Yes, It Was Only Upon Watching This for the First Time That I Finally Realized Where "Sundance" Comes From in "The Sundance Film Festival"
While I enjoyed the film quite a bit, it didn't immediately shove its way into my top 100 like The Iron Giant did. Still, it was easy to see where the affection for the film I've seen evidenced over the years came from. Really remarkable chemistry between, not just Newman and Redford (but there too of course) but between the guys and Katherine Ross as well. That the acting in the film is so solid really surprised me - not only were the leads great interacting, but they each effortlessly etched out their characters with deliberate, spare strokes (especially Ross, who gets a lot less screen time than the guys). I was also surprised at just how sexy that introduction-of-Etta scene is, with Sundance playing at making her undress at gunpoint; when I think of sexy filmmakers, I don't really think of Goldman.
What struck me the most, though, is how somber a film this is. I mean, for all of the jokiness and for all of the light banter, this is, in the end, a pretty straightforward tragedy - with two protagonists whose natures must lead to their downfalls. That Butch and Sundance pretty much go back into a life of crime knowing that it will kill them really made a strong statement. As did the bit with Etta leaving (she had told them earlier that she wouldn't stick around to see Sundance killed, so when she leaves it's pretty clear what she thinks is going to happen). The hopelessness of the long (maybe a bit too long) hunted-by-the-super-posse scene, the moment when Butch kills, the sadness of the Ross character - all of these elements were pretty glum. Don't get me wrong - again, I liked the movie - but it was certainly less happy-go-lucky than I had believed it to be, even having read the screenplay many years ago in William Goldman's excellent follow-up to the classic Adventures in the Screen Trade, Which Lie Did I Tell (More Adventures in the Screen Trade).