Director Philip Kaufman gives a close-read of why he chose to feature the Canadian ballad "The Red River Valley" in his recent HBO film Hemingway & Gellhorn.
You may or may not have liked HBO's recent presentation of Hemingway & Gellhorn, a sprawling film about the writer and the writer, featuring a swaggering Clive Owen and a sublime Nicole Kidman, which first aired on cable in late May. I liked it more than I thought I would. And while I'm not going to review the movie, there were two moments in it—gorgeous meldings of image and sound—that lingered with me and spurred me to write this piece.
Let me briefly set the scene. Having met in a bar and exchanged horny glances, Earnest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn did what all reasonable couples do when they want to start a relationship: They went to cover a civil war, the Spanish Civil War being a more attractive option than the Chinese Civil War. So Gellhorn, not yet the third Mrs. Hemingway, is traveling to Spain via train. And Hemingway, already the fabled author of Adios a las Armas, is on his way by private plane. Ain't love grand?
Here's the first clip, courtesy of our friends at HBO.
The song struck me first: "The Red River Valley," sung by Eric Schneider. I have always loved that song. Any man who ever dreamed of being a cowboy has loved that song. But until I looked it up I didn't know that it is not a song about the Red River Valley of Texas and Oklahoma, the well-chronicled home of Roy Rogers and John Wayne. Instead, it is a song about the Red River Valley up north, La Riviere Rouge, in and around the woods of Minnesota, North Dakota, and the Canadian province of Manitoba.