A Happy Acc(id)ent

Anyone who seriously studies any kind of art will occasionally be accused of seeing things that aren’t there — I usually hear it as the dismissive “It’s just a MOVIE.” But I stand by the things I find; a film is a universe constructed more diligently than the world we live in, by a creator who we know wanted specific shots, props, colors, whatever.

But recently my belief in the deliberateness of movie-making got a little shaken. I interviewed Mateo Gil, the director of “Blackthorn,” in which Butch Cassidy (Sam Shepard, above) survived his standoff with the Bolivian police and has been living in the jungle for nearly 30 years. I noticed that Shepard’s Spanish accent was typically “American”: hard “r’s,” rather than the lighter, tapped sound that’s actually appropriate. I asked the director whether that was deliberate, a way to mark Cassidy as an outsider. “It wasn’t my decision,” Gil said. “We tried, [but Shepard] actually has a real American accent talking in Spanish.” So, really, my theory got busted; Sam Shepard simply can’t imitate a Spanish accent.

Does it matter? I think not. Cassidy’s fluency with the language mirrors the length of time he’s been hiding out, but the fact that he can’t trill his tongue properly forever marks where he came from. It may not have been a deliberate choice on Shepard’s or Gil’s part, but it’s a lucky break that helps Butch Cassidy live again.

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