|The American Shakespeare
||[May. 25th, 2007|11:28 am]
I can buy the complete works of Ingmar Bergman on DVD- including some real stinkers- and I can buy the complete works of Akira Kurosawa on DVD- including some things that'll put you to sleep- but if I want to own the complete works of John Ford on DVD I can go whistle. |
John Ford is the greatest American moviemaker. Only Welles competes for that title and Welles is an honorary European. So how come the only films of his that are available on DVD are those that can be marketed as belonging to the oeuvre of John Wayne or the oeuvre of Jimmy Stewart and suchlike? Why can't I buy copies of Wagonmaster or The Sun Shines Bright? Why isn't there a John Ford Collection?
I watched Fort Apache last night. Fort Apache is a great movie. It's as multi-layered as a Shakespeare play. It's this deep, deep meditation on the conquest of the West and the nature of the military and what it means to be an American. As early as 1948 (long before westerns started to be "revisionist") it was dealing with issues of genocide, class and gender and the shittiness of men like Custer and what it means to be "civilised". And of course- to top it all- it's exciting and funny and beautiful to look at.
Aaaah- Monument Valley!
Fort Apache is easily as good a movie as The Seven Samurai (which it inspired). I'd be inclined to say it was better. But you wouldn't know it from the way it gets packaged and sold.
2007-05-25 01:01 pm (UTC)
Have you read Angela Carter's 't'is a pity she's a whore', a retelling of the play in the style of a John Ford Western?
I haven't. It sounds like fun.
2007-05-26 03:16 pm (UTC)
It's where we visited earlier this year - wonderful place. We woke at dawn to see the sun come up behind the amazing stones. Then had a tour around by the Navajo whose land it is;it was really interesting history and culture-wise and breathtaking scenery-wise.
2007-05-26 03:29 pm (UTC)
Re: monument valley
But I sort of feel like I've been there- thanks to John Ford.
I know that the complete works of Bergman and Kurosawa aren't on DVD in the US, so folks in the UK are pretty lucky.
But over here they did release "The John Ford Collection," which includes The Informer, Mary of Scotland, The Lost Patrol, Cheyenne Autumn, and Sergeant Rutledge. Mary and Autumn are both in the lower tier of Ford's work, so owning a complete collection would mean owning a few semi-stinkers too. (Though I love the Wyatt Earp scenes in the otherwise lifelessly noble Cheyenne.) I too am tired of the nostalgia-based marketing of Ford movies, but unfortunately the public has been slow to warm to auteurism, and even slower in its grasp of film history, though the DVD revolution will help change that.
Ford worked on the Hollywood production line and the output is certainly uneven, but with an artist as important as he is even the shavings on the studio floor are worth something. I have a soft spot for Cheyenne Autumn. It may be a bit turgid- I gather he was very old and tired and sick when he made it- but it looks absolutely wonderful.