April 14, 2016, 7 pm, at the La Tienda Performance Space in El Dorado–Suggested donation is $5…you are welcome to bring food/drink from La Plancha, our great next door neighbor!
THE GREY FOX (1982, 100 minutes)
Long time New Mexico resident the late Richard Farnsworth stars in this gently paced and quietly told turn of the century Western, based on the true story of Canadian train robber, Bill Miner.
THERE’S SOMETHING SPECIAL ABOUT The Grey Fox. The first thing you notice is something special about the light. Nominally a Western, The Grey Fox lacks the sunbaked look that we’ve come to associate with films that feature a frontier setting.
Director Phillip Borsos invites us to look at a new and different frontier. This is a Northwestern, filmed in a land of golden browns and velvet greens. Here, the light caresses the eye instead of attacking it.
For generations, filmmakers have used the harsh, barren wastelands of the American southwest as the setting for gritty, violent action. Borsos, by contrast, uses the softer, life-laden landscapes of our own province to tell a gentle, almost contemplative tale.
There’s something special about the story, too. The Grey Fox opens with the announcement that “on June 17, 1901, after 33 years in San Quentin Prison, Bill Miner was released into the Twentieth Century.”
A former stagecoach robber, Miner had been a part of the Old West celebrated in all of those conventional dusters. On his release, he sets out for the new frontier, and along the way he discovers a new world.
Miner is a sophisticated, intelligent individual suddenly abandoned to his own devices. His story derives much of its enchantment from Borsos’s remarkable ability to make us see the world through eyes at once knowing and naïve, to see the familiar with a startling freshness. As portrayed by Genie Award-winner Richard Farnsworth, he is a generous old grandfather; alert, aware and not about to give in to despair.
Sixty years old at the time of his release, Miner looks ahead to the life that is still before him, accepting and adapting to his new situation. For a time he visits with his sister Jennie (Samantha Langevin) who lives near Tacoma, and makes his way harvesting oysters on the Puget Sound mud flats.
One day, in the local nickelodeon, Miner sees a movie that seems to speak directly to him. It’s the world’s first Western, Edwin Porter’s The Great Train Robbery (1903), and to a professional who “always specializes,” the message is clear.
In the flickering light from the screen, we see Miner’s eyes light up. A slow smile rearranges his rugged features, and the rest, as they say, is history. Not an action picture in the accepted sense, The Grey Fox spends the bulk of its screen time with Miner in the B.C. Interior. In hiding, following his successful robbery of the CPR’s Transcontinental Express near Mission, he becomes part of the growing community of Kamloops.
During this period he becomes a friend and something of a father figure to a local provincial police constable named Fernie (Timothy Webber). Much to his surprise, he discovers an unexpected soulmate in flamboyant frontier photographer Kate Flynn (Genie Award-winning actress Jackie Burroughs).
“In this country,” she blusters. “You’re not taken seriously unless you’re Caucasian, Protestant and, most of all, male.” Inexorably, the forces tracking Miner — an arrogant Pinkerton detective named Seavey and the North West Mounted Police — are closing in.
Wistful without being overly sentimental, The Grey Fox is worth taking a special trip to the movies, just for the soundtrack!
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