to come under investigation for automobile insurance irregularities. Defending himself and his bank against charges of wrongdo . ing, he said of his opponent that he would “head and hoof her and drag her through the dirt.” When Richards claimed she was closing the gap, he replied, “I hope she didn’t go back to drinking again.” And, with a TV crew in tow, he confronted Richards, called her a liar and made a point of refusing to shake hands with her. That episode offended many of his traditional supporters. Then, as the campaign wound to a close, he was unable to explain a constitutional amendment, on which he already had cast an early ballot, that would weaken the governor’s appointive powers. When, after refusing to disclose his income tax returns, the multimillionaire finally admitted he had paid no taxes in 1986, Richards had pulled nearly even in the polls. By election day, women in both parties had turned overwhelmingly to Richards while Williams’ support among men had slipped and his support among women had seriously eroded. Still, Richards only won by 2.5 percentage points. “There is almost universal agreement that if Williams had been a more modern figure, he could have won,” the authors write. Perhaps, if he had been a more modern figure, he would have had a tougher time in the Republican primary. “The ‘ranch foreman’ image of leadership is gone now; it was unavailable to Williams, although he did not know it. Richards, on the other hand, managed to project `frontierswoman’ qualities of strength and a populism that, in their way, also drew on Texas myths, while appearing very modern indeed,” the authors write. “Richards said she had told her children, ‘You’re not going to recognize your mother by the time they get through with me.’ … In the end, Richards was tough enough.” The authors, who appear to be admirers of Richards, note that many progressives, reformers and even feminists are disappointed with Richards because, “after all, an ‘authentic liberal’ had been elected at last, but the revolution did not come, and [they are] disappointed because she does compromise and `deal,’ and because she is highly skilled at using her power within the existing rules of the game.” The authors suggest that old gender-role stereotypes, particularly in matters of ethics, clash with new political roles for women, as if ethics were the resort of those who are out of power. They conclude: “And `real world’ politics, for a Governor with comparatively weak formal powers, means that almost always, less will be accomplished than might have been.” That might as well be the New Democrats’ credo, but it won’t go down in history along with “Remember the Alamo!” and “Governor Williams? Think About It!” as a great battle cry. RED ROCK WEST Directed by John Dahl ALL IT TAKES to write a novel is pencil, paper and perseverance. In order to make a movie, you also need money ,huge wads of it. But completed books and films alike demand marketing and distribution, and those require capital. Because the budget to get a movie shown can sometimes equal the one to get it made, many movies never brighten the screen of any theater. Faced with a finished product that seems unlikely to recoup their investment through ticket sales, companies sometimes choose to cut their losses by immediately cutting a deal for video, cable and foreign rights. You do not get to see some of the most inventive movies by going to the movies. Like Repo Man, another sleeper that was awakened from video slumber by the fairy’s kiss of cash, Red Rock West is destined to become a legend of film distribution. Produced in 1993 for about $7.5 million, it was a favorite of viewers at last year’s Toronto Film Festival. However, because it lacked a bankable star and was difficult to categorize except as “cowboy noir,” Red Rock West languished for lack of domestic exhibition. It was shown, successfully, in Britain, Canada, France and Germany but was sold to HBO and video without any commercial screenings in the United States. Bill Banning, a northern California theater owner, was extremely impressed by Red Rock West when he saw it in Toronto and determined to bring it to his Roxie Theater in San Francisco. After strenuous efforts to secure the rights, he did, and the film went on to set box office records for his theater. Word spread, and so did prints of the film, to New York, Los Angeles and points between. It is now, belatedly, coming to theaters almost everywhere. The fate of this splendid piece of work either vindicates the marketplaceexcellence eventually prevailsor else it illustrates how utterly capricious is commercial success. a victor of capitalist conflict. He has barely survived the martial kind; a game leg is the Steven G. Kellman teaches comparative literature at the University of Texas at San Antonio. abiding souvenir of service in Beirut with the U.S. Marines. In the opening frames of Red Rock West, Michael awakens by the side of Highway 487 in Wyoming after spending the night inside his vintage Cadillac instead of a motel he cannot afford. Desperation has driven him 1,200 miles, from Odessa, Texas, where the wells no longer flow, to a lucrative gig at an oil rig in the Equality State. A leatherneck buddy had more or less promised Michael the roughneck work, but the foreman refuses to hire him when Michael admits to having a bad leg. His reply, “Maybe I’ll rob a bank,” when asked what he intends to do now seems mere flippancy, since Michael seems too decent and inept for a career in crime. Down on luck and cash, he drives to nearby Red Rock, population 1,523. On the way, he stops at a dilapidated gas station that appears to be vacant. Before the owner abruptly appears, Michael is sorely tempted by a pile of unattended $20 bills. Impressed with his own virtue and shrewdness, Michael is vulnerable to the next, more compelling, temptation. Hoping to find work, he goes into a tavern in Red Rock, but the bartender, seeing his Texas license plates, mistakes him for someone else. “You’re Lyle from Dallas?” asks the misunderstanding could lead to a job, Michael plays along, but Wayne is soon handing him a $5,000 down payment to murder his beautiful, adulterous wife. AN ITINERANT TEXAN, Michael of course carries a gun, but he is no killer. He informs Suzanne \(Lara scheme, and, when she offers him $10,000 to kill Wayne instead, Michael takes her money, too, and runs. Before he leaves Red Rock, Michael sends a conscientious letter to the local sheriff: “Wayne Brown may have hired a killer to murder his wife. She may have done the same. Please talk to them before someone gets hurt.” But, in addition to being a bartender, Wayne Brown is the sheriff. And, in his haste to leave Red Rock, Michael gets into a traffic accident that obliges him to return. Will he ever get out of Red Rock, with the blood money or even just his life, especially after the real Lyle, played by Dennis Hopper with his patented manic intensity, arrives? Red Rock West abounds with ingenious twists in its taut, sly plot. Like the desolate, Life After Video BY STEVEN G. KELLMAN THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21
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