Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Man of the West

Man of the West; Western, USA, 1958; D: Anthony Mann, S: Gary Cooper, Julie London, Lee J. Cobb, Arthur O'Connell, Jack Lord, John Dehner, Royal Dano

Link Jones was once a bandit, but now he is a calm, secluded and honest citizen who plans to use his savings to go to a small town and open a school with a teacher. The trains stops at a deserted station, but when some bandits attempt an ambush, it starts and leaves Link, Sam and singer Billie behind. The trio stays alone on the tracks, 100 miles away from the nearest town. Link hesitates to bring them to the nearest cabin - and there he meets his all gang of bandits, still lead by the old Doc. In order to save themselves, he announces that he wants to join them again. They plan a bank robbery, but the town where it is turns out to be an empty ghost town. In a duel, Link kills all gang members, leaving with Billie to the town.

This unusual western, considered by some to be one of the best films in director Anthony Mann's career, has one of the most unusual structures of it's genre that mirrors a dose of irony. The genius story about the hero Link, who due to strange circumstances of fate once again bumps into his old gang of bandits he once left, fluently displays the theme of man's constant getaway from his ugly past, the dark side, hate and violence, thus trying to become a better person. Some typical flaws from the 1950's, like the stiff composition of the camera or some dry dialogue, don't reduce the brilliance of the fierce and impetuous mood found in many shocking scenes - in one, bandit Cole forces the singer Billie to perform a striptease, thus later on Link decides to return him in the same manner - he beats him up and then personally strips him up to his pants, but then immediately regrets it because he lost his self control. Link is definitely a fascinating character, a retired bandit who wants to become an honest person, but the world won't let him, and Gary Cooper's charisma comes to full expression in portraying him.


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