Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Documentary Review: Buck

I used to date this girl that worked for Jaguar. She would be asked to attend these equestrian competitions, where Jaguar was a sponsor, and stand by the cars as a representative. She knew nothing about luxury cars but she looked amazing standing next to one.

The people who came to these events were the Bloomberg’s of the world, and Bloomberg. On display, besides for cars, were top bred horses jumping, strutting, walking shoe over shoe to the left, then to the right, back and then forward. Listening not so much to commands, they would trot along, grand in cadence and form, all by the movements of their rider’s body. I never knew this type of thing existed. You see horses jumping on TV, knocking over the bars as they leap too short over the Mercedes Benz rose fence, and you wonder if it hurts their legs to land so hard. You also assume some person perched atop these pristine yet innocent beasts is wealthy and ultimately proving their status by donning such a phallic black velvet helmet. Who knew these animals had heart, or in this case, a mind of their own to not want to be tamed and flaunted and on display. The documentary, “Buck” where our character Buck Brannaman is the horse whisperer of sorts, looks at first glance like some Disney happy-go-lucky-fest where horses share eyes and ears with a soothing-psychic cowboy. By the way, Buck is the real reason behind Robert Redford’s “The Horse Whisperer”. In the documentary however, it’s not until the brutal beatings and child exploitation of our manly Buck which he reveals to us about his childhood, do we realize this ain’t no dog and pony show. His pop would giddily whip his two young boys for any little mistake they might’ve made in the family rope-trick and talent show that they traveled around and performed for local towns. Once or twice, they made it on TV. When you’re hiding in your doghouse in 20-degree weather with snow on the ground, nuzzled up next to Fido for warmth because it’s a better option then being inside during one of dad’s dickhead binges, you know you’ve got no options.

To our eager expectation, we come to enjoy watching the stern demeanor and measured movements of Buck. When he’s taming a wild mare in the ring, we're confused at first because he takes what’s alien to us, and earns its trust, and makes it look so easy. Even if you know nothing about horses, you can tell by the astonished reactions in his seminars as he takes anyone’s horse that they bring from home where they’d been struggling for years to get through to the animal, he goes and “breaks it” in minutes. Give him a half hour and he’s saddling what no one could have thought was even able to ride. A turning point, or a parallel is drawn to our own lives in the movie when a troubled woman brings one of her “kids”, as she described him, to see Buck and she complains of the attacks and bones she’s shattered trying to raise this horse. She fears for her own life but also can’t come to grips with having to put the horse down since she saved the horse from near death during birth when it was starved for oxygen far too long before coming around. Sitting there watching, I couldn’t wait for Buck to win this challenge….to show this woman that nothing is out of his reach, after all, these are horses which heavily rely on humans to bring them their food, to wash and bathe them when they’re mucked up. This was the David meets Goliath moment, and we’re ready for David to fucking win.

There was something about the craze in the horse’s eyes that got you thinking. Burnt red against it’s ivory blond hair, and I mean bloodshot, haven’t slept in months, don’t talk to me, where’s my coffee, oops I burst a vessel manic fucking red. Buck’s assistant is next to the pen tying off a boot or wiping down a saddle, I don’t even remember because the guy never talked, but right then, the horse out of the side of the camera like a fish jumping from a pond, whamm! The horse swung its head down, mouth open, teeth born to chomp, and like wood clucking hollow wood, the horse shucked a chunk out of this poor guy’s head as onlookers screamed. We went from G-Rated Disney to blood gushing PG-13 in a millisecond. At first, Buck’s eyes turned to scorn for the woman for bringing the horse to the seminar, for raising the damned thing, but truly, it was his fault for attempting it. All of us react first instead of sitting down and mulling it over, and eventually, he did sit down and have a chat with the lady.

The film drew a fantastic juxtaposition on life, our own struggle with our conscience. This was a mother and her child, except that her child was mentally disabled. In our world you can’t solve the existence of a disabled human being with a lethal injection…. well, some might argue that. As the story always unfolds, it comes down to the fact that no matter what the animal is, human or horse, you could wash it, wax it, buff it and stand it on a pedestal to be viewed and admired, hell, it might look really good, but when you ask it a question, and try to gain some understanding beyond the physical, you’re bound to get an answer. It’s what you learn from that answer and how you approach a similar situation in the future that’s the truest test of your ability to do better. Buck still seems to be getting it, and getting better at getting it, even still.

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