Thursday, July 6, 2006

WE'LL FIND 'EM. JUST AS SURE AS THE TURNIN' OF THE EARTH: On Slate today, Stephen Metcalf challenges the canonization of John Ford's The Searchers on its 50th anniversary.

It took me until some time in law school before I finally overcame my anti-Western (the film genre, not the big concept) bias to view the film, and I'm definitely on the pro-Searchers side of this. It's just a remarkable film about single-minded obsession, about the poison of racism, about vengeance, about the ways lonely people construct meaning for themselves through projection and other means. (John Wayne's Ethan Edwards, the protagonist of the film (I'd hardly say "hero"), is surely the cinematic grandfather of Travis Bickle.)

Metcalf essentially criticizes the film for being all subtext and -ism fodder, and not being entertaining or pleasurable enough. Well, to be sure, it's not a fun movie. But it's a gripping character study of a tragic figure, and it really is essential viewing. You've seen it, right?

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