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Friday: "The Searchers"

Friday: "The Searchers"
(Film Still)

Aug. 5

"Elvis was a hero to most but he never meant shit to me, you see," Chuck D raps on Public Enemy's 'Fight The Power.' "Straight up racist that sucker was simple and plain/ Motherfuck him and John Wayne." I start here when I'm trying to talk about John Ford's 1956 bitter Western about white fears of miscegenation (and of course, vehicle for John Wayne's anti-charisma), "The Searchers," because there are limits to what you might get out of this film in 2016—or rather, I want to start with the problem with this movie so that maybe you can see why it's also quite good and has a lot of smart things to say about race. The plot of this delicately acted melodrama is painfully aware of all of this and tries to navigate (it still stumbles and straight up falls into racist caricature) the problems of the Western film by focusing on Ethan (John Wayne), a bitter Confederate who goes out along with Martin (Jeffrey Hunter) to "rescue" Debbie (Natalie Wood) from Scar, an "injun" leader (played by a white guy of course, Henry Brandon) only to realize that hey, maybe she doesn't want to be "rescued." Its themes would later be explored more deeply in '70s movies such as "Taxi Driver" and "Hardcore" among others, where the savior complex is less delicately skewered, but "The Searchers" is a thorough investigation of white neuroses and the American paranoia regarding outsiders. 8:30 p.m., Abell Open Space, 301 E. 32nd St., abellimprovement.org, free. (Brandon Soderberg)

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