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Still from Joe Dante’s Gremlins (1984)

Gremlins ga('set', 'dimension3', '/object/viewing'); ga('require', 'GTM-TB8HSDN'); ga('send', 'pageview'); ‎‘Directed by John Ford’ review by Justin Rollo • Letterboxd

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Still from Joe Dante’s Gremlins (1984)

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Uh oh, we have gremlins in the control room…
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Still from Joe Dante’s Gremlins (1984)

Gremlins

Directed by John Ford ★★★★

John Ford fascinates me to no end. If someone needed a picture for the definition of “Director”, Ford is absolutely my first choice. 

He was a true pioneer by just doing, and like a true master of the craft, he had such a simple way of dealing with complex problems. Henry Fonda recounts Ford’s tendency to pick on new actors in order to get the rest of the crew on the actor’s side and make them comfortable, as well as his similar tendency of nitpicking actors during their unimportant scenes in order to keep them on their toes for the big scenes. When I heard all this methodology, it really hit my how next level his ability to work with actors was. He’s like Kubrick if Kubrick wasn’t a psychopath. 

What had initially brought me to Ford years ago was my love for Kurosawa. The more films I watched of his, and the more interest I gained in Kurosawa’s personal life, the more I started to understand his influences, chief among them being Ford. You can trace a curious line from Ford to Kurosawa to Leone and Lucas in the development of the western genre. Kurosawa’s Yojimbo directly influenced Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars, and his film Hidden Fortress also heavily inspired Star Wars, as many people know these days. Two wildly different directions for the genre to take, both stemming from one man’s grand vision, but truthfully we have nobody but Ford to thank for this, as he was the one directly inspiring Kurosawa. So much so in fact that Kurosawa even emulated Ford’s fashion sense. While I was always aware of this thread of connections, what fascinated me the most was Ford’s dubious connection to Yasujirō Ozu. 

While I’m aware that Ozu was actually a big fan of popular American movies throughout his life (Tokyo Story was surprisingly inspired by an American film, Make Way for Tomorrow), he may take more inspiration from Ford than I had initially given thought to. Ozu’s films, much like Ford’s, exist in parallel to each other. Themes and plot threads get reused countless times in order to comb through and explore them differently each time, but they all build upon each other. Ozu, like Ford, also used the same cast of actors throughout many of his films. While this may be just an effect of the studio system, Ozu used this limitation as another tool throughout his filmography, and over the years, built a lexicon of imagery, symbols, techniques, themes, and characters that feed off each other. To my surprise, all the exact same things can be said about Ford. Where this all really fascinates me is in the possibility that Ozu took no inspiration from Ford, and they both ended up following the same trajectory regardless, because if that truly is the case, which none of us can ever know for certain, that’s nothing short of a testament to how truly legendary John Ford was. I could go back and forth on Ozu and Kurosawa all day, as they are the two directors who frequently come up in my mind when I ponder the best director of all time. But in the big picture, whether directly or indirectly, you can see within them the two sides of John Ford. 

The maverick and the traditionalist, the romantic and the loner, the genius and the natural. The greatest American film director.

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