Saturday, January 16, 2016

Two Mules for Sister Sara

Two Mules for Sister Sara. Please click to enlarge.
Dos mulas para la hermana Sara / Sierra Torrida / Kourallinen dynamiittia / En handfull dynamit / Han kom - han så - han skød. US/MX 1970 © 1969 Universal Pictures. PC: Universal Pictures (US) / The Malpaso Company (A Universal-Malpaso Company Picture) - in association with Sanen Productions. S.a. (MX). P: Carroll Case, Martin Rackin. D: Don Siegel. SC: Albert Maltz. Story: Budd Boetticher. DP: Gabriel Figueroa - ass. Robert Surtees [nc] – negative: Eastman 100T 5254 - 35 mm - lab: Technicolor (Hollywood) – Panavision 2,35:1. AD: José Rodriguez Granada. Set dec: Pablo Galván. Makeup: Margarita Ortega, Frank Westmore. Hair: Evelina Casas. M: Ennio Morricone. "Sam Hall" (trad.) sung by Clint Eastwood as the arrow is removed. "La paloma" (Sebastián Iradier, 1863). M dept: Stanley Wilson. S: Jesús González Gancy, Ronald Pierce, Waldon O. Watson. ED: Robert F. Shugrue. Stunts: Buddy Van Horn (n.c.). C: Clint Eastwood (Hogan), Shirley MacLaine (Sara), Manolo Fábregas / Manuel Fábregas (Colonel Beltran), Alberto Morin (General LeClaire), Armando Silvestre (1st American), John Kelly (2nd American), Enrique Lucero (3rd American), David Estuardo / David Povall (Juan), Ada Carrasco (Juan's mother), Poncho Cordoba (Juan's father), Jose Chavez (Horacio). In English with Spanish and French. Helsinki premiere: 13.3.1970 Boston, released by: Väinän Filmi – VET 78402 – K16 – 3030 m / 111 min. [IMDb: 116 min, unreliable]. Originally: 114 min
    Loc: Mexico: Morelos (Jantetelco, Tlayacapan, Cuatla), Sonora (Bavispe).
    I do not understand the title of this film but according to an expert friend the second mule is Hogan.
    Vhs in Finland: 1986 Esselte Video. Dvd: 2002 and blu-ray: 2013 - Universal Pictures Finland. Tv: 28.3.1988 MTV1, 14.7.1995 MTV3, 8.6.2007 YLE TV2
    A vintage DFI Technicolor print, dansk tekst, 111 min
    Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Colt Concert), 16 Jan 2016

Two Mules for Sister Sara takes place in Mexico around 1865-1867, after the U.S. Civil War. Benito Juárez's Mexico has been occupied by France which has established the Second Mexican Empire under the puppet rule of Emperor Maximilian. There is a French-Mexican war going on which will lead to the victory of Porfirio Díaz.

A picaresque Western where the Mexican revolutionary Sara (Shirley MacLaine) disguised as a nun is saved from gang rape by the roguish mercenary Hogue (Clint Eastwood). Hogue is also helping the revolutionaries but he is only in it for the money. The incongruous couple, Sara and Hogue, travel towards the French garrison at Chihuahua, joining forces with Colonel Beltran's revolutionaries. Both save each other's life twice.

The screenplay by Albert Maltz based on an original screenplay by Budd Boetticher is strong and intriguing. Both Americans were Mexican citizens at the time.

The cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa provides a splendid sense of landscape, atmosphere and colour (for instance in the fruit and vegetable market scene). Figueroa had started with Eisenstein and worked with Fernández, Ford, Buñuel, Gavaldón, and Huston. There had been an Eisenstein-inspired Gabriel Figueroa school of filming Mexican landscape (low angles, stark silhouettes, foreboding clouds, imposing monuments, majestic national characters), but here the approach is different and original, suitable to the picaresque character of the story.

Shirley MacLaine has her name above the title in the film proper (but not on the poster), and while the Western as a rule is a masculine genre, MacLaine is predictably believable as the survivor and rebel Sara. Sara has range from tender femininity to tough resilience. She faces danger and hardship fearlessly. MacLaine is a master comedienne. Her timing in Albert Maltz's dialogue is impeccable. She creates a memorable Western woman. A revelatory scene is the encounter with the Yaqui. Sara dazzles them with her crucifix and advises Hogan not to display weakness although he has been shot.

Clint Eastwood was expanding his horizon after his breakthrough in Sergio Leone's dollar trilogy. After Hang 'Em High he had discovered the director Don Siegel at Universal in Coogan's Bluff, made an Alistair MacLean war adventure (Where Eagles Dare) and even filmed a musical (Paint Your Wagon).

Two Mules for Sister Sara was partly a return to the dollar trilogy, but the man now has a name, there is a lot of dialogue, and the landscape is authentic. The violence and the gore of the war story are depicted unflinchingly. The characters are more humanly believable, and most importantly, Clint is co-starring with the formidable MacLaine. Clint is clumsier and his range is much more narrow than MacLaine's, but their chemistry is always interesting.

Don Siegel directs the picture with a genial rapport. Two Mules for Sister Sara is not among his best action films. There is a more relaxed and rambling approach to the chaotic circumstances of the war in Mexico. Comedy and humour are more prominent than in Siegel's films usually. The cynicism and the pessimism are balanced with currents of tenderness and humour.

Among the spectacular action setpieces the explosion of the railway bridge is made exciting by the fact that it is dependent on the marksmanship of Hogan who is stone drunk.

The grand finale at the taking of the French fort is more rambunctuous than believable. Yet there is a sense of gravity in the story - in the moving and human scene of the execution of the Mexican rebel by the French army, and in the Gatling gun bloodbath in the finale.

