Sunday, February 06, 2005

6 February 2005

The Sun, Where It Sets
There's a very fine post on John Ford at Lance Mannion's blog. I was raised in the West, but it was the Pacific Northwest, not the iconic Monument Valley landscape. Neither that geography nor that son of Iowa John Wayne, who was supposed to personify it - icons my school friends from New York revered - had much resonance. That movie West was as foreign to me, and as idealized, as it was to them, but they thought it was genuine and mythic and I thought it was just too dry. The Lord of the Rings is a hell of a lot closer to what I saw, and to my temperament - I grew up in Wagnerian forests, and New Zealand mimics great tracts of Oregon.
Portland may not know it, but they also live in a transplanted piece of New England; a mere year in Cambridge taught me that. It's entirely appropriate that the town in McCabe & Mrs. Miller - my favorite Western, and to me the truest to my own experience - is named Presbyterian Church. My brother pointed out to me not long ago that Oregon place names bow to that missionary past - Portland, Salem, Medford - while Washington tended to keep, and thereby honor, native names - Seattle, Tacoma.
I don't miss the Western genre that much - god, they used to crank them out indiscriminately! - but it's kind of sad that they lost their hold on our imaginations just as they were really growing out of their triumphal romance period, and loosening up. I still find The Searchers compelling, if we're talking about John Ford, and the Peckinpahs explode all of the old pieties. And James Wolcott is right about giving Anthony Mann his due, too. And there's that singular Altman, in which community really means something. Against the grain, however, in this moment of White Hats/Black Hats. We've got a Real Cowboy to lead us, boy howdy!

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