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John Ford’s The Searchers is a Western about party of white settlers pursuing a Comanche band that has slaughtered a homesteading family’s males and adults and kidnapped the family’s two daughters. The film presents a question that has puzzled me for years: How is it that a film so glaringly flawed can be so powerful, so great? And it is great. In 2008, the American Film Institute named it the best Western ever made. The same year, Cahiers du Cinéma ranked the film the tenth best film ever made. In 2012, a Sight & Sound survey of international film critics ranked it the seventh best film of all time. Its influence has been noticed in and/or acknowledged by directors as different from one another as David Lean, Sam Peckinpah, Martin Scorsese, Sergio Leone, George Lucas, Jean-Luc Godard, Steven Spielberg, Wim Wenders, and Paul Schrader. It has been an object of intense analysis by numerous scholars. (Anyone interested in reading in-depth work on the film would do well by starting with Edward Buscombe’s monograph in the excellent British Film Institute series of slim but comprehensive, well-researched, and annotated volumes on individual films.) More… “Flawed Greatness”

D.B. Jones is a retired Drexel professor of film and the author of three books on Canadian documentary film.

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When I was fourteen, my guitar teacher asked me, “Why is the guitar a folk instrument and not a piano?” I’d never thought of that before, and the question blew my mind. Surely a piano could be a folk instrument. Couldn’t it? I was fourteen, anything could be anything. I was interested in the music of “the people” — Gypsies and carnies and wandering minstrels, travelers and scamps, blues devils and hillbillies, cowboys and revolutionaries, people on the run, people on the mosey, people for whom music is an expression of everyday experience to be performed on the side of the road, rather than an expression of a higher sensation to be performed in a concert hall. People who played guitars. So what was it that made the guitar a folk instrument and not a piano? If guitars could be played in concert halls, why not a piano on the… More…