7. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
I want to tell you a story about my grade 11 English class. It wasn’t just a regular class but rather English 20 LRC(Learning Resource Centre). The difference was simple, there was this binder at the front door of the class, with sign-out sheets, which basically meant that once you “finished” your work, you could sign out. This basically meant that you could do nothing, claim you did, and then sign your name and leave the class. A fucking brilliant concept in my humble opinion.
Now I was in that class with my friend Gavin, and about 5 or 6 other people. Why we were afforded such a wondrous opportunity I cannot say, but I remain eternally thankful. One of the people in my class was a girl name Alison Shaw who I had a brief crush on in grade 7. Now she belonged to a program called GATE(Gifted and Talented Education), which indicated one of two things: she either had potential or she was a brainiac. As an aside most GATE kids were big dicks(except for you Sonnenberg), really stuck up and clean cut, future conservative types. They were the closest thing my high school had to a “teen-movie” archetype.
Ok, back on track here. So Alison was both smart and she applied herself. Anyway at one point we had to read a book called “The Stone Angel” by Canada’s own Margaret Laurence. It was pretty terrible, at least for a 15 year old. Old women who live in small towns are generally boring as hell to read about. Ok, so every week in class we would have to sit in a circle and discuss what we had read during the past week. I don’t really remember finishing the book, though I might have, unlike grade 10’s required reading of “To Kill a Mockingbird“(eat it, Harper Lee). So basically I having made minimal effort to read the book, was kind of stumped about how to fake my way through these discussion periods. My solution: let Alison Shaw speak first, and then just repeat what she said using different words. Genius.
I am not sure if it’s really a good thing, but I have always had a talent for coasting on my large vocabulary and ability think on my feet. If this were combined with ambition and drive I could be a great success, but instead its coupled with apathy and a love of sleep. Oh, well.
Anyway this worked wonders as I would get 8’s and 9’s(out of 10) for my responses. My friend Gavin however, wasn’t quite as fortunate. Like me he thought the book sucked, but unlike me he wasn’t good at thinking quick on his feet. So his usual response was to repeat the question, and go “hmm”. This went on for a couple of weeks, until I explained my technique: Let Alison speak first and then just copy her. Well the big moment came: Alison gave some long and eloquent talk about something or other, Gavin is ready to respond. Here it comes…and nothing comes out. Gavin froze and then stumbled through some one sentence answer. Utter and abject disappointment.
As a postscript, Gavin has since gone on to finish high school, get a degree from DeVry(he was serious about success), buy a condo and now plies his trade in a well paying job for the city. I also believe his bullshitting skills improved immensely during his long tenure as a phone-monkey for Telus.
You may be asking how does this story relate to “The Searchers“? Well, basically I have nothing original to say about this film. Rather than try and impress you with my verbosity and unoriginal interpretations, I will simply pass on this link which contains an excellent and scholarly synopsis of the film and reveals how deep and nuanced the film really is.
On filmaffinity.com I gave the film 8/10, primarily because my research after watching the film shows it to be much more than I initially thought. It’s a solid western, John Wayne is badass, and I enjoyed it, but it’s not really fun or gangsta like “Rio Bravo“.