The Searchers Screen 7 articles

The Searchers


The Searchers Poster
  • The old master [Ford] attunes the aesthetic properties of his images to this uncomplicated but diffuse chronicle of dedication and persistence. His images, their design, portent and kinetic variation, are the stuff of his art. John Wayne is limned against the lines of mighty tors, a leathery indomitable driving giant, his implacable personality itself an expression of the search.

  • In truly great films -- the ones that people need to make, the ones that start speaking through them, the ones that keep moving into territory that is more and more unfathomable and uncomfortable -- nothing's ever simple or neatly resolved. You're left with a mystery. In this case, the mystery of a man who spends 10 years of his life searching for someone, realizes his goal, brings her back and then walks away. Only an artist as great as John Ford would dare to end a film on such a note.

  • Ford establishes a tension between a man-made desire for order and symmetry and the natural inclination towards borderless chaos, which is embodied by the landscape and thus cycled back into the characters. It is this cyclical inevitability that leads the movie logically to its coarse characterizations, Ford treating no man as free of abysmal disorder and rage, yet clinging always to some shared sense of communitarianism.

  • The Searcher's elliptical, lurching narrative, slipping from real time to years-later with nary a word, some parts too long, many, including its denouement, startlingly brief, suggested to me a story, a narrative, that is psychically and psychotically damaged, much in the same way as Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me—also an expressionist film about a psychic break after horrendous crimes against women—necessarily stumbles through to its finale, shocked and rendered inchoate after so much horror.

  • Taking Hoveyda’s ideas, and sensing how they resonate with some other practical metaphysics that I’ve been reading lately (for instance, David Mowaljarlai and Bernard Cache), (4) I want to assay the extraordinary power in the opening minutes of Ford’s masterpiece, to understand the odd spell it casts through me every time I become part of it...

  • The greatest western ever made is also arguably the greatest American movie ever made. Before filming began, director John Ford described THE SEARCHERS as "a kind of psychological epic" and indeed his complex take on the settling of the West, with its head-on--and daringly ahead-of-the-time--examination of racism, finds an appropriately complex and tragic anti-hero in the character of the mysterious Ethan Edwards (John Wayne in his best and most nuanced performance).

  • What will happen to Debbie? What will happen to Martin? I always ponder this when watching the ending of John Ford’s masterpiece, The Searchers. Most certainly I’ve long soaked in, reflected on and studied the famous final shot of John Wayne’s Ethan Edwards, standing outside that beautifully-framed doorway... he’ll roam lonely and damaged, never fitting in civilized society, never fitting in anywhere.

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