Thursday, 24 November 2011
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 
John Ford reveled in the making of Westerns, for what is The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence if not an expression of his love affair with the genre? With its overarching themes of nostalgia and melancholia concerning the slow but sure demise of the iconic landscape, the movie remains a heartfelt and elegiac tone-poem to it. A popular US senator Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart), to the immense surprise of the local journalists, has made an unlikely stop at a dusty, godforsaken town with his wife Hallie (Vera Miles), in order to attend the funeral of one Tom Doniphon (John Wayne). Upon the press-men’s insistence, Stoddard recounts his unlikely stopover in this town, through sheer circumstances, many years back; his love-hate friendship with Doniphon, one of the last true symbols for everything that the West stood for – ruggedness, courage and honour; and the events leading to and following the creation of a legend, that of the shooting down of the notorious outlaw Liberty Valence. The tales of the two principal characters have been exceptionally juxtaposed to provide a sense to the direction America took at the turn of the 20th century – while Doniphon, for all his machismo, charisma and larger-than-life persona, slowly disappears into anonymity and obscurity, Stoddard, despite being so out of place, even anachronistic, as a law-abiding citizen in the frontier town, goes on to become an all-American poster boy. Though not without its share of over-dramatizations and some clichéd tropes, this elegantly-paced and well-acted film does stand on its own as a superb Western.
Director: John Ford