THE SEARCHERS (John Ford, 1956)
323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St.
Saturday, December 15, 2:30, and Monday, December 17, 7:00
Series runs December 14-20
That’ll be the day when someone tries to claim there’s a better Western than John Ford’s ethnocentric look at the dying of the Old West and the birth of the modern era. Essentially about a gunfighter’s attempt to find and kill his young niece, who has been kidnapped and, ostensibly, ruined by Indians, The Searchers is laden with iconic imagery, inside messages, and not-so-subtle metaphors. Hence, it is no accident that John Wayne’s son, Patrick, plays an ambitious yet inept officer named Greenhill. The elder Wayne stars as Ethan Edwards, a tough-as-nails Confederate veteran seeking revenge for the murder of his brother’s family; he’s also out to save Debbie (Natalie Wood) from the Comanches, led by a chief known as Scar (Henry Brandon), by ending her life, because in his world view, it’s better to be dead than red. Joining him on his trek is Debbie’s adopted brother, Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter), who wants to save her from Edwards. The magnificent film balances its serious center with a large dose of humor, particularly in the relationships between Ethan and Martin and Ethan with his Indian companion, Look (Beulah Archuletta). And keep your eye on that blanket in front of the house. The Searchers is screening December 15 and 17 as part of the IFC Center series “Road Movies: Directed and Selected by Walter Salles,” in conjunction with the December 21 theatrical release of Salles’s adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. The series also includes such films as Salles’s Central Station and The Motorcycle Diaries, Edgar G. Ulmer’s Detour, and Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Passenger.