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Kino on Video presents
Requiem for Billy the Kid (2006)

"Quién es? An adolescent desperado who lived fast and died young, or a time-worn gringo who lived through everything? I set out in search of a shadow."
- Anne Feinsilber

Review By: Ross Johnson   
Published: September 14, 2007

Stars: Rudolph Wurlitzer, Kris Kristofferson, Tom Sullivan, Steve Sederwall
Director: Anne Feinsilber

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:26m:00s
Release Date: July 24, 2007
UPC: 698452204932
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BB+B- C

DVD Review

On July 14, 1881, the outlaw Henry McCarty, also known as Billy the Kid, was killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett near Fort Sumner in New Mexico. Or so the legend goes. Is it possible that Billy the Kid lived to be an old man in Arizona, having been spared by the sympathetic sheriff, himself a former cattle rustler? This is a central question of Anne Feinsilber's documentary, which also explores the modern American west and the ways in which frontier legend still holds sway.

At times, it feels like there's a bit much going on. An exploration of the cowboy lifestyle that's still being lead in parts of the rural west would be fascinating by itself. Contrasting parts of modern-day New Mexico with the west as it was in the time of Billy the Kid works as a way to begin the conversation, but The Kid and the cowboys alternately seem to be getting short shrift. A third thread about the provenance of Billy the Kid's body, and about whether or not the tale of his demise at the hands Pat Garrett was a falsehood, feels beside the point. The real question doesn't so much regard what became of Billy the Kid; what's most interesting is the exploration of the ways in which the west has and hasn't changed over the past 125 years. Through discussions with modern-day enthusiasts of the Kid, it becomes clear that the men and women of New Mexico today have a great deal in common with their ancestors, though that manifests itself in ways that are both noble and sad. There's a great deal of appeal in living far from the neighbors, on land that's some of America's beautiful, if not its most fertile. The romance is tempered by the realities of poverty and isolation: often the ranch is a beaten, rusted trailer, and the wide-open spaces are experienced through the window of a broken down truck. These are folks that want their guns, their guitars, and their freedom, even if it's not ever clear that they plan to put any of those things to good use.

Still, there's a lovely, elegiac feel for the old and new west that informs director Feinsilber's approach to the material. Without embellishment or flash, the camera lingers on the proverbial wide open spaces of the new west, and the weathered faces of her inhabitants. Kris Kristofferson, whose voice could have blown in on a prairie wind, narrates, often speaking in the voice of the Kid, reprising his role from Sam Peckinpah's 1973 masterpiece Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Clips from that film, in fact, are tastefully interspersed. Feinsilber's film doesn't always hold together, clashing with it's own intentions. Still, in its slow, graceful tour of the west then and now, it's quite often hypnotic.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: For the most part, the transfer is lovely. The film has a slightly soft and subdued color palette, but everything appears to be reproduced nicely. There's a bit of edge-enhancement obvious in a few of the talking head interviews, but nothing terribly distracting.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby 2.0 track is a mixed bag. Often I found myself straining to make out the narration clearly, and that's a bit of a deficit in a documentary like this. It's not terrible, but it's not great, either.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 11 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: There's a brief Director's Bio in text format. Otherwise, there are no extras.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

I can't say that the film always works as a cohesive whole. Much of the material dealing with Billy the Kid falls flat, but it's shot with a subtlty and delicacy that's rare. There are parts of the west that still look much as they did a century or more ago, and people who would be equally at home then as now. The film comes alive when writer/director Anne Feinsilber pursues the persistence of the old west myth alongside modern realities. The film's structural problems take little away from its moments of quiet power.


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