Saturday, December 15, 2007

Ford at Fox: Just Pals (1920)

I have it! (thanks Spinster Aunt!) A handsome set of 24 films John Ford made at Fox, plus a newly produced documentary directed by Nick Redman. In addition, there is a beautiful coffee table book with a valuable introduction by Ford biographer Joseph McBride, and reproductions of the original press notes for The Iron Horse and Four Sons. As I gleefully wade through the set (which will likely take up the better part of '08), I hope to post a few notes about each film.

The earliest film in the set is Just Pals, a short and sweet slice of Americana. It's a charming, minor work centered around the figure of Bim (Buck Jones - a young Western star), a good-natured layabout in love with the local schoolmarm, and who becomes a father figure to a young runaway who tumbles out of a train. The figure of Bim is one who will pop up later in Ford's films, a principled outcast who feels more at home in the wild than in civilization. Just Pals touches the countours of this conflicted figure who would reach full expression in later works like My Darling Clementine. But on its own merits, the film stands just fine - with some gentle satire of small-town paranoia, a likeable turn by Buck, and plenty of knockabout humor. An auspicious start!

In other news, I saw There Will Be Blood, which is technically astonishing but emotionally inert. Ed Gonzalez's review at Slant reflects my reaction pretty accurately.

Also check out Dave Kehr's dissenting opinion on No Country For Old Men, by far the most overrated film of the year.

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Blogger P.L. Kerpius said...

You've got it! The jealousy I feel today is immeasurable. Maybe Santa will bring me the set and we can post dueling he said/she said reviews? Fingers crossed!

5:10 PM  
Blogger P.L. Kerpius said...

Sweeney--last night I finally saw No Country and couldn't agree more. Technically, it's phenomenal, but what an underwhelming story. I found it just plain nebulous on its supposed meditations on the aging western man. I still don't really know what it's about. What Kehr said about it being condescending is something I usually attribute to any other Coen film (Fargo, especially), and it's always my big criticism of them. I actually feel like they got away from that this time around, but again, this story seemed so unspecified I don't know what they were ultimately trying to get at. Completely gory too, which was unsettling because (and I guess Kehr's right on this note) you still don't feel much for the people being slaughtered, and it's just this horror we're supposed to witness without consequence.

I was terrified the whole time but without counterpoint. It was just scary Javier Bardem in his creepy, killer hair cut. Wtf?

1:15 PM  
Blogger Matt Singer said...

I don't understand this comment:

"I was terrified the whole time but without counterpoint."

What did you want from the film in terms of "counterpoint"?

2:06 PM  
Blogger P.L. Kerpius said...

I mean there was no ongoing sense of tension and resolution. It was just the frightening face of Bardem the whole time. It was always scary to see him, but that's it, just a terrifying image. It didn't move.

3:12 PM  

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