RETROSPECTIVE JOHN FORD
October 16 - November 30, 2014
In the beginning there was pleasure. We were pleased when John Wayne suddenly dropped to the ground on a dusty road at night, shooting three bandits with his rifle while falling. We were pleased when Claire Trevor, ignored by the over-devout travellers in the stagecoach, accepted the seat that Wayne offered her with a bashful, happy smile. We were pleased when the sheriff finally released Wayne and Trevor, saying contentedly, “Well, they’re saved from the blessings of civilization.” We were pleased and touched. That was probably at the very beginning, perhaps in our youth, when we watched STAGECOACH under its German titles RINGO or HÖLLENFAHRT NACH SANTA FE on some regional TV channel and had no idea that it was directed by John Ford. Later, when we were “seriously” interested in films, all the information about Ford, interpretations and assessments also came into play. In turn, they nurtured and educated us, but possibly made us forget about our initial pleasure.
François Truffaut once wrote that Ford belonged to those artists who never said the word “art,” to those poets who never uttered the word “poetry.” This might be a more important aspect than one would think. For his films, too, always do without generalities, conceptualities and abstractions. The characters are defined by their behavior and actions, rather than their points of view. The love that develops between John Wayne and Claire Trevor is all the more tangible, as it evolves from mutual movements between the characters and, particularly, because they don’t have to explain themselves. Watching these movements, they rub off on us, and this can – as is so often the case with Ford films – contribute to a strangely increased feeling of freedom on our part. Thus, watching STAGECOACH – as well as many other films by Ford – leads to pleasure about the individual and the non-abstract that profoundly enriches us, while – as a peculiar argumentum a contrario – it teaches us respect for our own ability to act.
The famous quotation “My name is John Ford and I make Westerns” stands like an epitaph over Ford’s creative work, but it’s not entirely correct. The director, who made his first film in 1917 and his 124th in 1966, worked in practically all genres, and not only did he deal with the formal language of Hollywood cinema in various ways, he also partly invented it. Dedicating this year’s retrospective to John Ford, the Viennale and Austrian Film Museum aim to honor and introduce every phase of his artistic output with a selection of 45 films. In rare productions such as JUST PALS, KENTUCKY PRIDE and BUCKING BROADWAY we can explore the early silent film era, while the expressionistic THE INFORMER and THE PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND, as well as the little known masterpiece PILGRIMAGE, give us an opportunity to discover the period of early talkies. The classics, that is, highly acclaimed films from the 1940s, including MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, THE GRAPES OF WRATH and HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY, go hand in hand with Ford’s documentaries, created during the Second World War. Cavalry films like FORT APACHE and SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON mark the beginning of a nostalgic review, and THE SUN SHINES BRIGHT, THE SEARCHERS and THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE represent the phase of Ford’s late work. As in previous years, the retrospective will be documented in the form of a book, including new essays, classical texts, and statements by Ford as well as reviews of all the films shown at the retrospective. (Stefan Flach)
A RETROSPECTIVE BY VIENNALE AND AUSTRIAN FILM MUSEUM
October 16 - November 30, 2014
The Austrian Film Museum, Augustinerstraße 1, 1010 Wien
Phone: 0043 (0)1 533 70 54 • www.filmmuseum.at