June 27, 2008

Jonathan Joss in Comanche Moon

The second disc of the Comanche Moon DVD includes special features. One of them is a featurette called "Comanche Heritage."

Jonathan Joss, the Comanche actor who played Kicking Wolf, speaks first in the featurette. He describes what it is to be Comanche:Comanche people—you hear a lot about Comanches. And usually what you hear about them is, is it’s some feel what you would say is a negative type of approach to a fierce warrior—a fierce guerrilla war fighter. You know, it’s not a stereotype that’s untrue. You know, we care about our lands, we care about our people, we cared about our issues. And sometimes when you have such a love and a demanding sense to express—I mean, when we would do something, whether it be for good or for bad, what we left behind—whether it be a mutilated body or it be a burnt town building—it was our expression, our palette. I like to think of Comanche people as being almost an artist.Translating this from Comanche-speak into English, you get something like this:McMurtry and Ossana were right to portray Comanches as bloodthirsty savages with no redeeming qualities. They killed, raped, and plundered with no regard for others. In fact, they were so creative at evildoing that they made it into an art form. Like the Marquis de Sade, the Zodiac Killer, or Hannibal Lecter, they painted with blood and sculpted with body parts.Note:  Clearly Joss was speaking extemporaneously, which accounts for the disjointed nature of his quote. No criticism here, since coherence can be hard when you speak spontaneously.

But the filmmaker could've edited this passage into something more passable. Or the filmmaker could've asked Joss to repeat himself once he knew what he wanted to say.

For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.

P.S. Joss is known for supplying the voice of John Redcorn on King of the Hill, of course.

6 comments:

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Commentary for the Special Features segments on DVDs is done quickly on a breakneck schedule and most certainly NOT at the commenter's convenience. writerfella has done two such sessions for DVD releases in the past two years. Because he was in Oklahoma, arrangements had to be made to appear at a digital recording studio, be on mike at a certain time, then be interviewed and/or to comment in a 24-minute window. No time for retakes or emendations, just do it and get out. Thus, Mr. Joss, without his hoss, was at a loss...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

Your anecdotal experience doesn't tell us much. Many DVD interviews are done in studio-like settings with lights, sound, stage decoration, hair and makeup, etc. The featurette makers don't just ambush the talent on the way to the bathroom or whatever.

Moreover, most DVD featurettes don't use unedited raw footage. Editors cut and splice the footage into a sensible narrative. While they're doing that, they can--and often do--edit semi-coherent monologues into coherence.

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Do you mean in the fashion that you took it upon yourself to redact Joss' "Comanche speak" into "English"? Those were the very words you used. Talk about stereotyping on the usual EuroMan scale...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

It's Comanche-speak because it's a Comanche talking about Comanches. But if you want to get picky, I could've said Joss-speak, not Comanche-speak. I'm sure Joss's speaking style is unique to him.

No, I wasn't talking about rewriting Joss's comments. I was talking about editing it. Using a few quick cuts, you could condense Joss's monologue to something like this:

"[Y]ou hear a lot about Comanches. And usually what you hear about them is ... a fierce warrior—a fierce guerrilla war fighter. You know, it’s not a stereotype that’s untrue. ... [W]hen we would do something, whether it be for good or for bad, what we left behind—whether it be a mutilated body or it be a burnt town building—it was our expression, our palette. I like to think of Comanche people as being almost an artist."

Doesn't that sound much better while still saying the same thing?

jdogg said...

No I think again your running into trouble again, particularly the offensive "translation" from Comanche to "English", wtf? You want to paint the world in black and white and here we have a Comanche actor talking about what it is to be Comanche and that yes, what people may know about us, warriors, raiding, menacing, in this case can be considered true.

He didn't say anything (at least in this post) about Comanches being "bloodthirsty savages" with "no redeeming qualities". This is clearly your issue and has no place really in his Comanche narrative, and your anglo translation leaves much to be desired.

Rob said...

Repeat: It's Comanche-speak because it's a Comanche talking about Comanches. But if you want to get picky, I could've said Joss-speak, not Comanche-speak. I'm sure Joss's speaking style is unique to him.

As far as I'm concerned, a "fierce guerrilla war fighter" who leaves behind a "mutilated body" is equivalent to a bloodthirsty savage. If you disagree, explain what you think thousands of books, plays, movies, and TV shows meant when they called Indians "savages." I'd love to hear an explanation that has nothing to do with Indians fighting wars or killing people.

You're wasting our time if 1) you didn't get the same impression from Joss but 2) you can't come up with a better interpretation. This is my blog and it's obviously my take on his comments. If you disagree with me, stop attacking the messenger and start telling us what you think the message is.