Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Ugh. I feel like I've swallowed a were-mosquito hawk baby.

I don't feel like I talked enough about Katharine Hepburn yesterday. I loved her clothes in Christopher Strong. I loved her big, loungey coats with tight pants on her stick figure legs. I loved her aviator's cap and coat. I loved her moth costume. I wish it were still possible for someone to hire her to be in a really cool action sequence where she beats the crap out of someone. And it's real bloody.

I loved her cut-the-pretence voice. She seemed like someone who'd eat fire and then kindly spit into the Devil's eye.

I could go on . . . but I sense I shouldn't.

Last night I dreamt I went with my family to see a strange combo concert--first we were supposed to arrange ourselves in a mall food court and watch Fleetwood Mac sans Stevie Nix--with Nicole Kidman filling in. Then, after two songs, everyone had to file over to a black amphitheatre to watch Elvis Costello perform one song. Then Costello left the stage and Marilyn Manson appeared and didn't do anything. Then it was back to the food court for more Fleetwood Kidman . . .

I stayed up far later than I intended to last night. I stayed up until 7 am, and I meant to get up at 10:30am, which, thankfully, I decided not to do. I worked on something until 3am and then decided I had to watch a movie.

I decided to watch The Searchers. This is another movie I'd been looking forward to for some time, mostly because I'd heard it'd been a big influence on Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver.

The Searchers is the first John Ford movie I've seen. And that guy was quite good. You can definitely see the influence he had on Spielberg. His sense for cuts and juxtaposition of close-ups was keen--striking but never artificial-feeling. I particularly liked the use of black silhouettes against the hot, desolate valley.

The movie starred John Wayne as Ethan, a former Confederate soldier who is doggedly, psychotically dedicated to pursuing a Comanche tribe that killed his family and kidnapped his neice, Debbie, played by Natalie Wood.

After watching this movie, I was reminded of how much I love moral ambiguity. It really wasn't so much like watching hero-John Wayne pursuing villainous Indians. It was more like two vicious creatures going at each other's throat. The movie was made in the mid-50s, and it's pretty well known how people felt about the relationship between Cowboys and Indians. But the interesting thing is that the film doesn't seem particularly racist about the Native Americans. This is important because it highlights the fact that Wayne's character has a kind of bloodthirsty intolerance for the Comanche.

This is not to say that the Comanche chief, Scar, wasn't a bad dude. If he had done to my niece what he did to one of Ethan's niece Lucy, I doubt I'd be any more concerned with showing him mercy. But Ethan's clearly a little off the deep end.

In playing with essentially this same concept, Taxi Driver does a little better. Or it does a little worse, depending on how you look at it. But maybe The Searchers is a little more insidious, because John Wayne inspires a kind of faith and respect. It's definitely a movie that makes you afraid of what lurks in the human heart and all that.

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