A surprise treat for a Saturday afternoon: a Western I'd never heard of at the Metrograph introduced by a Sony Pictures Classic exec. It's a wonderful film by Tourneur—almost a masterpiece—rich with characters and political complexity as it looks at communities springing up in the West. Smarter, in a lot of ways, than Ford—or at least its optimism about the people who might conquer the land is more guarded.
Beautifully shot, tightly directed. One of those classic films that run smoothly like a little, perfectly built and constructed, well-oiled machine. The cabin building sequence must have been the model for Weir's Witness, some 35 years later. (Ideology? The Indians? They should have been content with that basket full of apples...)
Not as together or as poetic as Stars in my Crown, but the affectionate feeling for a functional, united community is already here, so is the attention to individual detail and character psychology (mostly male). The screenplay seems at times arbitrary, like an excuse to show breathtaking landscape and memorable scenes. Also, this is the most tasteful use of technicolor ever. An impressive, peculiar film.
Ah, the glorious technicolor of Natalie Kalmus!, its pictorial extravaganza that resizes any frame, any scene. The sky that threatens us, the vegetation that cuts us out, the river that rises, the look of the actors that it's expanded in its immanence. Although Tourneur is a magnificent filmmaker - see the sequences of the Indians attacks - the cinematography of this film is its most consummate effect.
An elegant use of color, from naturalistic shots of the hero (only occasionally giving away their subjectivity) to the self-erected underground of a vile gambler and, later, the red tints used to heighten "red" skins. The Other is always a little more Other-some in Tourneur's films, though that also makes their disruptions of white myopia so much more effective and resonant.