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Tombstone Rashomon

USA 2017
produced by
Merritt Crocker, Max Arvelaiz (executive), Fernando Sulichin (executive), Robert S. Wilson (executive) for Tombstone Limited
directed by Alex Cox
starring Adam Newberry, Jesse Lee Pacheco, Christine Doidge, Eric Schumacher, Benny Lee Kennedy, Richard Anderson, Jason Graham, Shayn Herndon, Michele Bauer, Haydn Winston, Bradford Trojan, James Miller, Callie Hutchison, Rogelio Camarillo, Brenda Jean Foley, Frank Gonzalez, Wade Everett, Pablo Kjolseth, Geoff Marslett, Merritt Crocker, Carlos Abdalla, Oz, Frank Baden, Jeremy Hamley, Susan Sebanc (voice), William Long, Khameiah Williamson, Steve Burton, Charles Scanlon
written by Alex Cox, music by Dan Wool

Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday

review by
Mike Haberfelner

Available on DVD !

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A team of documentary filmmakers time travel back to Tombstone, Arizona to be present at the gunfight at O.K. Corral and document what has really been going on, but alas, they arrive one day late, and now all they can do is to interview the survivors (and a few bystanders) to find out what's really been going down. Interviewees include Wyatt Earp (Adam Newberry) and Doc Holliday (Eric Schumacher) from the one side and Ike Clanton (Benny Lee Kennedy) from the other of course, but also Holliday's girlfriend Kate (Christine Doidge), and Cochise sheriff Johnny Behan (Jesse Lee Pacheco), the one man who could have prevented it all but didn't - and to nobody's real surprise, the accounts of all those involved vary wildly, with everybody more interested in putting their own spin on the story than helping our team of documentarians to find the truth, as truth of course is in the eye of the beholder ...

 

Now the gunfight at O.K. Corral is one of the most famous actual altercations in the Old West, and one that, knowing the actual background of the rivalry between the brothers Earl on one side and the Clantons and McLaurys (often dubbed the gamblers vs the cowboys), really blurs the line between black and white, between heroes and villains. Thus there have over the years been numerous interpretations of the story, with each probably carrying at least a grain of truth and none telling the whole, absolute truth. And that all said, the concept of Akira Kurasawa's Rashomon, with its set of alternate truths might lend itself to the story rather perfectly.

(Side note: Tombstone Rashomon is not the first western to adopt the Rashomon-formula, that would be the Martin Ritt film The Outrage starring Paul Newman.)

 

Now it's of course a clever move to address the elephant in the room in this movie's title, but that said, Alex Cox is much too clever and versatile and in fact too creative a filmmaker to just use a well-worn formula as a gimmick, he really just mends the premise with the many stories told about what happened back when to build his very own world upon it, a world that's flooded with myths and lies, where everybody makes up one's own truth (which is especially true in Doc Holliday's version of the story, where Holliday and the Earps arrive at the scene of the shootout in a modern police car) and thus adds to the legend rather than actual history. And in that way, Tombstone Rashomon is something like a meta-movie, where everything we think we know about the Old West (and in consequence about history as such) can be seen from many different perspectives, and truth really is in the eye of the beholder.

Now that all sounds rather lofty to be honest, but Cox as a filmmaker and storyteller never forgets to entertain his audience, and with Tombstone Rashomon he not only shows how well he's versed in the western genre, with the constant re-telling of the same story he also throws winks at the audience, builds in little jokes, and basically just makes this a fun ride, without ever dumbing things down, and thus makes this nothing short of a joy to watch.

Well recommended!

 

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