The second installment of John Ford’s famous cavalry trilogy (which also includes Fort Apache and Rio Grande), this meditative Western continues the director’s fascination with history’s obliteration of the past.
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Cinematography by Winton C. Hoch, technicolor color director by Natalie Kalmus. The sound of this film continues to annoy me a little, with the ubiquity of songs and a voice-off overblown in its ideological function. But the incredible beauty of its pictorial composition exceeds and resizes my objections, putting it at the level of one of the most extraordinary cinematic objects of the 40s.
For all the beautiful painterly effects (the color scheme to which Pedro Costa so famously reacted to while stoned) what registers to an equal if not greater degree is the sense of gesture; Wayne suddenly pulling out a pair of reading glasses, the repeatedly interrupted embrace of the two lovers, the pats on the back. Ford's characters aren't just dots on the landscape, but what seemingly justifies its existence.
The world of this film is bleak, surrounded by death, a funeral atmosphere, and the enemy is not a concrete form but rather the land itself. However, the people of SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON exist within these bearings. Memories of long gone loved ones still persist, and old age must still give way to youth. People live on, and blood, rather than making the land theirs, make them part of the land instead.
The Duke gives one of his better character performances as the soon-to-be retired Captain Nathan Brittles in Ford's sentimental western, the centrepiece of his Cavalry Trilogy and the only one in colour. Before he retires he has one last patrol to negotiate. The decision to film in colour proved to be a sound one as Monument Valley looks breathtaking and the cinematographer went on to win the Oscar in his category...
One of the finest Ford's I've seen, few films have displayed such an awareness of time, this land will always be the same but everything will change to give way to the new generation. Quite heartbreaking stuff, actually. 5/5