Archive for October 17th, 2013

by Sam Juliano

A mountain man’s a lonely man 
And he leaves a life behind 
It ought to have been different, but oftimes you will find, 
That the story doesn’t always go that way you had in mind. 
Jeremiah’s story was that kind. . . 
Jeremiah’s story was that kind. 

An extraordinarily diverse and eclectic New York cultural maven opined in 1932 that “the strong silent man is the heir of the American pioneer, the brother of Daniel Boone whom James Fenimore Cooper immortalized as the American type for Europe.  In what was truly to be a redefinition of this quiet but resilient recluse, the mountain man Jeremiah Johnson is given some directions – “Ride due west as the sun sets and turn left at the Rocky Mountains and then proceeds to embark upon a lifetime journey that takes him to a place of beauty and terror, a land ruled by a savage ethic and populated in large measure by those no longer invested in the land of the living.  Jeremiah is the title character and central focus of Sydney Pollack’s Jeremiah Johnson, a 1972 western starring Robert Redford at the peak of his appeal, a film that’s narratively straightforward but is underscored by a mythic ethos and a pulsating spirituality.

Jeremiah Johnson is one of the most compelling documents on film that purports to examine the ferocious, yet entrancingly beautiful outer reaches of American civilization –  a wilderness where peril and uncertainty lurk at every turn.  As captured by cinematographer Duke Callaghan the mountains evince a visual duality – bathed in golden sunshine, yet at other times capped by milky white snow that serves as a kind of ominous portal that beckons less precautionary adventures to their demise.  The specter of the mountains also serves as a challenge for even the most rugged of men, reminding them that there is no way to defeat them.  One must co-exist and rely on favorable timing and sheer good luck.  The film is one of three westerns that makes powerful use of it’s snowy terrain (the others are Sergio Corbucci’s The Great Silence and Andre de Toth’s Day of the Outlaw)   Yet, Jeremiah Johnson is the only one of the three where the raw and unforgiving terrain serves as the backdrop for what ultimately plays out as a meditative solo odyssey focused on a search for the meaning of life, one played out as a kind of re-creation of how the mountain man lives within the thematic parameters of man vs. nature a la Jack London.   Conservationist actor Redford had relocated to Utah in the late 60’s and he purchased a ski resort in Provo Canyon.  Located within a stone’s throw of a national forest and the Rockies, the region showcased natural beauty that at the end of the day was a godsend for Pollack and Callaghan, who set up camp with the cast and crew for the coming winter shooting schedule. (more…)

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by Jaime Grijalba.

Hiya fellas! I’m so so deeply sorry to all of you because I’ve failed you in so many forms that I can’t even count them. First of all, I’m sorry because I wasn’t able of having a review ready for this small series last week, I promised you a new obscure western every thursday, and I wasn’t able of watching and reviewing said western last week. Also, last week was also the announcement of the Nobel Prize Winner for Literature, which was awarded to canadian short story writer Alice Munro, someone I wasn’t familiar with, but whose reputation I had actually heard about. I used to do some investigative reports on the writers who won the prize, and actually managed to do a bunch of posts on a lot of books written by Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, but was stopped many times because I lost the books or took a long time to finish them. But this time I’m keen on doing something about Alice Munro, but I started badly, take this as an apology and also an announcement that maybe some day I’ll restart the Nobel series with the chronological review of the works of the winners (either be Llosa, Tranströmer, Yan or Munro, two of these unavailable due to untranslated first works). But in the meantime I have these westerns to review, this one this week is an italian spaghetti western from the late 60’s on the heydey of the genre, when Sergio Leone was making his best work and everyone was just crazy for this stuff. As you might remember, or not, from last time, I have a ranking system for this films, which you can revise after the jump, as well as start reading the review of this particular and relatively unknown western. (more…)

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