I tend to be skeptical of anything pitched as "an Evening with..." someone, because I don't generally melt from simply being in the presence of someone famous or talented -- they've got to, you know, do something. But when the San Francisco International Film Festival announced "An Evening with Robert Redford," they had a trump card: a brand new print of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, one of my favorite films that I had nonetheless never seen on the big screen. That seemed like a fair trade: you give me Butch Cassidy and I'll sit through the clip reel and onstage interview. Deal.
It was pretty painless, actually. The interviewer, the San Francisco Chronicle's Philip Bronstein, manages to just be mildly sycophantic, and Redford was thoughtful and articulate -- as charming as you'd expect. The audience questions were typically gushy and occasionally inappropriate (someone tried to pitch a documentary project, prompting a groan from the entire room -- who really thinks that a 1500-person Q&A is a good venue to talk business with Robert Redford?) but the man answered (or deflected) them with the aplomb of someone who has done this a gazillion times. At one point, we learned that Redford has not seen Butch Cassidy in the 40 years since its release, which is kind of remarkable when you think about it. It was almost two hours into the evening by the time we got to the reason I was actually there, but I was glad to have waited. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid looks breathtaking on the big screen -- and has a more eloquent movie about friendship ever been made? A Butch Cassidy produced today would have big speeches about how much they love each other, like brothers, and how each is honored to be the other's friend, and maybe a maudlin voiceover too, because why not. Here everything happens through banter, bickering in the direst of times, the way they communicate with gestures and glances instead of words. Heartbreaking and hilarious and a masterpiece.
I want to sneak in a word about my only other SFIFF outing so far: the British political satire In the Loop, which we reviewed at Sundance here, but which I want to endorse in advance of its July IFC release. (Another for the summer counterprogramming list.) It's surely the year's most quotable film, though most of the quotes are too colorful to reproduce here (except maybe "difficult difficult lemon difficult," though you'll have to see the movie to learn why that's funny). It is notable, too, for featuring the world's angriest Scotsman: TV veteran Peter Capaldi as hilariously profane spin doctor "Malcolm Tucker" -- a role he actually reprises from the BBC series The Thick of It. Keep an eye out for this one.