When I first started this week’s theme I thought I’d go with films based on Joseph Conrad stories, but when the first film I came across on my list (after Apocalypse Now) was The Duelists, I decided that doing duelists would make for an even better theme.

Wednesday Double Features- DuelistsI confess that all I knew about The Duelists before this week, was knowing it was Ridley Scott’s first film (though even then I kept mixing it up with Speilberg’s Duel.)

The Duelists tells the story of two calvary officers Gabrial Faraud (Harvey Keitel) a hot headed serial duelist and the more levil headed  Armand d’Hubert (Keith Carradine). When d’Hubert is sent to arrest Faroud after Faroud beat the son of the mayor of the town they are stationed in Faroud challenges d’Hubert to a duel and after they both survive he challenges him to another one… and another for years afterwards. It is a tail of obsession and self destructive honor.

This was Scott at his best. The fight choreography is great… Not spectacular just brutally realistic… the best one being the third duel where the two have been fighting so long that they are so exhausted they loose all skill and are swinging their swords desperately as if they are (very sharp) clubs. But the best thing about this is the lighting. Scott takes full advantage of natural light and candle light for the interiors giving the whole film a wonderful etherial beauty.

Wednesday Double Features- Duelists ShootistJohn Wayne’s last film, The Shootist, was another film that I first heard about in a collection of Mort Drucker movie parodies I owned growing up. After that I mostly knew about it from other creators referring to it. Despite of this it is yet another well known film I’d never gotten around to seeing.

Wayne plays J.B. Books an aging gunman (the shootist of the title) diagnosed with terminal cancer. He arrives in Carson City Nevada and takes up lodging to settle his affairs and await his death. But news gets out and his past is comes a calling as old enemies come to finally get there revenge.

This was a wonderful mostly quiet swan song for Wayne as well as the traditional Western. The film goes out of it’s way to show that times are changing, starting from a newspaper article announcing the death of Queen Victoria to one of Books’ enemies driving a car.

Wayne himself is more restrained than normal, deliberately being a shadow of his former self. The arrogance and bravado is still there but he’s not fooling himself and he knows his story is nearly over.