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Dramas > The Searchers (John Ford)

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message 1: by Alex DeLarge (last edited Jan 21, 2009 07:26PM) (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments I grew up divided by my parent's love for movies: my mother was a horror/science fiction fan and my father loved Westerns. My nights were spent under the blankets with classics like CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON or THEM! while on rainy Saturday afternoons I was subjected to countless episodes of Hee-haw and John Wayne flicks. I grew to despise John Wayne and the western genre as a child...and I still do, to a certain extent. I'm begining to revisit classic westerns and see them with new eyes, and it's with this open-mindedness I rented THE SEARCHERS on Blu-ray. Because it's a John Ford film, I knew the photography would be beautiful (especially in High-definition! The blood-tinged sunset during the Indian raid looks absolutely stunning on BD, and the background detail of Monument Valley astounding) but I wasn't expecting such a profound film. See this again. Now.

THE SEARCHERS (John Ford, 1956, USA)

"It's all about where you put the horizon
Said the great John Ford to the young man rising
You got to frame it just right and have some luck of course
And it helps to have a tall man sitting on a horse
Tell them just enough to still leave them some mystery
A grasp of the ironic nature of history
A man turns his back on the comforts of home
The Monument Valley to ride off alone"
-Drive By Truckers (The Monument Valley)

Ethan Edwards is an anachronism, fighting his own spiritual civil war, a cruel division that separates his humanity from pure animal rage that trespasses upon those who love him most. John Wayne’s performance steps beyond the boundaries of expectation and he delivers an exceptional and multi-faceted portrayal of a violent unlikable man, torn apart and raw, a metaphor concerning his country’s still festering and unhealed wounds, his family a desperate house divided. Director John Ford introduces this bleak anti-hero with Ethan’s face obscured by shadows beneath the brim of a black hat. The crippling love for his brother’s wife is never overtly referenced and becomes a background thrum of seething resentment: it’s him against the world. Ford’s mise-en-scene is gorgeously filmed: from the interior sets photographed in medium close-up to extreme long-shots of orange and blood red horizons, his panoramic VistaVision drenches the celluloid in unspoken emotional conflict. Though the narrative relies heavily upon western cliché (the racist portrayal of Indians as either violent or stupid) we must look beneath the veneer of Hollywood convention to understand the film’s dire beauty: Ethan Edward’s search for salvation. His obstreperous contempt for the preacher is flagrantly hostile, a one-track morality that leads him towards a murder that will destroy him completely. Ford knows when to reveal the violence…and when to keep it hidden under the darkened sky and haunting buttes: Edward’s choking curse at discovering Lucy’s corpse is left to our imagination, the sexual assault and mutilation implied. Ford utilizes very few close-ups and only one extreme close-up: when Edwards and Martin interview two captured women, neither of whom is the little girl they seek, the camera pans close to Wayne’s tortured and angry impatience…and the eyes, full of fire and brimstone. Finally, after many years the search is over and Debbie is reunited with her surviving family, Ethan is left alone, perfectly framed in the doorway, one hand resting gently upon his arm, and he turns and walks away. The door closes upon him, a stranger to his family, hopefully at peace with himself. (A+)

message 2: by Ed (new)

Ed | 218 comments Mod
I love the Searchers. It was the major inspiration for Scorcese in filming Taxi Driver. Tremendous movie....acting,,...story...the doorway frame is just unbelievable. See The Searchers and then Taxi Driver...a tremendous double bill.

message 3: by Phillip (last edited Jan 22, 2009 12:13AM) (new)

Phillip | 10503 comments yeah alex - i'm really glad you chose to visit this one. this is top drawer filmmaking - forget genre - there aren't many films that can match this one for storytelling or visual beauty. so wise of them to shoot so much of it in monument valley.

the final frames of the door closing on the god, i think i wept the first time i saw it. not because of the emotional content, but because it was such a brilliant way to close the door on the story.

if you're going back and checking out some westerns, allow me to recommend a few of my faves:

the wild bunch
the furies
3:10 to yuma (the original)
johnny guitar

the soundtrack is a little over-the-top-americana, but i also like red river. that also features john wayne, but it's howard hawks (so you can't really go wrong), and wayne actually does a good job of going a bit insane in that one, not unlike bogart's performance in treasure of the sierra madre...

there are probably a lot of folks out there that will include the magnificient seven, but i think it's a bit over-rated. i'll take seven samurai over that one any day.

and, of course - the leone dollar movies and TG,TB,&TU, but you already know those...

message 4: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 155 comments "The Searchers" is like "Vertigo" to me, a movie I respect but that has taken me a while to warm up to. I much prefer other films by the directors.

