Cinema’s great choreographer of blood and bullets, Sam Peckinpah ushered in a new era of American filmmaking with his deliriously violent, coolly existentialist, strikingly lyrical films, which spoke to an American public disillusioned by events like the Vietnam War and Watergate. A pivotal director who revolutionized the Western and action genres, he stood between worlds, straddling the tradition of craft that defined the classic studio era and the freewheeling experimentation of New Hollywood. His stylistic innovations—particularly the iconic use of slow motion and rapid-cut editing—and balletic, blood-spattered action sequences in titles like The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs, and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia have been justly celebrated. Less remarked upon is that Peckinpah could be surprisingly tender in gentle, moving films like The Ballad of Cable Hogue and Junior Bonner. At their heart, Peckinpah’s movies are elegies: for the ideals of the Old West, for honorable men compromised by circumstances beyond their control, for a mythic America that may never have existed. This complete retrospective is an opportunity to view the dynamic, dazzlingly inventive works of a maverick director who refused to compromise his singular vision.

Organized by Dennis Lim for the Film Society of Lincoln Center. This program was selected from the Sam Peckinpah retrospective curated by film programmer and historian Roberto Turigliatto at the 2015 Locarno Film Festival, organized in collaboration with the Cinémathèque Française in Paris and the Cinémathèque Suisse in Lausanne.