleasant enthusiasm when [he] mounts her," and his explanation of why he calls his snake wife Doesn't Like Horses. But my favorite line in this (and maybe any movie) is when Chief Dan George says, "There is an endless supply of white men, but there have always been a limited number of human beings." Beautiful. Oh, I also like how General Custer pronounces the word gonads, but that's just because I'm immature.

I gave this movie a gonads bonus.

1 comment:

cory said...

This movie isn't(wasn't) afraid to be different. It has been a long time since I have seen it but I agree with you. I remember it as being very funny, offbeat, and sometimes very touching. An 18,as well.