That said, I make a point of including it when I teach the western, a genre I did not grow up on. Indeed, I thought I disliked westerns. I compare it to my imagined dislike of champagne. One day I had really top quality champagne and said, "Oh, it's BAD champagne I don't like."

Teaching the western is hard because there are so many good ones that I can't get close to including them all. For example I don't use "Red River" or "The Wild Bunch," both excellent films, because they're too long for my time slot.

Here are some of the films I do use: Shane, High Noon, The Naked Spur, My Darling Clementine, Stagecoach, The Searchers, The Shootist, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Ulzana's Raid, Unforgiven, Lonely are the Brave. That last one, from 1962 starring Kirk Douglas and Walter Matthau, is the ultimate "end of the west" western with the story set in the present (well, 1962).

message 5: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments Thanks Phillip, I've never seen THE FURIES and THE WILD BUNCH almost transcends the Western genre and I love it, but again had to revisit as an adult. I've also grown to enjoy SHANE and have a soft spot for JOHNNY GUITAR! I generally like Altman films but have never seen MCCABE and my cinementor berates me annually on that fact! Daniel, in a perfect world I would move to Boston and be accpeted for one of your film classes!

message 6: by Jim (new)

Jim Cherry (jymwrite) John Wayne did sometimes get lost in his image, his war movies nothing more than propaganda, but when he wanted to, or had to he could act The Searchers is one, The Shootist, & this may be a guilty pleasure True Grit but it also has Dennis Hopper & Robert Duvall, & Glen Campbell!

message 7: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 155 comments I'd add "Stagecoach," "Red River," "Rio Bravo" and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence" to the "essential" John Wayne movies list.

I highly recommend Garry Wills' "John Wayne's America." Non film critics slumming in my field usually embarrass themselves, but Wills is a superb writer with some excellent insights into Wayne as a cinematic icon.

message 8: by Phillip (last edited Jan 22, 2009 08:08AM) (new)

Phillip | 10503 comments hmmmm, i also like high noon. mc cabe and mrs. miller is a nice film - it's funny i don't think of it as a western - altman was one to challenge any genre he participated in....

stagecoach! yeah...there's another good'un. i haven't seen the man who shot liberty valance since i was a kid. might be time to review that one.

message 9: by Tom (last edited Jan 22, 2009 08:28AM) (new)

Tom | 5315 comments THE SEARCHERS: there's a lot to admire but not a lot to like very much. Ultimately, I think my feelings are that the film wants to be something very daring and different, that it really wants to push boundaries. And it does, in a lot of ways, but it also doesn't in a lot of ways.

The film is famed for having Wayne's best and darkest performance, and he's occasionally impressive. There are a couple of silent moments he has that are remarkable. One in particular when he has been confronted with a group of women rescued from Indian captivity. The women have all been driven mad by the experience, and there is one shot of Wayne clearly moved and disturbed by the experience, one of the few times we see him off balance, not in total confidence. I'm not doing this moment anything like justice, it is really something.

But for all the complexity of Wayne's character Ethan Edwards, there are a couple of characters who came off to me as rather tired two-dimensional cliches, a Swedish immigrant character who actually says "By Yiminy" and another rather bizarre character named Moze who seems to be, at best, mentally retarded. And the film has some strange production elements, in that beautiful scenes shot on glorious location in the inevitable Monument Valley are followed by scenes that are rather painfully obviously shot in the studio. It all seems to be summed up in the fact that Natalie Wood's character, who has been living among the Comanche for several years, is wearing bright pink lipstick when she finally appears.

I don't think the film makes a lot of sense. Not in terms of plot, I mean in terms of what the movie is trying to say. In a nutshell, everything in the film is so conflicted and twisted that I am left with no clear idea of what anyone is up to. The film's main objective seems to be to undermine pretty much everyone and everything, with the exception of Jeffrey Hunter's character Martin Polley (or however it is spelled), who seems to be the one positive person in the entire movie.

