I watched half of The Searchers with Lee last night. That movie never fails to get me. The first twenty minutes are, by themselves, better than the duration of many lesser movies made since then.
Consider the lost love between Ethan and Martha. It's only mentioned very obliquely in the script ("Martha wouldn't let a man quit" followed by the uncomfortable silence) but masterfully illustrated by Ford's direction. We see Ethan pause with Martha when he first arrives, and the way she tenderly handles his coat. After the Reverend Samuel Clayton assembles his company of Rangers, he stares away, drinking his coffee, while Ethan and Martha exchange a tender moment.
Of course, this lost love (followed by the rape and murder of Martha by the Comanche) is what drives the remaining HOUR and FORTY MINUTES of the rest of the movie. It's cinematic brilliance.
And then the gorgeous photography of Monument Valley - it is the definitive landscape of the stereotypical "West". Perhaps that's what I find so compelling about the film: it perfectly articulates the stereotype of The Wild West, all others are pale imitators.


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