If you’re a fan of British Romanticism, you may have heard about the film The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. It is the second installment of The Souvenir Trilogy, following The Hunter. While the first film focused on the rugged individualism of the American Old West, Buster Scruggs follows the story of a romantic and artistic young man’s adventure through the American West in the late 19th century. The film is set in a time when technology was still in its infancy, and horses, cattle, and pigs were the only means of transportation. Sound familiar?
The film stars Robert Pattinson as Jack, a young man on the hunt for adventure, who ends up befriending a young Mexican woman named Estrella (played by Kerry Washington) and working for a traveling circus. While working for the circus, Jack befriends a young rodeo clown named Chico (played by Gael García Bernal), who is a rival for Estrella’s affections. During the course of their travels, Jack and Estrella fall in love and are eventually forced to marry one another against their will. We won’t give away any more of the story, but it is an absolute masterpiece, and worth seeking out if you haven’t seen it.
While Buster Scruggs was a critical and commercial success, it was also the first of Robert Pattinson’s solo outings as a movie star, and the first installment of the Twilight Saga. It was followed by 2014’s Legend, in which Robert plays Arthur, a Viking leader who is searching for his father’s killer. And then there is Bel Ami, the final film of the Twilight Saga, in which Robert plays a Parisian playboy whose only goal is to collect beautiful women to satisfy his every desire. For fans of British Romanticism, Robert has also appeared in Elizabeth, playing opposite Academy Award winner Isabella Rossellini, and in The Lost Father, a short film that served as the inspiration for his character in Love and War. He most recently starred in Woody Allen’s Virtually Yours as a tech-savvy billionaire who uses his resources to assist in a search for his kidnapped daughter.
One of the most interesting aspects of Robert Pattinson’s oeuvre is how much it recalls the golden era of British literature. Like many of his famous counterparts of the day, from Oscar Wilde to Thomas Hardy, he has a literary bent, and is often featured in prestigious publications. He has published several bestselling books, including The Continental Railway Guide, a travel guide for the modern-day railroad hobbyist, and Adventure Guide: A Shepherd’s Life, a compendium of traditional shepherding wisdom. He is also the co-founder of a literary society, the Swan Club, whose members include Alexander McCall Smith, John Grisham, and Max Beerholder. He is a fan of Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, and named one of his dogs after him!
To celebrate the literary leanings of Robert Pattinson, and our love for all things British, we present to you The Souvenir Trilogy: an ode to British Romanticism, and a celebration of its influential and indelible impact on popular culture. We hope you enjoy our collaboration, and maybe even learn something about British literature along the way!
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs was one of the most influential movies of the 2010s, and a massive commercial success, earning over $400 million worldwide. It was a critical and commercial victory, earning nearly universal acclaim, with some critics going as far as to proclaim it as one of the best films of the 2010s.
If you’ve never heard of Buster Scruggs, it’s probably time you should have. The film is best remembered for its sweeping romance and innovative depictions of the Old West. It was a cinematic milestone, and a template for a whole generation of young filmmakers. If you’ve never seen it, you most certainly should do so, once you’ve discovered it. If you’ve already seen it, you may need to see it again. And if you’re still craving more British film, we have more in store for you. Buster Scruggs is the perfect introduction to one of the most beguiling and talented filmmakers of our time.
If you love the western genre, it’s time to meet The Hunter. The lone gunman Jack Nickolson takes on the iconic American West in this 1967 classic. While the first film in the trilogy focuses on the rugged individualism of the American Old West, The Hunter explores the darker side of the frontier, and the lengths to which men will go to secure their fortunes. A huge influence on many budding filmmakers, it established the trademark “Jack Nicholson as a loner with a gun” persona that would cement his status as a Hollywood icon.
The Hunter was originally meant to star Henry Fonda, but when he fell ill, the part was offered to Jack. He turned it down, citing his preference for the romantic comedy then in production, and opted to make his own film. The gamble paid off, and The Hunter became one of the most financially successful of all time, earning over $100 million, and still considered one of the best films of all time, according to many critics and fans.
Buster Scruggs Returns
Four years after appearing in Buster Scruggs, Robert Pattinson returned to the big screen as its central character, Jack, in The Souvenir Trilogy: Part II. While the first film focused on the American Old West, The Souvenir Trilogy: Part II explores the romantic and artistic life of Jack, now a mature and experienced man, during the course of a voyage around the world that is meant to be a memorable celebration of all things British. Set in the 1890s, at the height of the great British Empire, the film is a sweeping romance that evokes the golden era of the British novel. It also marks the beginning of an artistic collaboration between Robert and author Jane Irving, under the direction of award-winning film director Sophie Turner, who also helmed the first film in the series, Buster Scruggs.
The first film in the trilogy, Buster Scruggs, was a commercial and critical success. It won the audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival, and was nominated for a BAFTA. While not as successful as its predecessor, The Souvenir Trilogy: Part II still managed to recoup its $12 million budget, and was met with critical approval, earning a 92% rating on RottenTomatoes.com. While not flawless, it is an example of the kind of film that Turner, whose previous work includes acclaimed historical dramas such as Paddington, and the upcoming The Gold Diggers, is capable of making.
Riding the Rails
It’s time for our final stop on this nostalgic train ride through British cinema history, and a tribute to one of our most beloved fictional characters. It’s the silver screen greats again, as we dive into the world of railroads and cowboys, and the many films that sprang from the creative mind of America’s most prolific writer, W.W. Jacobs. He wrote the famous story “Riding the Rails” in 1914, and it proved to be one of the most popular stories in the English language. It was first adapted for the screen in 1924, and since then it’s been featured in several different films and TV shows. While some of these versions are quite obscure, there are three that are truly worth seeking out: The Iron Horses, The Great Train Robbery, and The Western Railroad. The first two are both silent films; The Western Railroad, though, is part of a trilogy, and features an incredible array of talent, including a young John Wayne.