Ultimately, the civilization that the titular Searchers are trying to return Debbie to is so completely undermined that Ethan's desire to kill Debbie does ultimately seem like a mercy killing. That monstrous moment when Vera Miles' character (whose own plans for a spectacularly loveless spite marriage have fallen apart) says that Ethan has the right idea about killing Debbie gives us a good idea of exactly what Debbie can expect upon her return. A civilization based on murder and hypocrisy and racism and power grabbing and manipulation and sexual one-upmanship. It's hard for me to be very happy about anyone bringing that little girl back to the "civilization" the film sets up as the alternative to the ideologically loaded and sexually barbarous "savagery" of the Indians the film presents us with.

The racial elements in the film are very interesting, also. No secret is made of Ethan's status as an ex-Confederate soldier, and he seems to be pretty thoroughly racist. The look of absolute contempt he shoots Martin Polley who happens to be part-Cherokee (one-eighth Cherokee according to Martin) says a lot. Yes Ethan does come in time to respect Martin, which only makes the film more confusing. Is Ethan's gradual growing respect for Martin as half-breed/part Indian part of why he decides to let Debbie live? The film is unambiguous about what he wants to do: kill her because she's been with a "buck." The moment when Ethan returns from having found Debbie's sister after the Comanche have finished with her is most ambiguous: it is certainly possible that his feelings have driven him to kill the sister.

The problem is just that the film needs to be better and go further, and there's just no way that any movie was going to go where that movie needed to go at the point in which it was made. I'm prepared to be happy with what I've got of the film, but I've got to say that I don't see how folks can regard it as anything other than irreparably flawed. The Indian characters in the movie are treated very superficially, as comedy relief (one particularly vulgar scene had the audience gasping in sympathy with the character who had been so gratuitously insulted) or as set dressing, or most usually as out and out villains and criminals, and in these days after such more or less distinguished films as LITTLE BIG MAN and DANCES WITH WOLVES have shown us the Indian Side Of The Story, it's hard for me to watch THE SEARCHERS without wanting to know more about the Indians as people rather than stock types. Quite simply How is little Debbie doing with her Indian family, and how does she relate to Scar, her Indian husband? Is Scar in fact her husband, meaning has Debbie had sexual relations with him? I think the film means us to think so, but it can't be terribly specific about it. All we get are the assumptions of a bunch of people whose assumptions I'm not going to put too much stock in.

Seeing STAGECOACH and THE SEARCHERS back to back was interesting in a couple of ways, as both films share a concern bordering on contempt for "civilization" and even share a particular gesture: at some point in each film someone picks up a glass containing a drink and tosses the contents onto a fire, causing the fire to flare up. But things are much bleaker in THE SEARCHERS: There's no ride off across the border for anybody, no Thomas Mitchell character to aid in saving anyone from what STAGECOACH's screenplay so memorably terms "the blessings of civilization." The "good folks" disappear into darkness, and Ethan is left outside in the bright scorching light.

message 10: by Tom (new)

Tom | 5315 comments STAGECOACH rules, one of the very few Westerns I actually own and happily watch. Just a bloody masterpiece.

message 11: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 155 comments I've read that when Orson Welles was preparing for "Citizen Kane," the movie he watched over and over to see how it was done was "Stagecoach."

message 12: by Phillip (last edited Jan 22, 2009 09:22AM) (new)

Phillip | 10503 comments tom,

thanks for your deconstruction of the searchers - it's clear you've seen it more than i have (once).

you wrote:

Ultimately, the civilization that the titular Searchers are trying to return Debbie to is so completely undermined that Ethan's desire to kill Debbie does ultimately seem like a mercy killing. That monstrous moment when Vera Miles' character (whose own plans for a spectacularly loveless spite marriage have fallen apart) says that Ethan has the right idea about killing Debbie gives us a good idea of exactly what Debbie can expect upon her return. A civilization based on murder and hypocrisy and racism and power grabbing and manipulation and sexual one-upmanship. It's hard for me to be very happy about anyone bringing that little girl back to the "civilization" the film sets up as the alternative to the ideologically loaded and sexually barbarous "savagery" of the Indians the film presents us with.


see, this is what i like about the movie - there are some aspects of hypocracy in the "settling" of the old west that i think ring true, and this film captures that. no, it doesn't make "sense". it never has. mercy killing indeed...

the only westerns i tend to like have this element - that's why i like red river (again, notwithstanding that ridiculous soundtrack). it shows that my ancestors were murdered off by a bunch of white men that felt they had the right to come and take any piece of land they wanted for their own use. that's about as close to ringing the truth that any of these films can offer.

