Wednesday, September 3, 2014

How the West Was Won?

Actual 1962 landscape brought to you by Cinerama. My guess, Western Rockies, Colorado.
In the 2+ hour long "How The West Was Won" film from 1962 that features a timeline from 1840 to 1890 there is one (1) black character, a bartender who gets no lines. A few Cherokee Indians and Chinese railroad workers round out this cultural atrocity. Oh, I love the spectacle and mastery of the three directors including John Ford and especially the Cinerama technique of using three cameras rolling side by side and then projected on a curved screen to actually do justice to the majestic landscapes. So much effort was required to reset three cameras that much of the dialogue is shot in one long take and characters make a point not to look at each other because the perspective was wrong to the audience. Everyone was expected to be a professional! I recently drove through much of the remarkable land filmed so I thought, "Man they got lucky with their filming schedule to shoot on such perfect air quality days." Then I remembered this was filmed in 1961 when air quality wasn't a big concern. The title comes from a kind of mythological fable whereby anyone alive is considered justified because they are alive. All genocides are forgiven before the credits roll, all sins absolved; all of the past was a precursor to my existence...so I must be the hero of the story.

There are elements of truth to the story and some appreciation of the problems caused and experienced by western migrants. It wasn't a total jingoistic handjob as notable actors like John Wayne, James Stewart, Debbie Reynolds (the only original character who lives), Henry Fonda all are rightly belittled by the scope of the project. A movie like this, directed by three directors, casually killing off primary characters wasn't really trying to be a "masterpiece" so the word that comes to mind is "accomplishment" both as a film project and as a truth of human migration. It's sort of pre-destined that mankind will outgrow his environment and thus be required to spread out or build up or what have you. We like to fuck and that leads to babies and like a guy I used to work with would say randomly through the day, "Baby need shoes." We either grow or perish seems to be the mandate. Pundits like me argue philosophical platitudes over the campfires burning our own relevance while the real work happens in the plains and on the battlefield and in the factories. I could write the narrative for a feel good documentary except I don't feel like it. History happens one day at a time but movies can show a condensed version of 50 years in 2 hours...so they can't be expected to get it all right. This is the 1962 creation myth that made people feel good about voting for Kennedy and Johnson. I recommend the film for visual if not content related reasons. It appears to be the only actual drama filmed in 3x35mm strip Cinerama. All the others were documentaries and then it evolved into something called 70mm Cinerama from 1963 to 1974. It's interesting to note that the 1968 Film 2001: A Space Odyssey was initially conceived for the 3 strip Cinerama treatment, but was ultimately filmed in Super Panavision 70 (though is credited as Cinerama). Kubrick nevertheless imagined he was working with the ultrawide Cinerama so that film does stretch the eyes.

Oggy wore his patriotic sweater for this essay.


 
Fried Plantain, covered with strawberry, chocolate, nuts, and a marshmallow that melted.
Mexican Food Count
Al Pastor Tacos: 4
Mexican Pizza: 2
Helados: 2
Churros:6
Plantain: 1
Jarritos: countless
Creative Commons License
Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.