NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL 2020 REVIEW! Some movies are inherently weird due to their intrinsic makeup. There Are Not Thirty-six Ways of Showing a Man on a Horse is one of those films. It is an experimental, intellectual exploration of the world of film history and criticism.
What transpires over the next hour is something wholly unique, if not a bit hard to process. For about the first 30+ minutes, we see clips that are usually about 20 seconds in length from films by director Raoul Walsh. Walsh is the person purported to have said the original quote where the title comes from. We see such familiar faces as Rhett Butler, Humphrey Bogart, Bob Hope, Gregory Peck, and Kirk Douglas. We see a lot of horses, a lot of men and women getting on and off them. Then there are small vignettes repeating the same action, such as three scenes where someone in a film hears the doorbell ring, three scenes with breaking glass, three scenes with prisons, etc.
“We see a lot of horses, a lot of men and women getting on and off them.”
The quote that the film gets its title from is discussed in the second half, which is composed entirely of an off-screen narrator talking and different quotes and screenshots flash across the screen occasionally. Apparently, a film professor remembers this quote from an interview with Raoul Walsh, where he says ‘There are not thirty-six ways to show a man getting on a horse.” However, when the professor tries to find the original quote, he has a very hard time doing so. Instead, he finds different variations of the quote and sees how it has changed over the years. Sometimes it is, “You can not show a man walking into a room five different ways.” Other versions of it says, “there is the only way to shoot a man walking into a room.” The point of the quote is that there are certainly endless ways of showing a man get on a horse or enter a room or whatever the character is doing, but a good filmmaker will have you feeling that the way they showed the man getting on the horse is the only way it could’ve been shot. The film professor finally finds the interview where the quote is from and tells his class about it, and the findings don’t exactly move them.
There Are Not Thirty-six Ways of Showing a Man Getting on a Horse is a mash-up of avant-garde and intellectual filmmaking exploring the art and nature of filmmaking itself. It is a pretty heady and complex watch that not everyone will get or care to. But if you consider yourself a scholar of film history, I think a viewing of this fascinating experiment brought to us by director Nicolas Zukerfeld and writer Malena Solarz is essential.
There Are Not Thirty-six Ways of Showing a Man Getting on a Horse screened at the 2020 New York Film Festival.
"…a pretty heady and complex watch that not everyone will 'get'..."