While #western106 has long ridden off the horizon (or sunk into the desert sand), I had a movie left to finish watching.
For longer than I can remember, I’ve loved Little Big Man for a number of things, but on so many levels its a Western that does not exactly act like one. Actually what I remember the most is the screen presence, the wisdom and humor of Old Lodge Skins (played by Chief Dan George)– his philosophy of “Today is a Good Day to Die”
which I took always less as a valiant warrior stand as much as a way to live day to day. Even with future seeing vision, his power, even when he insists that it is the day, well “sometimes the magic works, sometimes it does not”
Those illusions to human near immortality, the fact that narrator Jack Crabb starts the movie at age 121 years old, and is still able to school the snotty academic who has come to interview him, and even in the closing, that long looking stare is almost “When is my good day to die?”
I’m not sure, but this film must be one of the first ones to flip the stereotypical western from the cowboy viewpoint to the Indian one, showing too that not all were to be painted the same. There are the illusions to racism, but turned inside out. There is the early scene where an attacking Pawnee scrapes Jack’s face, seeing his white skin, and melts into submission.
Or there is the Cheyenne in the movie referring to themselves as “Human Beings” (like the Navajo name for themselves as “The People”), as if everyone else is “Not Human Beings”. Seeing and knowing that even with a victory over Custer, that there is no stopping the White Man.
It makes my heart sad. A world without Human Beings has no center to it.
Dustin Hoffman is no Clint Eastwood. He’s kind of whiny, and even in the face of flirtation from Faye Dunaway’s not so pure preacher’s wife allure, he looks as lost as he did with Mrs Robinsion. There’s the sexual identity bending Indian Younger Bear and (? was it)
Burns Red in the Sun who is the one who does everything in reverse. Wild Bill Hickock is some kind of wise sage with a conscious. And there is the mad General Custer, who seems to make decisions based on delusions of Presidential grandeur.
All leads to what we know happened at Little Big Horn, but with this triple wrapped cross where Custer thinks he is reverse thinking Jack Crabb, who is actually one double cross ahead
It also does not take a lot of guessing with the film being produced in 1970 that it might also be seen as a message about the Vietnam War, especially with the massacre scenes, but more so, as to the whole pointlessness of the battles.
So while you can watch the whole movie on YouTube, I had purchased a DVD a few months ago, but seemed to watch it in batches.
Last night I finally sat down to watch the rest of it, and ended up re-watching most of the beginning.
It still stands up to me as a favorite Non-Western Western.
And I might have riffed this post a bit farther as “Little Blog Man” — the impending flooding of the web space, or rather consumption of it by the Corporate Man, the eating of the web of Facebook. In the past Jim Groom and I have called each other “The Last of the Bloghicans” in reference to seeing so many of our fellow edu bloggers trail off into the desert, silent.
Describing his lost vision, Old Lodge Skins explains it to Crabb, in which I could do an entire remix with the Open Web as the Human Beings.
“Where’s Buffalo Wallow Woman?”
And White Elk Woman too. And Dirt on the Nose. And High Wolf. And many others.
“And Burns Red?”
“Burns Red and son?”
Rubbed out. His wife. His children. Many more.
“Do you hate them? Do you hate the White Man now?”
Do you see this flying thing (holding a scalp). Do you admire the humanity of it? Because the Human Beings, my son, they believe everything is alive. Not only man and animals, but also water, earth, stone. And also, the things from them. Like that hair.
The man from whom this hair came, he bawled on the other side, because now I own his scalp.
That is the way things are. But the White, they believe everything is dead. Stone, earth, animals. Then people, even their own people. If things keep trying to live, White Man will try to rub them out.
That is the difference.
Top / Featured Image: Still frame from Standard YouTube Licensed video Little Big Man Chief Dan George Goes up to the mountain to, later scene from Little Big Man