In a recent review of John Ford’s classic film The Searchers for The Hollywood Reporter, Martin Scorsese discusses why he believes (as so many do) that The Searchers is not just a great western, but a great film. Quite possibly one of cinema’s greatest films. Throughout his review of this classic, as well as Glenn Frankel’s new book The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend, Scorsese explores what makes a film like stand out from so many others. And part of that story takes into account the film’s backstory and the many characters –Ford, Wayne, Hunter, Archuletta, Steiner– that came together both personally and professionally to create this moment in time.
What resonated most with me from Scorsese’s article, however, was his description of the film:
“Like all great works of art, it’s uncomfortable.”
As someone who is rabid about exploring –both as a filmmaker and a film-viewer– those areas that worm their way under my skin and stir those places oft left in darkness or unspoken, this description resonated in a way that helped articulate and validate many of the feelings and experiences I’ve been having on my own creative journey. I yearn to embrace those parts of my psyche that thrive more in my subconscious than on the surface. That is, until I either face them in my writing and filmmaking or in the taking-in of someone else’s exploratory work.
Later in the same article, Scorsese elaborates on his perception and interpretation of what constitutes a great film. And I wholeheartedly concur:
“In truly great films — the ones that people need to make, the ones that start speaking through them, the ones that keep moving into territory that is more and more unfathomable and uncomfortable — nothing’s ever simple or neatly resolved. You’re left with a mystery.”
This describes most of my favorite films, as well as what I strive to achieve –in some small, personal way– in my writing and filmmaking. Ironically enough, these are also the very same qualities that many others have focused on in their negative criticisms of both my favorite films and my own attempts at self-reflection and self-expression via my writing.
But the exploration of these uncomfortable places and the mysteries they leave behind have always been, and will remain, what drives me.