Wednesday, September 21, 2005

My Darling Clementine

Dir: John Ford (some of the best movies ever made)


When we get into discussions about the greatest director-actor tandems ever, I always seem to default to the standards: Scorsese and DeNiro, Kurosawa and Mifune, Coppola and Brando, etc. But Ford and Fonda deserve to be in that conversation. I guess it is because Ford has made so many phenomenal films with different great actors (Stewart, Wayne, Fonda). Clementine is Ford's retelling of Wyatt Earp (Fonda) and the shoot-out at the OK Corral. Many other films have attempted to tell this story to varying levels of success, but this is by far the most intimate (and best).

Of all the Ford films, this might be the best shot. Ford is a master of composition; he knows where to put the camera to create balanced frames rich with meaning. The lead-up to the shoot-out might be the best in cinema history. Obscure camera angles, no score, the sense of isolation and danger; it's pure genius.

Interestingly, Ford did not see the project to its completion. Apparently, Darryl Zanuck did not like Ford first cut and took over editing duties while ordering some reshoots. Ford walked off the project. The version that has been in circulation since then has been Zanuck's cut. However in 1995, UCLA film students noticed that the cut they were watching in a film criticism class was different than the standard cut. Turns out, this version that came from the UCLA archive vault was Ford's preview cut. This is the version available on the DVD. Unfortunately, some of the stock was damaged, therefore some of the splicing and continuity editing is noticeably rough. I got all this information from the DVD extra in which the UCLA film restorer walked us through the changes. He was very hesitant to call this a "director's cut" because it was not Ford's final version, plus he had to take some editing liberties to compensate for some lost frames. Might add a wrinkle to this director's cut discussion (or dialogue since it is just two of us conversing [veiled admonishment to all the non-participants]).

Loved it, must see. Ford is clearly a top five director of all time.


Blogger paroske noted on 9/23/2005 11:20:00 AM that...

Someone's been in a movie mood . . .

Haven't seen this one.

Wasn't Ford a major league a-hole? And does that effect his reputation even now?