do i look to westerns for positive images of my ancestors? no, that would be ridiculous. the studios clearly wanted to boister americana and celebrate "the pioneer spirit" - these are american propaganda films, imo. that's fine - every country has their own version of this kind of narrative. got to keep the civilians motivated to keep the capitalist machinery moving - go out and grab life by the balls, men! you know the drill....

so yeah, i hold the bar in a different position when i view westerns. i still like the searchers despite whatever flaws it might exhibit.

i might put dances with wolves on my list, but kevin costner...jeeze, how is it this guy is still working?

i also liked little big man....but again, indians are portrayed much the same way women are so often portrayed in film - a severe dichotomy: with women, it's the bitch/whore or the virgin mary. with indians it's brutal savage or wise elder. give me a friggin' break already....

message 13: by Tom (new)

Tom | 5315 comments My post was adapted from something I wrote a couple years back, after having seen SEARCHERS a couple of times, once on a big screen on a bill with STAGECOACH, and again on DVD. There's no doubt for me that STAGECOACH is much the superior film.

I certainly didn't mean for anyone to assume that I hold DANCES WITH WOLVES in anything like high regard: a dreadful bloated sentimental epic.

I get the idea about Westerns being by and large propaganda, celebrations of the "pioneer spirit" etc. What's so frustrating about THE SEARCHERS is that it is such a complete demolition of that "pioneer spirit" but it never seems to be in on it. I can never tell if the message I'm getting is the message I'm supposed to be getting: how happy does the film want me to be with Debbie's restoration to all of these ghastly people? Without some idea of what her life with the Comanche was like, it is impossible to tell.

message 14: by Phillip (last edited Jan 22, 2009 09:23AM) (new)

Phillip | 10503 comments i hear's clear they ASSUMED everyone would just be frozen stiff to think about the "horrors" of living with natives. that was enough to drive home the point. the navajos and the hopis are closest to monument valley. but the commanches put up the greatest resistance to the settlers. some historical maladies, but again, i'm not watching these films for a lesson in history. the hopis are some of the most peaceful, kind hearted, and deeply spiritual people i've ever met. and unlike several other tribes, they never converted to christianity (gee, i guess that does qualify them as heathens).

message 15: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 155 comments Phillip wrote: "mc cabe and mrs. miller is a nice film - it's funny i don't think of it as a western - altman was one to challenge any genre he participated in...."

I'm baffled by the resistance to genre I've finding in this group. There's no question that "McCabe" is a western simply by when and where it's set. It's theme is a western staple of justice in a lawless society.

That said you're absolutely right that Altman enjoyed turning genre conventions inside out, and that's certainly playing by the rules. Genre is a category, not a law enforcement tool. :)

If you really want to see Altman shred a genre, see what he does to the hardboiled detective film with "The Long Goodbye."

message 16: by Tom (new)

Tom | 5315 comments Some other SEARCHERS thoughts and questions:

What exactly is up with this Moze character? Is he part Indian? Is he mentally retarded? Or what? His repeated (and repeated and repeated and repeated) desire for a rocking chair by the fire might be seen as an implicit joke about where the desire for absolute domesticity can lead (straight to the loony bin). Why do these people put up with him? If they're all willing to kill off Debbie for being kidnapped and married to an Indian, why do they allow this creature to hang around and take up space?

Why does Ethan suddenly decide not to kill Debbie? What provokes this change of heart? What exactly happened when Ethan finds Debbie's sister Lucille? Ethan is very deliberately vague about what he found (After some dark hints, Ethan shouts at her fiance Brad: "Do you want me to spell it out?") and it is possible, I think, to imagine that he did to Lucille what he plans to do to Debbie. He is certainly upset when he returns from his little expedition (he claims later to have found her and buried her, but goes into no detail beyond saying that he wrapped her in his army coat).

