Last night I got around to watching The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and I gotta admit, I liked it far more than I would have anticipated. In fact I think it's one of the better films I have seen recently. Furthermore, I watched Solaris earlier in the week, which is a fantastic film, and rated it 4 stars on Netflix. The Man who shot Liberty Valance got 5 stars from me. In other words, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is about as good as it gets.
I'm convinced it's nearly impossible to watch a John Wayne film in 2006 without seeing it as a parody of the image of John Wayne that has been passed down through time. Yet, starting from the beginning, where he starts referring to people as "partner" and his overall cadence you begin to realize that he is more than a capable actor and is able to really carry most scenes. James Stewart, who in my mind will always be a giant, stars alongside Wayne and is phenomenal as usual.
This is apparently one of director John Ford's last westerns and in the end the story seems to be an overall comentary of the Old West and storytelling in the Old West. Visually, it's easy to see why Ford is thought of as one of the greatest directors of all time. The use of light and shadow throughout the film sets up tension when needed. The pacing of the story is perfect, and two hours go by quicker than they really should. The story is as much a love story or a friendship story as it is a commentary on the Old West, and is to use grandiose words, timeless. I have The Searchers and Young Mr. Lincoln still to get too in my Netflix queue and am very much looking forward to viewing both.