Monday, March 19, 2007

March 19th Log

1954, Anthony Mann, United States
1st Viewing, DVD

The Far Country does not quite reach the mastery level of Anthony Mann’s previous psychological westerns starring James Stewart (notably his greatest masterworks The Naked Spur and bend of the River- both of which were co-written by Bordon Chase, who also wrote The Far Country). The Far Country marked the sixth of eight films Mann with Stewart. Each of them share distinct qualities visually, emotionally, and thematically. Stewart again plays the role of the loner anti-hero, but this role may be the darkest of all. As Jeff Webster, Stewart plays a self-interested man that trusts no one and is not looking to gain any new friends outside of the only man he trusts (played by the always terrific Walter Brennan). Mann again presents many layers of psychological depth with the corruption of greed lying at the center. Mann began making low-budget noirs in the 1940s and while these films are much more personal, The Far Country captures some elements of noir within the genre of a western adventure. Above all, Mann presents his psychological and philosophical world through atmosphere and landscape, here using the hills of Canada as the backdrop. For The Far Country, Mann uses the great cinematographer William H. Daniels, whom he collaborated with on the wonderful black-and-white classic Winchester ’73. Daniels Technicolor cinematography presents a stunning landscape which beautifully works as the background for Mann’s controlling direction of frame. The Far Country builds a compelling mood and the performances only heighten the impact. Stewart and Brennan are terrific as usual and especially standout is John McIntire as the corrupt Sheriff Gannon.


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