What are these families doing on these homesteads in the middle of nowhere, aka Monument Valley masquerading as Texas? Are they farmers? Are they ranchers? We never see any crops. There is a mention of Ethan's cattle being boarded with the Jorgensen family's cattle, but the cattle are never seen, and no mention of any work is ever made and no work is ever done onscreen except for the domestic work the women are always doing.

message 17: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments I like your interpretation of Lucy's demise! I imagined that he found her scalped, raped, and mulitated corpse and it never occure to me that maybe she was alive...and Ethan killed her. Like he will kill Debbie. Of course, then why did Scar leaver Lucy behind? To taunt his pursuers? I suppose they raised cattle and the terrain seems unforgiving enough that crops are impossible. I think the film is couched in genre standards, which I'm sure lulled audiences of the time into comfortable expectations before revealing the beast that lurkes below the surface. Like PSYCHO.
And I'm a bit confused also about Moze: it seems a raher cruel humor, but maybe this pressure valve released tension (at the time) to lighten the heavy morality tale. In retrospect, it is likely more problematic now than it was in 1956. I'm not implying "political correctness"...please...I'm just saying it seems cruel to use humor at the expense of his mental disability. On the other hand, he could be a metaphor for the child-like nature that is lacking in Ethan; offsetting Ethan's cold callous bullheaded morality.

message 18: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 155 comments Moze is comic relief. He's the "town idiot" so to speak, and the way everyone indulges and protects him shows that they really are good and charitable people, at least toward their own.

message 19: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10503 comments yeah, yeah, mc cabe and mrs miller is set in the old west, but it doesn't have a lot of the conventions that westerns have. i'm not saying it's not a western, but to me it's much more a drama set in the old west. altman always seems more interested in his characters than the genre. and yeah, the long goodbye is a genre-bender.

speaking of genre (and altman), daniel - what genre would you place 3 women? just curious...

all this talk about the searchers. i'm going to have to give it another view. i rented stagecoach last night because it has also been a long time since i've watched that one...i'll probably scribble some lines in the next day or so on it.

message 20: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10503 comments alex...'s so great that you also enjoyed johnny guitar! i saw that one for the first time when i was a teenager at the 48 hour cowboy marathon at filmex in LA. we howled with that one...

message 21: by Tom (new)

Tom | 5315 comments Philip, STAGECOACH is one of the great pleasures of movie-viewing. Such pure movie-going delight, and surprisingly subversive, too!

message 22: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 155 comments "McCabe" is unquestionably a western, and not merely a drama set in the old west (whatever that might be). You seem to have a very narrow view of genre. Westerns are not just "cowboys and Indians." This is right in the middle of Western tradition, from the "whore with the heart of gold" (who seems more interested in the gold), to the naive guy from back east trying to fit in, to the fact that the law of the community is who can outdraw the other. It all goes through Altman's filter, but it's still within the broad category of the western.

This discussion reminds me of people who insist they don't like science fiction. When I point out movies they like that ARE science fiction, they insist they're really "dramas" and not science fiction at all. Genre doesn't have to be a limiting label.

As for "Three Women," it's been a long time since I've seen it (not since its original release) but I don't know that it's a genre film at all. Not all films are genre movies. For example the morally obtuse "The Reader" isn't a "prison" movie just because there's a prison in it, or a "coming of age" movie just because a fifteen year old boy gets laid.
It's just a really bad movie that seems to have fooled some people because the talented Kate Winslet is hot and takes her clothes off in it.

message 23: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments Like my review of Jarmusch's DEAD MAN which is a western...for viewers who generally don't like westerns.

message 24: by Phillip (last edited Jan 24, 2009 09:26AM) (new)

Phillip | 10503 comments daniel, i'm not sure my views on genre are narrow, but as i've said before, i just have no use for them. they don't help me appreciate film in any way.

alex - dead man is one of my favorite films.

tom - i rented stagecoach just to see it again - i started to watch it last night but it got late (3 am)...but i had forgotten how funny it was! i'm going to finish watching it today.

message 25: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 155 comments I really don't get this antipathy towards genre. I find it a useful tool. It's one of many the critic/film buff has, and I would no more discard it than a handyman would discard a jigsaw, even if it's not always the tool that is required.

For example, "The Godfather" can be appreciated as a '70s film, a Francis Ford Coppola film, a film in the career of several different cast members (notably Marlon Brando and Al Pacino), a film based on a novel, a film depicting an American ethnic group, a film about families (no joke intended), and as a gangster film, among other approaches.

All of these are valid and they are not mutually exclusive. From the genre viewpoint, "The Godfather" is important in revitalizing a genre that had already been invented twice and was now running out of steam (in the '30s with the Prohibition-era films and in the '50s with various heist films). Indeed, much of what has happened with gangster films since "The Godfather" can be traced back to it.

