« Chat with Mari | Main | Take Me Out to the Ball Game »

#96 - The Searchers

This 1956 film by John Ford stars the inscrutable John Wayne as a Confederate veteran with a hatred for Indians on an obsessive search for his niece, who was captured by the Comanche. Jeffrey Hunter and Vera Miles costar.

As we continue our way through this list, it becomes more and more apparent to me that I'm not sure I'm old enough to appreciate the significance of many of the films we've been watching. Take this one, for instance. The websites say that it is John Ford's most revered western -- which is really saying something, considering Ford is apparently one of the best and most prolific western directors ever. It comments on the antiheroicism and moral ambiguity of Wayne's character and the evocative style of Ford's narrative, and how it was embraced by French critics.

All high praise. The problem is, I don't know how to appreciate it. I recognize that the movie is good, but because I was born a mere 25 years ago, I am so used to seeing movies with antiheroes and ambiguous morals, that this doesn't seem that different. Clearly, anyone watching this movie in 1956 would be surprised at Wayne's unsettling and uncompromising character, but in 2005, it is anything but surprising.

The only things that date it as being an older film are the classic western soundtrack and the obviously Technicolor landscapes. It is in these clues, I suppose, that I must begin making my critique. The fact that the movie seems modern a good 50 years after it was made must be appreciated. But that point is so subtle. I guess subtlety is the bread-and-butter of the cinemaphile.

At any rate, I enjoyed this movie much more than Unforgiven. Wayne is hilarious to watch -- he lives up to the stereotype. And I'm sorry, but I don't really think he's a great actor. The film is truly epic in its many plot threads and broad time scale -- a credit to Ford for keeping it all tied together, while still creating sympathetic characters and moving the central plot along. The cinematography is very nice. And the more I think about it, the more details and nuances keep coming out at me. Ford is truly a detail-conscious director.

Good flick. Glad we don't have any more westerns for a while, though.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 11, 2005 10:41 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Chat with Mari.

The next post in this blog is Take Me Out to the Ball Game.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.32