Monday, 26 June 2017

The Searchers (1956)

I first heard about The Searchers (1956) through The American Film Institute's Top 10 list of Westerns, with The Searchers occupying the top spot of the list of great (if not greatest) american westerns. Other top spots picks of other genres include 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) for the science fiction genre; and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) for the animation genre. It was my search for what the film people, namely critics/artists, yet not necessarily the general public reviewers or some readers of reviews. But the list of reviews stretch, and sometimes I feel a little annoyed at what I am reading because of what the writer has seen. As the great film critic, Roger Ebert, said, "Most of us do not look consciously at movies." A sentence can mean an infinity, just as a moment in film can as well. Once we have seen a film, we do not forget it easily. It stays with us and at moments in our lives we may consciously or unconsciously recall it. Quotations, acting, dreaming, themes, moralistic values, etcetera-etcetera.

One can guess simply the reasons for not liking such a film. The Searchers, people who dislike it can have a variety of reasons. No exceptions. Not even The Godfather (1972). A simple reason for someone who says that he/she feels alright, but not THAT alright, about The Godfather, is because it is dark, not very moralistic, and more towards entertainment value. Murders, betrayal, assassinations, gangland violence, mob families, all these crime related stuff may not appeal to every audience. Then again, neither do documentaries or even faintly humane films. The Searchers, is a Western. Then again, it is also a faintly humane film. It is also racist, that is what I noticed about the film's titular character: Ethan Edwards. That'll be the reason why some would not like it. Another, and stating rather briefly here, is because it doesn't add up, it connects loosely, and does not line up with reality. A statement such as this, would be coming from either a sadist or a cynic. Humph!

A Western, about an american civil war veteran named Ethan Edwards, returning to his brother's home in 1868, three years after the end of the american civil war. There, when the neighbors's cattle was stolen, the men from the families, with Ethan, set out from their homes to search for their prized cattle. Only to find that it was a Comache plot to draw the men away from their families. Returning to his brother's home to find his brother, Aaron, and Aaron's wife, Martha, dead; and their two daughters, Lucy and Debbie, taken captive; Ethan sets out on a long journey to search for them, accompanied in those years of searching by his adopted nephew Martin Pawley who has lived with his brother's family after Ethan rescued him from the Comaches that massacred his family. In those years, nothing would stop Ethan from looking for his niece. The famous line by Ethan Edwards, "That'll be the day," is said three times in the film. Supposedly, one can already guess where one of those times would be.

What is important, is that there are moments of individual beauty in the film's photographs. Examples of such included the rock formations in the western landscape set as the backdrop of the film's long and enduring 'search', the moments at the lake in winter when the lake freezes and the two 'searchers' speak to each other as the snow falls down upon them, in addition to the symbolically similar opening and closing scenes with the door opening and shutting respectively accompanied with certain music 'tones'. Not quite something seen in film easy, but bias is another aspect because we the audiences are the ones who decides which good story is good, which good story is back, and symbolically similar for the other side as well. However, beauty would be from a different perspective, as 'beauty' is defined differently by different people. Would a gorgeous lady be 'beauty'? Or a relevant, no holes-barred story? Or a well organised scene? That would be up to the audiences to decide. But what is here in this film, can be decided and declined just like any other. Sometimes we praise a no holes barred story, sometimes we purposefully hate it.

Neither like the highly brave High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952), nor similar to the noble Shane (George Stevens, 1953), The Searchers stands tall with beauty. It has it all: Beauty, Story, Music, Humor; and best of all: Humanity. If one can purposefully hate a story, that is just not the way it is. But nevertheless, what is the point of the good criticizing the bad and vice versa? Bottom line: "It is useless to criticize each other." As I once, now shying away from a little academic formality, remarked to a friend. To share an experience would be to step away from formality, I suppose.

It really doesn't matter, Citizen Kane, just overrated. But I never said I never liked that picture, didn't I? Anyway, enough informal moments. I don't look into pictures that way, not like how most others do. I never say: "Interesting, no interest in seeing it again." But rather, "Thank you for your time." Can YOU? Can YOU prove you are a true movie lover? Try telling that to someone who thinks that the story is just nonsensical and doesn't add up. Which one of those stories is this picture here, I can tell what they think by myself just watching it.

The Most Beautiful Story of the West Ever Filmed!
The Greatest Story of the West Ever Filmed! [Tagline: Shane (1953)]
The Story of a Man Who Was Too Proud to Run! [Tagline: High Noon (1952)]

Far and away one of the best films ever.