The Left-Handed Gun

Director: Arthur Penn
Screenwriters: Leslie Stevens, Gore Vidal

Institute History

  • 1994 Sundance Film Festival


Penn has said, "The only people who really interest me are the outcasts from society," so it's not surprising that his first film is about Billy the Kid. In contrast to its Hollywood predecessors, Penn's portrait attempts to penetrate the myth and expose the person beneath, Paul Newman's Billy is at once childlike and vengeful, charming and treacherous, intuitive and impulsive, sensitive and self-centered like Bonnie and Clyde who will come later, his course is charted by a combination of his own willfulness and a society which is at best indifferent to his needs and desires,

The film follows Billy throughout the period of the Lincoln County War and stays faithful to the historical facts, while filling in that outline with the image of a person who is both betrayer and betrayed. At the end, physically and emotionally spent, he fails even himself

The themes that will occupy Penn throughout his film career are already present here' the search for identity, especially Within the fabric of family; the arbitrary and spontaneous nature of violence; and an affinity for using the past to reflect current political and social tensions and trends The Left-Handed Gun also indicates Penn's ability to work within a genre yet create a film distinctly his own,

Friday Jan 21 10:40 am
Holiday Village Cinema III


— Barbara Bannon

Screening Details

  • Section: Challenge and Innovation: A Tribute to Arthur Penn
  • Film Type: Dramatic Feature
  • Country: U.S.A.
  • Run Time: 102 min.
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