Monday, August 22, 2011

I've never reviewed a movie on this blog, but I'd like to do you a favor and recommend a documentary that's making the rounds now, named Buck. It's the story of Buck Brannaman, who was the model for the 1998 film, The Horse Whisperer.

Buck is actually two stories, and the first is of course about a man who has an uncanny ability for relating to horses. The second story is about a boy who overcomes physical and emotional abuse, which in turn poignantly explains the first story. Buck Brannaman understands what makes horses fearful because his own fears weren't too different.

William Hart  |  Google Images
As I watched Buck Brannaman, I was reminded of the great silent film actor, William S. Hart. Hart was the first real star of westerns, and he and Buck bear quite a resemblance. Both men are the way we'd like our cowboy heroes to be, not shoot-em-up, but strong, steady, compassionate people.

Buck was a favorite at this year's Sundance Festival, and in fact Robert Redford is interviewed for the documentary, describing how he relied on Brannaman for the authenticity of The Horse Whisperer. A good portion of Buck shows Brannaman's actual work in horse training clinics, and it's absolutely fascinating. What a shame a movie like this doesn't get shown in the mainstream!



  1. Hello Mark:
    Although 'Western' is a genre which we tend to avoid at the cinema, with the exception of those which are most usually described as 'classic', this documentary sounds to be most interesting and is something which we should, we feel, much enjoy not least for the insight which it clearly shows on aspects of both human and animal behaviour.

  2. Dear Mark - I have never really been into Cowboys, perhaps it is a girl thing. However, now I have read your favourable review of this documentary, I shall certainly watch out for it.

  3. I think you should do more movie reviews! No this movie has me intrigued. I never saw the Horse Whisperer, so I guess I will have to remedy that.

  4. Dear Jane, Lance and Rosemary - While I meant to say that Buck Brannagan is from the best mold of cowboys, I didn't mean to relay that this is a cowboy movie. Call it instead a fascinating psychological study of man and animals.

  5. Hi, David - Of the two movies, "Buck" is the one I'd recommend.

  6. I can't wait to see this. It sounds fascinating. I'd heard a bit about it, but had forgotten to write down the title. At my age I have to write everything down or it disappears from the little gray cells.

    I vaguely remembered that the movie was about the real life horse whisperer. So, thanks for the tip, Mark. This is definitely my kind of movie.

  7. Hi, Yvette - I heard about the movie because the director, Cindy Meehl, was interviewed on NPR, and I was hooked then. But if you want to see a good trailer, try going here:

  8. Thank you Mark,
    I love documentaries. I will certainly see it soon.

  9. Hi, Anyes - You will not be disappointed. But as is true with most documentaries, wherever "Buck" lands, the engagement will probably be short, and you'll need to see it while you can.

  10. When I was growing up, there was a silent film series on TV to which I was addicted. William Hart was sometimes featured, but their early westerns were more often Tom Mix films, which were more the shoot-'em-up variety.
    --Road to Parnassus

  11. Hello, Parnassus - I read up a little on William S. Hart and was interested to know that he had had a long and successful stage career on the east coast, that he didn't star in westerns until he was in his late 40s, and that he had enough artistic control of his films to insist on detail authenticity.