Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: Robert Redford Directs A Fable for our Time

Once a week on Monday, Uncle Bardie shares a movie with his Readers he gives a big two thumbs up. It will simply be a short excerpt or a trailer. Uncle Bardie might even throw in a reflection on the movie. If so, it will make an appearance below the video. So pop some popcorn and give yourself a treat. This week’s movie is “The Milagro Beanfield War” (1988):


From 1980 to 1994, Robert Redford directed four superb movies: “Ordinary People”, “The Milagro Beanfield War”, “A River Runs Through It” and “Quiz Show”.  He made no appearances in any of them. He was the narrator of “A River Runs Through It”.

Of them, it was “The Milagro Beanfield War” I loved. Adapted from the John Nichols novel, it gives us a New Mexico we don’t usually to see. Of all of Redford’s films, there is something special about this movie. Maybe it is the exploration of a Mexican-American community that time is passing by. Maybe it is that the old man sees the Coyote Angel when he comes for a visit. Maybe it is that the old man, Amarante Cordova, doesn’t see a border between this earthy world and the world of the beyond.

Maybe it is that Joe Mondragon stands up for himself. And in so doing, he is standing up for his town. He gives us a character who is indeed heroic. In a land where water is valuable, he decides to reclaim his little share of it to grow beans when all the odds are against him.

If you think this is a serious film and not any fun, you’d be wrong. It is a serious film, yes. But there is a lot of humor here, including Daniel Stern’s Herbie Platt’s encounter with a pickup truck and Amarante’s advice to him about how to sleep in a shack and what to do when he uses the outhouse.

Then there is Dave Grusin’s wonderful score which won an Academy Award. There’s the cinematography of Robbie Greenberg. And there’s Redford’s direction. All of this brings to the screen a very magical movie.


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