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.