Steve's recent spate of notes on movies made me want to make one of my own:
on cable last weekend:
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, John Ford 1962.
Like Njal's saga, where layer/poet is the same person (do we still feel the tensions of that ancient (non)division of labor as poets today -- the person who knows things, but in a context where that knowledge doesn't necessarily apply?).
Naive lawyer Jimmy Stewart goes west and gets his ass kicked and his lunch money stolen for being a bookworm, and then threatens the thug-based political economy of a small town with the twin forces of literacy and federalized power. Told in flashback, the story famously addresses the nature of collective memory ("When the legend becomes fact, print the legend")
Despise some light flag-waving scenes in a classroom and the ostensible message of John Wayne as the self-sacrificing, powerful good-guy realist who sacrifices romantic love to give the community representative democracy, the lasting vibe of the film is a good bit darker.
Just before Jimmy Stewart is about to embark on his seemingly suicidal gun fight with Liberty Valance, the window pane of the town newspaper projects the reversed image of the letter "E" onto his chest, where it lingers disconcertingly like a transformed Scarlet Letter. It is the language that remains unaware that the power of someone else's violence is the true reason for its efficaciousness, since Wayne is actually the one who fires the fatal bullet from the shadowy sidelines.
That message is contrasted with the collectivist power sharing evoked earlier during a town meeting, where the bad guys are defenseless against the pooled power of the population, or as Liberty Valance says, you people are brave when you're together, but think about what going to happen when you're alone!