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Budd Boetticher: A Man Can Do That
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by Jay Seaver

"... but not after he spends a decade trying to make a bullfighting movie."
3 stars

"Budd Boetticher: A Man Can Do That" makes me feel bad about for the most part giving the Boetticher series at the Harvard Film Archive a miss. It was bad timing - I was just coming off the Brattle's Movie-Watch-a-Thon and wanted out of theaters, I wound up working late, and one of the days I was free was the day they had the only Boetticher film I'd seen (and not been hugely impressed with), "The Tall T", because the movie Bruce Ricker and Dave Kehr made certainly raised my interest in Boetticher as both a man and a filmmaker.

Oscar Boetticher Junior's story isn't a rags-to-riches tale, but one of a man trying to claim his own place in the world and not always having it work out well. The small son of a successful hardware salesman, he pushed himself to excel in sports as a child, then learned how to be a matador in Mexico, competing professionally for a while. He found himself in Hollywood on his return to America, where he toiled in various jobs on studio lots until he got a chance to do some second unit work, which lead to using his expertise as a technical advisor on Blood and Sand; he would later write, direct, and produce bullfighter epic Bullfighter and the Lady. He eventually paired with star Randolph Scott for a series of successful mid-budget Westerns for John Wayne's company in the 1950s before directing The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond. During the 1960s, though, Boetticher's maverick streak would become his undoing, as he threw his entire effort into another bullfighting film, Arruza, which would become the very model of the career-destroying disaster.

As a biography, A Man Can Do That has its faults. Boetticher was married five times, and though his last one lasted from 1971 to his death in 2001, the others were rather less stable. We only hear about them as Boetticher mentions that he has had good luck with beautiful women, along with some bits of description of how Arruza was to co-star his wife at the time, who was different from the leading lady they said he married earlier, who was different from the woman we see in footage of Boetticher shot at the time of the documentary's production. We hear plenty of evidence that Boetticher had an eventful life, but it's pieced together in ways that tend to make the audience feel that there's something the filmmakers aren't telling us.

Though Boetticher himself died in 2001, we do get to see him, both in older footage and in new bits shot months earlier. There, we see a hearty-looking octogenarian and his wife participating in an equestrian event; they owned and operated a ranch after Budd's career in film ended. Maybe he's playing to the camera a little, but it's clear to see that he still considers himself a film director, even after decades out of the business. He positions kids from the local 4-H club like they were extras in one of his westerns.

With Boetticher's personal life de-emphasized, the emphasis is on his films, and that works out rather well. The producers were able to secure the use of plenty of film clips and behind the scenes stills, and managed to get a small but impressive group of people to talk about Boetticher. Ed Harris narrates, with writer Robert Towne and director Taylor Hackford providing their insights. The film opens with Quentin Tarantino describing some of his favorite Boetticher moments, then jumps to Clint Eastwood (who also serves as an executive producer) before slyly pulling back to show that they're in the same room. These are the guys the movie keeps coming back to in order to set the stage for a new portion of Boetticher's career, and why not? I'd pay to watch two hours of Eastwood and Tarantino talking movies - Tarantino's hyperactive enthusiasm is a hugely entertaining counterpoint to Eastwood's understated authority. Eastwood describes how the studio's handling of Two Mules for Sister Sarah showed Boetticher's star on the decline, while Tarantino goes into why he named a character in Kill Bill after Budd, as well as just waxing rhapsodic about how accessible Boetticher's genre films are fifty years later.

Yeah, I really wish I'd had more time for this film series. "A Man Can Do That" isn't much in and of itself, but it looks like it could lead to seeing some pretty decent movies.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13805&reviewer=371
originally posted: 01/18/06 11:38:44
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User Comments

7/19/09 Carol Baker ok but not really that great of a filmmaker. All he seemed to do was to make B-Westerns 3 stars
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Directed by
  Bruce Ricker

Written by
  Dave Kehr

  Clint Eastwood
  Taylor Hackford
  Quentin Tarantino
  Robert Towne
  Ed Harris

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