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Archive for November 4th, 2013

936full-wagon-master-poster

By Peter Lenihan

A precredit prelude and overlapping images—so that it seems to be behind the wanted poster that Shiloh Clegg guns down a bank teller during a hold-up. It’s a strange opening to a strange movie—the Cleggs, while integral to the film’s narrative structure and Ford’s overarching vision, are hardly the central focus, and to foreground these characters so early on is a bit of a bluff. There’s also the wanted poster itself, which would have looked generic in 1920, let alone 1950 (or 2012). The fact that it’s such a familiar genre component is, in a way, the point—the familiarity of it eases one into a movie whose form and structure is fairly radical and free, and that “it’s just a Ward Bond oater,” while hardly true, is as good an entrance point as any.

There’s something else to this opening shot worth mentioning. Overlapping two images necessarily deepens what we’re looking at—even if one distorts the other, it still does, on the simplest level, give us more to see. Ford always was a director of motion, and handed a film concerned with the actual movement of different outsiders, he tries to fill every composition with people running and talking and playing and moving from one side of the frame to the other. There’s a tremendous sense of detail here—while I don’t think it’s incorrect to characterize the director’s films as mythic, it can be misleading insofar as it neglects the degree to which his best works seem lived-in.

Take, for example, the scene in which Ward Bond breaks up a fight between Harry Carey Jr. and one of the most hot-headed Mormons in the group. As a sequence, it’s not particular or unfamiliar to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of westerns or John Ford movies—the two boys are sweet on the same lady, have a non-argument and start punching each other. Ward Bond breaks it up and Ma Joad starts blowing her horn. The greatness of the scene isn’t dependent on the participants’ acting or a sense of directorial technique as we tend to technically think of it. What Ford does do is widen the frame so that the action in some sense moves beyond itself—we can watch the fight, or the dance of light and dust that it causes, but we can just as easily watch the world unfolding behind this, of men and women and children and horses watching, moving, talking—each with their own inner life. (more…)

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Lesbian lovers Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux in pulverizing drama “Blue is the Warmest Color”

by Sam Juliano

We are now officially at that annual juncture between Halloween and Thanksgiving when the weather begins to announce that winter is well on its way, even while sporting some glorious autumn resplendence in yellow, red and brown shadings.   Football fans are in the height of their fervor, while movie lovers are looking forward to a strong finish for 2013.  With Election Day set for Tuesday, the N.J. Teacher’s convention for Thursday and Friday and Veteran’s Day for next Monday, Garden State educators will get to enjoy one of their best seven-day periods of the year.    The action here at WitD is hot and heavy with the western countdown now reaching the half way point.  The five weeks that remain in the venture will be featuring some of the silver screen’s all-time classics, and some splendid writing is anticipated.

The site congratulates the young and gifted Mike Norton for his first review at the site, and for the wildly enthusiastic comment section that followed his fabulous essay on the dockland classic On the Waterfront.  As always the site is indebted to the incomparable Dee Dee for her deft navigation of the sidebar and the comprehensive coverage of the western countdown that includes posters, lobby cards and one sheeters at her ning site.

While Lucille and I spent some of the past week at home, we did venture out on Monday to see the Cannes Palme d’Or winner, and on Saturday to watch a well-reviewed new opening.  I ventured out alone on Wednesday night to take in the encore presentation of the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Shostakovich’s THE NOSE, an opera I had seen at the opera house once before during the first run back in 2010.  We were delighted to have the entire family on hand to watch young Sammy play the tuba for Cliffside Park High School  in the Marching Band Festival at Weehawken Stadium on a brisk Sunday afternoon. (more…)

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