Saturday, September 22, 2007

And I Still Haven't Found, What I'm Looking 4

#96 The Searchers directed by John Ford

If you thought the PATRIOT Act was bad, wait until he illegally searches you.

Titles of movies and band names often blend together. "The Untouchables," "Men Without Hats," "Deuce Bigalow Male Gigolo," "Initech." Which is which?

John Wayne's epic Western The Searchers stirs the memory of 50s and 60s R&B groups. The name has the feel of the Coasters or Temptations or even the Proclaimers (although, they are a mid-90s Australian one-hit wonder....."(I Will Walk) 500 Miles"....I'm sure it was like on a car commercial or in the trailer of a Sandra Bullock movie, too). In fact, the band the Searchers were not a Motown Barry Gordy product, but instead a contemporary of the Beatles. Who knew?

Aside from whatever misguided notion I held regarding the movie, a part of my past came out half-way through the picture. More on that later.

Remember the Civil War? Well, Wayne's character does. After the surrender at Appomattox, he takes the South's defeat a little too personally and wonders around the country being a crazy, vigilante nomad that enjoys showing up all those dirty, carpetbagging Yankees. The movie opens with him returning home several years after the war has ended. His family (brother, sister-in-law and their kids) is happy to greet him, but do notice he is a little crazy.

All of that is explained in like five seconds and then everyone is brutally murdered by Indians. EXCEPTIONS - Wayne (as unbalanced, vigilante Confederate), the family's adopted half-Indian son and a little girl who was kidnapped by the "Injuns." Shortly into the movie, you realize what they are searching for, the little girl.

Then all of a sudden you realize that the characters you spent a little time getting to know and thought were going to be the focus are dead. So, the film introduces a whole new slew of Texans to further confuse you.

After extension research and lab results, you finally sorta figure out what's going on. Wayne and Indian boy look for girl. Simple enough. But a subplot exists between Indian boy and girl who was the sister of a boy that was seeing Indian boy's adoptive sister. This loosely connected character who suddenly becomes integral to the plot is played by Natalie Wood. So good for her.

All of that seems convoluted (and is), but it takes up little screen time. Mostly, you see Wayne and halfie traverse these ridiculously well-filmed scenes following or "searching" for the Red man. Every so often it cuts back to Wood hanging out, longing for her little Indian boy.

What brings the movie back to my life is a little scene half-way through the movie. A few years back my (extended) family and I were vacationing down the Jersey Shore, as we are prone to do. While watching TV one night, we had quite the giggle-fest, which featured my father comparing a facially-distorted woman to claymation, a weird boarding house joke and us a laughing at this stupid, hick dude playing guitar and screaming "She did?!?"

That little scene was taken from The Searchers. Half-Indian boy gets conned into taking an Indian wife. He writes a letter to Wood and she reads it aloud to a group of onlookers. When she mentions her lover's elicit affair, hick dude screams out his line that kept my family in stitches. I find it amusing how one scene taken out of context can be so entertaining to a group of people in the right state of mind.

As for the movie itself, the director John Ford (The Grapes of Wrath, The Quite Man) poses some interesting philosophical questions. Initially, the search for the little girl is tiresome and unfulfilling. The two long to find their objective, but like Ahab and Moby Dick, their inevitably quest becomes more important than what they are trying to find.

When they finally do corral the girl (years later) she refuses to go with them. All the searching was for nothing. In the search that is life, the end product is almost never what you were looking for in the first place. However, Ford doesn't let this temporary obstacle faze him and they do eventually (again years later) convince her to desert the Indian life for a more refined one.

Would this movie be better, more poetic, more artsy if they never were reunited with their lost family member? I felt that way until I thought about the last scene of the movie some more. The girl, the Indian boy and Wood (now his future wife) walk into the house, complacent and at peace. Wayne watches them go, then turns around, gets back on his horse and literally rides off into the sunset.

For some men, the search takes the life from you.

Honestly, it is tough to find time to read non-required books at school, but I hope Dracula will be done sooner than later (mid-October?) The next movie will be the first one I already have seen Pulp Fiction (#95).


The Lady Doth Protest said...

I love the Scavuzzo family. I dont think I'll ever watch this movie. Also, damn me for graduating. Can i go under a pseudonym(sp?) and pretend to be a freshmen so I can write smut for the Collegian about Britney. My name can be Melanie Mongadee. No one will ever know.

Meg said...

Sam, I agree with Melissa...I don't think I'll ever watch this movie. The one genre of film I have always had trouble stomaching is the western.