I can't help feeling you're seeing the concept of genre in someway that's limiting or counterproductive when nothing could be farther from the truth. Someone interested in film, as you obviously are, saying they have no use for genre would be like saying you have no interest in knowing who directed a film, because it doesn't tell you anything. I don't get it.

message 26: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments I see the genre as a template that helps direct a narrative and audience expectations...but is a framework that is pliable. The genre conventions can grow tiresome when repeated over and over and that's why I've strayed from Western films for much of my adult life. But there is life when one looks closely:) Also, I like to see great directors surprise us by twisting the genre, like Hitchcock in PSYCHO: what starts out as a thriller about stolen money ends up as a horror film! Or THE BIRDS; a romance that leads us to the way the world ends, not with a bang but a chirp. There are countless other examples but genre can be very limiting too, just an easy and simplistic way to catagorize a film that doesn't have a vision. I've mentioned it in my science fiction film group that it's the dreaded label that can sink intelligent films: when science fiction is reduced to genre crapola like STAR WARS and STAR TREK space operas, then gems like PRIMER or BRAZIL get buried.

message 27: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 155 comments My point is that you can't appreciate how a director is twisting or subverting genre conventions if you don't know what they are in the first place. In a given genre there's often the film that sets the pace, the one that is the apotheosis of the form, and the one that marks the end of the cycle.

For the first cycle of gangster films I'd start with "Little Caesar," "Public Enemy" and "Scarface," continue with "Angels with Dirty Faces" and "The Roaring Twenties" and end with "High Sierra." There are plenty of other examples but those are the films that are the high water marks. To let the films that are copies or failures define the terms would be a mistake.

message 28: by Tom (last edited Jan 24, 2009 02:14PM) (new)

Tom | 5315 comments I'm not seeing any antipathy towards genre round here. Quite the opposite. Some folks have mentioned that they don't necessarily agree about some films as belonging to certain genre, and some folks have said that they don't particularly like specific genres (as for me, I have little use for most Westerns).

I think most of us round here are pretty well-versed in the general conventions of most genres, and can appreciate the originals that set the rules (LITTLE CAESAR, PUBLIC ENEMY, SCARFACE in gangster terms) and the later ones that twist the rules (THE GODFATHER I and II, GOODFELLAS for example). It's when certain films are rather seemingly arbitrarily assigned as belonging to a genre (DR. STRANGELOVE as science fiction, for example, a classification I simply cannot agree with) that I think problems and disagreement have arisen.

Not that I have a problem with disagreement, by any means. Vive la disagreement!!

message 29: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 155 comments There's nothing arbitrary about considering "Dr. Strangelove" science fiction. It's ALSO a Kubrick film. It's ALSO satire. And the fact that, when the film came out it was set in the present or the very near future doesn't exempt it.

The defense systems out of human control, particularly the Doomsday Device, make this as much SF as "The Forbin Project." As I keep saying, genre is not a strait jacket, and noting that a film falls within a genre does not gainsay all its other worthy attributes.

Have you ever seen "Lonely Are the Brave" with Kirk Douglas? If so, do you deny that it's a western even though it's set when the movie came out, in 1962, and everyone except Kirk Douglas gets around via car, truck, or helicopter?

message 30: by Tom (last edited Jan 24, 2009 02:41PM) (new)

Tom | 5315 comments Great, Daniel. You see it as science fiction. I don't. There are some elements that might be considered as science fiction-ish, I guess, but that's about as far as I can go with that.

We disagree.

I haven't seen LONELY ARE THE BRAVE.

Is MODERN TIMES science fiction because it features an Orwellian telescreen by which a boss can keep tabs on his staff?

message 31: by Phillip (last edited Jan 24, 2009 02:51PM) (new)

Phillip | 10503 comments thank you, gentleman, for your posts.

i say get whatever you want out of tools or whatever you need to enjoy a film.

i just don't think about film in terms of genre. if someone says it's a comedy, of course, i know what to expect, and i'm fully aware that there is a history of film and that films are categorized for the sake of people who can't think for themselves and need critics to tell them how to appreciate a movie. i don't live in that world. i've been watching films since early childhood, have watched and loved thousands of movies and it's not like i believe movies exist outside or style or conventions...i just don't have much use for those conventions for the sake of holding up conventions. i don't need to read the ny times to figure out whether or not i am going to see a movie. i much prefer this kind of disucssion to reading A.O. Scott, Elvis Mitchell, Pauline Kael or any of those other folks. Yes, some of them have done some nice writing, but i really don't have much use for it at the end of the day.

