Saturday, May 18, 2013

Little Big Man (1970)

Little Big Man is a 1970 American Western film directed by Arthur Penn and based on the 1964 comic novel by Thomas Berger. It is a picaresque comedy about a Caucasian boy raised by the Cheyenne nation during the 19th century. The film is largely concerned with contrasting the lives of American pioneers and Native Americans throughout the progression of the boy's life.

The movie stars Dustin Hoffman, Chief Dan George, Faye Dunaway, Martin Balsam, Jeff Corey and Richard Mulligan. It is considered a revisionist Western, with Native Americans receiving a more sympathetic treatment and United States Cavalry soldiers depicted as villains.

Despite its satiric approach, the film has tragic elements and a clear social conscience about prejudice and injustice. Little Big Man is considered an example of anti-establishment films of the period, protesting America's involvement in the Vietnam War by portraying the U.S. Military negatively. In her book Conversations with Pauline Kael, Kael says of the Vietnam War's depiction in American films, "It doesn't look at the facts of war, of what we were doing there. And that was the attitude of a lot of American films during the war years, even Westerns that deal with an early period of American life. The Americans are racists who shoot up the Indians for the careless joy of it - Little Big Man, for instance. It was a sophisticated criticism. The Indians, for instance, would have Vietnamese faces. The key girl we saw killed in slow motion in Little Big Man was definitely an Oriental". Arthur Penn has also stated in an interview featured on a TCM promo that elements of the film were comments on American genocide depicting events "closest to The Holocaust."

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