Ford’s Westerns lassoed togetherThe American filmmaker John Ford used to say, “Don’t pay any attention to me, I just make Westerns.” This landmark director, who made more than 140 films, was responding sarcastically to those who pigeonholed him as a not-so-serious filmmaker.
But people who dismissed Ford’s work turn out to have been on the wrong side of film history. With a group of actors dubbed the John Ford Stock Company, including John Wayne and Henry Fonda, Ford won six Oscars throughout his career, and is now widely considered a major filmmaker. Seoul Art Cinema has selected 14 Ford films for a retrospective that starts today and runs through August 15.
A native of Ireland, Ford followed his aspiring actor brother west to Hollywood. When the then-young film journalist Jean-Luc Godard asked him what brought him to Hollywood, he answered, “A train.”
An organizer of the Seoul Art Cinema retrospective calls Ford a truly gifted filmmaker who dealt with complex, profound subjects through classic film structures.
One example is “My Darling Clementine” (1946), the mention of which automatically brings to mind the classic duel scene at the O.K. Corral. The film, starring Fonda, touches on themes like the nature of a community, the rule of law and women’s influence on the rough and untamed American West, the retrospective organizers say.
Another film on the table is “Stagecoach” (1939), whose Apache attack scene made it one of the most popular Ford Westerns. Ford depicts a group of outcasts ― a prostitute, an alcoholic doctor, a murder suspect ― trying to escape New Mexico by stagecoach in what turns out to be a long and winding journey.
“The Informer” (1935), on the other hand, is spiced with expressionist cinematography; with its hero-versus-traitor motif, it’s not a typical Ford premise. Ford also tried his hand at Eugene O’Neill’s “The Long Voyage Home” (1940), a gloomy tale of sailors who always dream about escaping reality only to fail. More of Ford’s exceptional style is presented in “The Grapes of Wrath” (1940), based on the novel by John Steinbeck, in which Henry Fonda stars as a convict workingman slowly realizing the absurdities of society en route to California, the land of dreams.
Other films on offer are “How Green Was My Valley” (1941), which won the best picture Oscar over “Citizen Kane” (generally considered a bad decision), as well as “Fort Apache” (1948) and “The Quiet Man” (1952), the latter a romance set in Ireland that was a favorite of Ford’s. “Wagon Master” (1950) and “The Sun Shines Bright” (1951) also merit cinephiles’ attention.
by Chun Su-jin
Tickets are 6,000 won ($5) per screening. Seoul Art Cinema is best reached from Anguk station on subway line No. 3, exit 1. For more information, call Seoul Art Cinema at (02) 720-9782 or visit www.cinematheque.seoul.kr.