Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Film Capsule: John Ford's She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)


She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)
Directed by John Ford

This vivid midcentury Technicolor western from the genre’s greatest practitioner paints an epic portrait of servitude and sacrifice with an emotional precision rare for productions of such magnitude. Starring John Wayne as an aging US Cavalry Captain tasked with escorting his commanding officer’s wife (Mildred Natwick) and niece (Joanne Dru) across enemy territory in the wake of the Battle of Little Big Horn, the film enacts personal drama on a historical scale, interweaving action, comedy, and romance with an air of nostalgia yet with an equally felt integrity. Ford’s images, rarely so consciously impressionistic, are equal parts Remington and Van Gogh, all florid tones and operatic shades. That the film is able to parlay its somewhat leaden voiceover narration into a deeply moving meditation on masculinity and professional pride speaks not only to Ford’s masterfully imagistic storytelling but also to the natural rapport of the actors—many of whom, including Wayne in a disarmingly emotional performance, were never better. (July 6, 7pm and July 7, 4:30pm at MoMA’s “Glorious Technicolor”; July 12, 4:30pm at the Museum of the Moving Image’s “Essential John Ford”) [The L]

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