i love too many films that are impossible to categorize - and that doesn't lessen their beauty or power; in fact, it increases it. i see the strength of a film like stalker in that somehow tarkovsky created a work of art that, yes, came from a book that can be categorized as sci-fi, and yet i don't have to be a sci-fi fan to be attracted to that film, nor does any history of that genre help or hinder me from appreciating the poetry or breadth of human experience that the director is able to present his viewers.

further, i find so many people out there shut themselves out of a whole genre of cinema because they've had some bad experiences with a film that exists in a certain idiom. i had to drag several friends to Let the Right One In becacuse they hate "vampire films", and they walked out raving about what a great film it is. of course i appreciate the film because it defied cliches. but what i really loved about it was the element of exploring what it is to be human - in the context of telling a story about the "living dead".

i'm going to resist talking about this subject in the future. i've said my piece numerous times and am tired of feeling like i have to explain what i think is a very simple idea: films exist - if you need to categorize them to appreciate what they have to say - go for it. if i don't need to think about genre in order to appreciate films, then leave me to my opinion and let's get back to talking about the elements of films that we appreciate.


message 32: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 155 comments You're entitled to your opinion. But it strikes me as a cry of, "Don't confuse me with the facts. I prefer to be ignorant and decide everything for myself."

I don't mean to be insulting, but you have so misconstrued what film criticism is about that I had to say something.

message 33: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10503 comments that's your opinion. i'm too busy enjoying film to worry about whether or not i'm getting "criticism" right. if you think that means i'm living in a fool's paradise, well - that's your opinion, and i can live with that peacefully. i'm not trying to live up to anyone else's standards here. to me, it's basic existentialism: determine your own moral code based on your experience. i'm just applying that to enjoying film, and i'm not sure i need your approval to do that.

i'm not trying to be insulting either, but you're telling me i don't know what time it is - based on your system of film appreciation. i don't need anyone's permission to think freely or enjoy movies.

can we move on now?

message 34: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 155 comments Since you seem to be willfully ignoring what I'm saying I think it's best that we do.

message 35: by Phillip (last edited Jan 24, 2009 03:42PM) (new)

Phillip | 10503 comments i'm not ignoring what you have to say - i just have a different opinion. this is a discussion group. it's for people to discuss film. i don't see it listed anywhere that we have to follow any particular brand of formalism to talk about movies. all i'm trying to do here is talk about movies i like - i don't tend to post much on films i don't like. usually i have a good time posting and reading here. i can't say i'm having a good time in this discussion. and it's not because you're holding me to standards i can't live up to.

message 36: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 469 comments what an interesting exchange of opinion!!!

I initially looked up this thread to hear about The Searchers.
I found the above exchange very interesting too.
Sort of reminds me of those discussions during the middle ages about how many angels could fit on the head of a pin.

message 37: by Phillip (last edited Jul 02, 2009 01:14PM) (new)

Phillip | 10503 comments i miss the "good ol' days" when there was some real discussions going on here. things have been pretty dead lately. i don't even mind bumping heads with least folks are saying something and expressing themselves.

message 38: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 469 comments I agree 100% Phillip.

message 39: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10503 comments Cheers, Manuel.
Did you end up checking out The Searchers?

message 40: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 469 comments Somehow I see it about once a year.

There is always something new to catch with each viewing.

The scene where John Wayne goes into the canyon by himself wearing his overcoat, then emerges a few hours later not wearing it, is still powerful.
He later admits he used the coat to cover up the older dead girl (Lucy) and then demands no one ever ask him what he saw.

message 41: by Tom (new)

Tom | 5315 comments Manuel, what do you think happened when Ethan found Lucy? As I wrote above, I've always found it ambiguous.

message 42: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 469 comments We know the Camanches have taken her dress and one of them is wearing it during one of their ceremonies. Lucy's fiance is happy because he thinks he got a glimpse of his beloved. That is the point where John Wayne's character says he buried Lucy in the canyon.

I like the way everything is vague. It lets our imaginations work overtime to fill in the blanks.
I always assumed Lucy was raped and killed (as was her mother in the cabin). Remember the look of terror on Lucy's face when her mother tells her NOT to light the lamps.
John Wayne demands NO ONE!!! ever ask him to tell what he saw in the canyon.

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