T. It.: Dove La Terra Scotta; Sog.: Tratto Dal Romanzo “The Border Jumpers” Di Will C. Brown; Scen.: Reginald Rose; F.: Ernest Haller; Mo.: Richard Heermance; Scgf.: Edward Boyle; Mu.: Leigh Harline; Su.: Jack Solomon; Int.: Gary Cooper (Link Jones), Julie London (Billie Ellis), Lee J. Cobb (Dock Tobin), Arthur O’connell (Sam Beasley), Jack Lord (Coaley), John Dehner (Claude), Royal Dano (Trout), Robert J. Wilke (Ponch); Prod.: Walter Mirisch Co. Per United Artists; Pri. Pro.: Los Angeles, 12 Settembre 1958 35mm. D.: 100’. Col.
Man of the West might be the greatest of Anthony Mann’s westerns as well as more generally one of the great American films. As in The Man from Laramie, the argument comes close to the direct confrontation with Shakespeare the director was dreaming of. In any case, the thematical movements growing from an almost nakedly abstract and stylized film are staggering: the sense of growing old, the imaginary relationship between father and son, the discovery of dignity and identity, the family feud, the idea of compensation family (with social robbery as the dominant principle), the hidden and destructive impulses of man, the sense of loss and sheer madness. Jean-Luc Godard worded a brilliant critique (titled Mann of the West) in 1959: “The originality of Anthony Mann is that he is able to enrich while simplifying to the extreme. As he comes out, Gary Cooper is framed in medium shot. He crosses almost the entire field of vision to look at the deserted town, and then (rather than have a reverse angle of the town, followed by a shot of Gary Cooper’s face as he watches) a lateral tracking shot reframes Cooper as he stands motionless, staring at the empty town. The stroke of genius lies in having the track start after Gary Cooper moves, because it is this dislocation in time which allows a spatial simultaneity: in one fell swoop we have both the mystery of the deserted town, and Gary Cooper’s sense of unease at the mystery. With Anthony Mann, each shot comprises both analysis and synthesis, or as Luc Moullet noted, both the instinctive and the premeditated.” And let’s add the famous last words of Godard’s article: “In Man of the West, Gary Cooper’s amorphous face belongs to the mineral kingdom: thus proving that Anthony Mann is returning to the basic truths.”
Peter von Bagh