Including "Dueling Banjos" on the recent Shark Mix made me think again about the movie that popularized the song, Deliverance.
I really like this movie a lot. I know that this song has come to be used as a lazy shorthand jab at rural Southerners, but the scene containing the song is really amazing, and much more complex than the cheap jokes and inferior imitations it has spawned.
Seeing characters like the urban hillbillies who capture Bruce Willis and Ving Rhames in Pulp Fiction (a scene not all that bad, especially compared with all the other psychohillbilly scenes in various movies), I just think that the greatness of this scene, and this movie, is eclipsed by a lot of easy prejudice and stupid jokes.
The "dueling banjos" scene is a meeting of two different cultures, and in the four main protagonists you get a really good sense of their characters.
Burt Reynolds's character is full of bravado, forcefully macho.
Ned Beatty has contempt for anything different than himself.
Ronny Cox is enthusiastically engaged, only wanting to learn.
Finally, Jon Voight is sort of a blank slate (who later on the viewer is meant to identify with).
I love that this scene shows music bringing people together. During just the several minutes of the song, you see the suspicion between the cultures melt away. Burt Reynolds loses his macho scowl. Ned Beatty even manages to crack a smile. The quiet boy playing banjo starts laughing.
But, as soon as the song stops, everything snaps back. People are closed off, Ned Beatty says, "give the kid a couple bucks."
It's just a damned fine scene that gets soaked in parody maybe a bit too much.