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Cinema According to Víctor Erice

Sunday, June 28, 2015
7:30 p.m. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
John Ford (US, 1962)

"This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." John Ford wove all his Western masterpieces from the poetry of this conundrum, but none so much as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which tells of the submission of the Old West to the rule of law and order. James Stewart as Ransom Stoddard grows from a greenhorn Eastern lawyer to grey-haired state senator, a rising star along with the Western pioneers' fight for statehood for their territory. But if the West is to become a garden it is over the graves of men like John Wayne's Tom Doniphon, sharp-shooting rancher and gentleman anarchist. This is a film about the advent of politics, and thus of hypocrisy, in the West, as Stoddard gets his Hallie (Vera Miles) and his comet-like rise to power, and Tom gets only a wild cactus rose. Andrew Sarris writes in The John Ford Mystery: "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance must be ranked . . . as one of the enduring masterpieces of that cinema which has chosen to focus on the mystical processes of time."

• Written by Willis Goldbeck, James Warner Bellah from a story by Dorothy M. Johnson. Photographed by William Clothier. With John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Edmond O’Brien. (122 mins, B&W, 35mm, From Paramount Pictures)