Cited as an inspiration for directors as diverse as Scorsese, Kurosawa, Godard, Peckinpah, Leone and Wenders, John Ford made so many movies, through so many eras, he also ended up making a considerable impact on himself. Yes, Ford may have been a martinet, one who iconicized the West, and used John Wayne to manufacture myths. But he appreciated the need to adapt. And his filmmaking reflected this, while sometimes reflecting on itself.
After all, he had helped make the Western the quintessential American film genre throughout the silent era and beyond. But he was reinventing it by 1939 (“Stagecoach”), did so again in 1946 (“My Darling Clementine”), and in 1956 (“The Searchers,” which has been quoted by everyone from David Lean to George Lucas) and once more in 1964 (“Cheyenne Autumn,” his Indian apology film). Each revisionist tweak reflected an ability to change, and grow, building upon the past even while maintaining the Fordian trademarks of understated acting, perfect composition, and a longing for a more glorified and elusive age.
The fact that change (and an unhealthy resistance to it) was always part of the Ford narrative may seems ironic given his proclivity for nostalgia, which reached its apotheosis in “The Quiet Man” of 1952. But even in that film, the important thing is not the sentimentality Ford conjures up, but the community he creates. And what it needs to do to survive. To maintain the extended family, village or frontier outpost, one does what one has to, whether it means a fist fight with Victor McLaglen, or keeping secret who shot Liberty Valance.
Ford had an ability to genre-hop — he directed Shirley Temple (“Wee Willie Winkie”) as well as John Wayne; not one of his four director Oscars was for a Western. He could inspire (both Ingmar Bergman and Orson Welles called him the greatest director ever). And the intimate naturalism he achieved via his characters on screen is something other directors have always emulated, if not quite equaled. Ford was a storyteller whose personal politics were divisive, but whose great subject was community, and whose legacy can be seen in the work of any filmmaker who creates ad-hoc families for purposes of drama, or any director in pursuit of warmth, or humanity, or poetry.
8 p.m.: Opening night gala screening: “The Iron Horse”; John Ford’s 1924 masterpiece with score by Christopher Caliendo performed live by the RTE Concert Orchestra. At National Concert Hall
2 p.m.: John Ford Film Hub Directors Panel; Jim Sheridan, John Boorman, Thaddeus O’Sullivan and Brian Kirk discuss Ford and his influence on their work and others’ films.
7:30 p.m.: Public interview with Peter Bogdanovich; a conversation with the noted helmer whose credits include docu “Directed by John Ford.”
10:15 p.m.: Screening: “The Searchers”; John Ford’s classic oater starts at sundown, outdoors at Meeting House Square.
12:00 noon: In Conversation With …Stephen Frears; the director of “The Queen” and “Dirty Pretty Things” discusses his films live onstage.
2 p.m.: Joel Cox editing masterclass; the Oscar-winning editor on his career and collaboration with Clint Eastwood
4 p.m. Panel: Music for the Screen; Panelists: Kyle Eastwood, Christopher Caliendo
6:45 p.m.: “Unforgiven” 20th anniversary screening; Clint Eastwood’s award- winning western screens with Joel Cox in attendance.
9:30 p.m.: Performance: Kyle Eastwood and Band
6:45 p.m.: “The Quiet Man” 60th anniversary screening; Special guests to include star Maureen O’Hara.
Related Links:• Clint Eastwood receives John Ford Award