You might be wondering where I’ve been of late. Well, after tackling Hitchcock, I moved on to a director who, as luck would have it, took almost the exact opposite approach with his craft. And, what’s even more surprising, it works – maybe even better, in some ways. That director was John Ford, and he deserves a lot more attention than he gets in our uncultured century.
The directors counting Ford as a heavy influence are not exactly light-weights. Everyone from Scorsese to Spielberg to Kurosawa to Bergman to Welles has sung his praises. But nobody talks about him online in the new millennium. Certain of his films get a smattering of attention – The Searchers (1956) especially – but nobody focuses on his style the way they do Hitchcock’s, or any of the directors mentioned above, for that matter. Clearly, an overview of some kind was in order.
That proved trickier than expected. Ford mostly eschewed the Kuleshov edits, montage sequences, and generally simple blocking techniques of Hitchcock. He preferred longer takes, and his compositions make beautiful use of depth. His characters are often arranged in complex, yet natural-looking geometries. It’s more art than technique. Consequently, I find it hard to properly convey the power of these films through words alone. To that end, I’ve created a video essay on the subject, which you can find here.
At some point, I’d like to revisit Ford’s films and unpacking some of his thematic concerns. For now, I hope the video essay will encourage you to seek out some of these incredible films. There’s so much out there that we’ve forgotten as our cinematic culture moves further and further into incomprehensible rapid-fire cutting. Take a breath. Marvel at these beautiful films, the wonderful stunt work, the masterful performances. Soak it up. It’s the good stuff.