Thursday, June 16, 2011

“Buck” – Movie Review


This week in my movie class, we saw “Buck”, a documentary about the life of Buck Brannaman, the real-life inspiration for the movie “The Horse Whisperer”. 


Buck Brannaman is a remarkable man who has lived an equally remarkable life – and is also quite lucky to have survived the childhood he endured.  As a boy, he and his older brother Smokie were trained in roping and lariat twirling as taught to them by their strict father, who also got them both into performing their tricks publicly.  The two boys eventually became minor celebrities of a sort because of their skills – but what appreciative audiences never saw was the hellish private life of these young men who suffered cruel beatings at the hands of their violent father. 

Eventually rescued by a county sheriff who had both boys placed in a foster home, Buck was a bit aimless in life until he discovered a knack for working with horses.  After being awestruck by the performance of Ray Hunt, a legendary horse trainer out west, Buck ultimately went to work for him and learn all about the secrets behind making an errant horse compliant.  When Hunt passed, Buck took what he had gleaned during this time period and set out on his own to perform and help owners train their horses.  Along the way, he further refined his knowledge and as he gained more experience, added his own insights and techniques to the process.

As if by magic, we see Buck work with many different owners with various difficult horses and within a matter of minutes, somehow manages to transform a disobedient beast into an eminently trainable animal.  “I start out working with a human that has an animal problem and wind up helping an animal with a human problem”, as Buck characterizes his work.  He says that the main problem why horses aren’t trainable is because they don’t trust their owner – which mainly turns out to be the owner’s fault.  But when he tries to help an owner with a horse who suffered brain damage at birth, has Buck finally met his match? 


Buck comes across as a man with subtle humor, deep wisdom and understated dignity.  Horses seem to respond to his quiet leadership because he respects them and is incredibly sensitive, likely due to the type of upbringing he experienced.  At no point in this story do you ever get the sense that the filmmakers are trying to pull a fast one on you – you buy into Buck’s undeniable gift and learn to appreciate him for the admirably gentle man he miraculously grew up to be. 

As far as the movie itself is concerned, the old show business philosophy of “keep ‘em wanting more” appears to be a driving force here as the film is kept within an hour and a half time frame – yet you are left desiring to see Buck continue on his cross-country trek not just because you’re fascinated by what he is able to accomplish with the horses, but because his complex concepts about the human condition are simplified in an articulate yet homespun manner which in turn allows us to learn and understand more about ourselves and each other. 

Both before and after the screening, Julie Goldman, the film’s producer, was interviewed.  She spoke at great length not only about the technical aspects of making this movie, but about some of the challenges she encountered along the way.  While the film is only 90 minutes, she wound up shooting over 300 hours in a period of over a year.  There were many things that were recorded but never used in the final cut of the movie, including some of the weirder characters Buck met during his travels.  It is hoped that some of this will wind up appearing on a “director’s cut”/outtakes version of the DVD when it is released someday. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Speak Your Piece, Beeyotch!