A key scene is Hogan's getting shot by a Yaqui arrow. The sense of pain is genuine in the extended scene where both Hogan and Sara display their survival skills in the careful removal of the arrow which has pierced through Hogan's chest not far from his heart. Liberal helpings from bottles of whisky help Hogan through the ordeal as Sara saves his life for the second time.

Ennio Morricone in his first American score builds on the quirky, hypnotic dollar trilogy sound world. He understands the dynamics of solo instruments and human voices. The guitar, the Jew's harp, and castanets are among the instruments. Wailing female voices display the religious dimension. Near the finale we start to hear martial horns and drums. In the piñata sequence we hear traditional Mexican tunes. Let's also note the moving elegic theme to the mourning of the family of the executed Mexican rebel.

A mostly brilliant vintage Technicolor print (shot in Eastmancolor, the first run prints of Two Mules for Sister Sara were made in Technicolor). Only the very beginning is scratched and choppy with jump-cut joins. The colour is rich and full in true Technicolor fashion, prominently also in the final image where Sara has changed from dark habits to a red dress.

OUR PROGRAM NOTE BY LAURI LEHTINEN:
OUR PROGRAM NOTE BY LAURI LEHTINEN:

Clint Eastwood ei ollut mielessä, kun lännenelokuvien veteraaniohjaaja Budd Boetticher (1916–2001) teki Two Mules for Sister Saran käsikirjoituksen varhaista versiota. Robert Mitchumin ja Deborah Kerrin ympärille rakennettu tarina kertoi Lucy-nimisen cowboyn yrityksestä saattaa nunnaksi naamioitunut meksikolainen aatelisnainen kostonhimoisten vallankumouksellisten kynsistä Yhdysvaltain puolelle. Boetticherin hahmottelema Lucy oli pohjimmiltaan hieno mies, jonka kovanaamaisuus selitettiin traagisilla menetyksillä.

Boetticher ei ohjannut elokuvaa, jonka roolimiehitys ja sisältö ovat kaukana hänen ideoistaan, kirjaimellisesti yhden sukupolven päässä. Boetticherin suunnitelmien ja Don Siegelin ohjaaman teoksen erot havainnollistavat lännenelokuvan 1960-luvun murrosta ja sukupolvenvaihdosta, joiden ulkopuolelle edes Hollywoodin studiotuotteet eivät voineet jäädä. Ajan henki näkyy suorasukaisen seksin ja väkivallan lisäksi siinä, että sankaripari liittoilee mieluummin vallankumouksellisten kuin keisari Maximilianin valtakauden auktoriteettien ja ylhäisön kanssa.

Eastwoodin esittämän Hogan-vaeltajan taustoista annetaan mahdollisimman vähän tietoa. Sekä särmikäs luonne että räjähtävät selviytymistaidot tarjoillaan itsestäänselvinä ja samalla hieman arvoituksellisina ilmiöinä. Perinteistä Hollywood-osaamista edustaa screwball-kauden komedioita muistuttava sanailu, jonka ansiosta Eastwood on keskimääräistä puheliaampi antisankari.

Autenttisissa Meksikon maisemissa filmatun elokuvan kehittelyvaiheissa Clint Eastwood yritti saada ohjaajaksi läpimurtoelokuviensa tekijän Sergio Leonen, joka halusi Huuliharppukostajan jälkeen jättää western-genren ja oli toisaalta sidottu omaan vallankumousseikkailuunsa Maahan, senkin hölmö (Duck, You Sucker / Giú la testa, 1971), ensin tuottajana ja lopulta ohjaajana. Leonen Dollaritrilogian vaikutus näkyy muukalaisen muulissa ja sikarissa ja kuuluu Ennio Morriconen musiikissa, jonka uusi elementti on Isä meidän -rukouksen veisaaminen.

Maahan, senkin hölmölle annettiin rinnakkaisnimi A Fistful of Dynamite, joka mahdollisesti napattiin Don Siegelin elokuvan mainoslauseesta. Dvd-levityksessä kumpikin elokuva on saanut suomalaisen nimen Kourallinen dynamiittia.

– Lauri Lehtinen 13.1.2016

SEAN WILSON ON ENNIO MORRICONE'S SCORE IN MYFILES:

Musically, it inspired Morricone to write in his spaghetti western vein, albeit in a more low key sense, allowing the focus to go on the brilliantly intricate interplay between aspects of the orchestra. All the ingredients are there: jaw harps, high winds, martial strings, vocals (in this case fragmentary female voices uttering presumably Italian lamentations), to create a gripping, eccentric, hip atmosphere. Main Title introduces us to the quirky brew, but the most intriguing aspect of the Sister Sara score is the amount of variation Morricone wrings from the acoustic guitar, inviting comparisons with his earlier classics, yet at the same time stripping the focus down so we can hear what the instrument is really capable of. "Night on the Desert" features some fiendishly intricate acoustic work alongside the piercing sound of the oboe and wooden percussion.

Ennio Morricone: picture These stylistics continue in the lengthy "Sister Sara's Theme", a prolonged example of remarkable instrumental performance, balancing the guitar alongside hooting wind effects and castanets. Throughout, the score maintains a remarkably hypnotic atmosphere, especially in tracks such as "The Braying Mule" where the emphasis flits around at ease between the guitar (taking up the vocal melody), winds and woodblocks. The standout track however has to be "The Battle", a controlled yet ferociously exciting piece of action music from a longstanding composer not especially famous for it; there's more than a hint of Jerry Goldsmith in the rumbling piano beneath the chopping strings, brass calls and percussion
. (Sean Wilson in MyFiles)

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