Monday, December 7, 2009

Searching for "The Searchers"

We haven't met for awhile (vacations and family issues), and returned to our get-together with the decision to step away from Pre-code for awhile.  One member of our group had never seen The Searchers. So, we ventured into Monument Valley, to the land of Ford and Wayne.

It is pointless to say this is a brilliant movie.  My friend was struck immediately by the beauty of the scenery.  The cinematography here is unparalleled.  The vistas breathtaking.  The differences between the beauty of the country, and the almost dingy homes of the settlers is, at times, unnerving: low doors compared to endless skies.   

We had to note this is NOT a holiday movie - with Christmas almost here, it was a leap of faith for my friend to watch this.  It is a relentless film. At times, the pain is overwhelming.  After the film, we looked again at the scene where Ethan bids Martha goodbye, with Ward Bond carefully not watching their interchange. With minimal dialogue, this chaste kiss on the forehead becomes palpably heartbreaking. We know that these two have a past; we know too, they have no future.  Here is that scene:



Finally, there is John Wayne. His Ethan Edwards is a revelation. Every one of his critics should be forced to watch this brilliant performance. Certainly, it is his best performance (and that is saying a lot, when you consider his work in Red River, Stagecoach, The Quiet Man, and the cavalry trilogy), and I think his most unusual.  One doesn't think of John Wayne being so callous. The character's bigotry is hard to watch, but put in the context of the rest of the movie, he is, in many respects, no different than the other settlers.  Listen to Laurie Jorgenson's (Vera Miles) attitude to Debbie's possible return.  Even Marty is tainted - his treatment of Look is unforgivable, in fact it makes your skin crawl.  The only character who is, I think, truly good here is Olive Carey's Mrs. Jorgenson, who continues to love Debbie, no matter where her life has turned. 

Next week, we'll be heading to a more festive film.  Hope to see you then.