True Colors

August 25, 2012

The Black Stallion was the penultimate feature-length tribute to the camera’s affinity for horse action, and introduced me to the legend of Bucephalus first.

The performances given by horses in the Carroll Ballard film, including Cass Ole (with the bright star concealed), are easily a better reason to have a curiosity about the Alexander myth than that the boy king’s caravan “conquered the known world” even though he died in his youth.

In the Orient, some traditional art depicts Bucephalus like a unicorn with a peacock’s tail. But there are two horns, and Bucephalus is not described in profile for a reason.

Wings? They don’t even need bells on their feet.

I’m not the best at facial recognition in general. And I should know better than to look out for horse acting in the movies.

I can’t tell horses apart easily on a flat screen, even if their colors are barely similar. Maybe because I enjoy watching horses go about their business, not wishing all the time I were sharing the glory like a knowledgeable rider. I don’t even take sides on debates about the advantages English vs. Western tack, because I can’t lift a Western saddle or post at the trot.

But I find it a little alarming that Hidalgo reportedly had a stunt double. The paint horse can be as shameless as a beagle when it comes to hamming it up.

Made possible because of horse make-up?

One thinks twice about watching closely, convinced there is going to be an obvious wink. Steven Spielberg, on the other hand, likes to complain the horse acting was not theatrical enough when he filmed War Horse.

Mules like switchback jokes (“on the other hand, or the other foot?”), but mules are easily amused. In the pictures, for horses a scene is too easy a steal to overthink most days.

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