There isn't likely to be a more important American film this year than Robert Altman's Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson. The movie is a feat: a combination of great talent and genius insight into the American psyche as expressed through its popular culture, myths and legends.
Director Altman, who explored a broad spectrum of American life in the magnificent Nashville last year, here exposes the truth behind American legends-specifically those about the taming of the savage red man and the wild west by noble white pioneers. Altman, and co-screenwriter Alan Rudolph, don't simply say that the white pioneers were corrupt and their tall tales lie as did lowbrow films like Little Big Man. He instead gives us the essence and background of the lie.
The whites who run Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show aren't George Wallace bigots, they're disarmingly civil and comfortably supercilious people who just don't think Sitting Bull (Frank Kaquitts) or his half-breed interpretor (Will Sampson) are smart enough to understand the white man's condescension. And without a flinch these whites are able to stage patently immoral lies about brave cowboys and fierce Indians and sell them as the truth in their arena.
They think nothing of it; in fact, no one does. That's why the lies last so long-all the
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