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The Flaw in Shane


slaytonf
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O, well, there isn't any.

Even the dog is flawless.

 

But now that you brought it up, I'd like to take this opportunity to address something about the movie brought up in other threads in this Western month, that Shane was accounted a good movie because it was so admired.  Or that it was admired by so many because it was so well regarded.  Kinda like famous for being famous.  No doubt there's a certain validity to the observation.  It's partly what Marcel Duchamp was commenting on by putting a 'stache and goatee on the Mona Lisa.  He wasn't parodying the work itself, which is certainly a masterpiece, but the reflexive adoration of cultural icons.  The unreflective parroting of accepted values.  Don't uncritically accept the majority view, even if it is right, but understand why something is good.  So with Shane, which might inspire admiration because, well, it's widely admired.  But that shouldn't also be used as a cause to dismiss it.

 

On the other hand, people who admire the movie don't often provide illustrations of why it is great, beyond merely stating so.  Or praising the performances, which are certainly praiseworthy.  Or commenting on the stunning scenery, which functions almost like an extra character.  But, you know, that's not stuff to make a strong argument.  It's beyond my abilities to go into a detailed analysis of George Steven's direction, his framing, composition, use of lens length.  A full study of the movie might even be as long as a book.  But looking at a few instances could give an idea of why it's a great movie, at least to me.

 

As for the scenery, aside from providing a stunning backdrop, Stevens uses it to comment in different ways about the characters and humanity in general.  Sometimes people and their towns appear small against the wide curtain of the Tetons, making all their doings that were so vital seem puny next to their impassivness.  Other times a character of importance appears large in close up in front of the mountains, gaining stature by association with their massiveness.

 

The fight between Starrett and Shane is another good example.  In all other fight scenes, the setting remains static, except as parts of it become involved in the fighting, like chairs and beer bottles.  This one is unique in that the setting is affected by the fighting.  The farm animals become upset, crying out, straining against their restraints, even to the point of bursting from their corrals.  This heightens the sense of calamity, and emphasizes the symbolic aspect of the two characters, the clash of elemental forces disrupting the stability of the universe.  The editing also contributes to the sense of disruption, chopping up camera angles, close-ups, and the flow of time.

 

Finally, the funeral of Torrey is certainly a most unusual one.  All other film funerals are concerned mostly with getting the corpse in the ground, and the more-or-less grief-stricken mourners.  But here Stevens shifts the focus away from the ceremony to the children, whose attention innocently wanders.  Their doings provide a humorous counterpoint to the sadness of the funeral.  What could possibly be the purpose of this?  It becomes apparent later in the scene where the main theme of the movie is stated.  Starrett falters trying to explain why the settlers should stay, and here is where Shane fulfills his role as the magical aid sent by supernatural forces to help the hero.  He says that the reason for staying in the face of deadly threats from the cattlemen is their children, and the future to build for them, that they have a right to it.  But it's also the way he says it, simply, unapologetically, that revives Starrett's confidence, and restores him to his leadership role.

 

I hope these few examples give people an idea of what makes Shane such a fine movie, and will prompt them to look for other things in it that elevate it way above the common run of movies, not just Westerns.  But also in addition, it's just a plain entertaining movie to watch.  Yes, well acted by a host of professionals, who know their business and how to make a character come to life.  There's a lot of good action, tension, humor, tragedy, regret for lost opportunity. . . .and Jack Palance, who is just about the evilest villain ever to insinuate across a screen.  Great stuff.

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A well stated summary Slayton. 

 

One thing I took away from your thesis though, has nothing to do with the movie itself, but one word you used in relation to WHY some people would claim it to be a "great" movie...

 

"PARROTING".

 

I've seen some examples of it in here, when for instance, some members heap praise on some actress or actor( OR movie) by using verbatim, the same worn out accolades film historians and critics have used for years.  One of my favorite examples...

 

Over the years, long before cable TV and channels like the  old AMC and now TCM and others came along, I've heard movie host after movie host go on about how BRINGING UP BABY was such a wonderfully funny and delightful "screwball comedy"  and gush shamelessly over stars KATHERINE HEPBURN and CARY GRANT.  So much so, I couldn't WAIT to finally see this "gem".

 

Imagine my disappointment.  Personally, I didn't find it that entertaining.  But that's me.  I realize that many people DO find it what all those adoring movie hosts of the past say it is.  But I wonder....

 

How many people ACTUALLY find it that great, or just say so in order to not look like a chump since so many "experts" SAY they're supposed  to just L-O-V-E it?

 

I suppose SHANE could be put in this category, since it too, has been canonized so much over the years by people the general public has accepted as "experts" on film, and thereby should know what they're talking about.

 

Don't get me wrong.  I love the movie too.  And for pretty much the same reasons you put in your post.  In fact, I'll go out on a limb and say it's SO great that an ingenious film maker like CLINT EASTWOOD felt the need to make his own version( PALE RIDER)

 

"Famous for being famous".  Heh!  WELL SAID.  We also in here, see examples of "the reflexive adoration of  cultural icons" and, I suppose, ideals in threads on other pages here dealing with politics.  Persons pledging support for some  polititian or political party and their reasons given for it appear to be also "parroting" what's in some kind of handbook for conservatives, liberals or whatever.  They'll quote from pundits who make their living by "preaching to the choir" as if the words represent some sort of penulimate truth.

 

And I suppose the same is true when it comes to some movies that are culturally accepted as being "great".

 

 

Sepiatone

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Slayton, your post illustrating the beauty of the movie, "Shane" was so well said.

 

To downgrade a film for the search for perfection that George Stevens put into it, is anathema.

 

In my opinion, he was out to create a myth and a mythic character, and he did so with Shane. 

 

The film is different from a John Ford film, in that Stevens uses all his skills learned over his years in filmmaking, to create almost a fairy tale. The blond knight errant who has come to rescue those suffering the slings of a vicious villain, but who refuses to use his well honed skills to kill, until it is absolutely necessary, even forsaking a fear of being thought a coward, is to me the backbone of the film.

 

The funeral scene is so tantalizingly directed that even a shot of the dog pawing at the ground, makes one feel it is acknowledging the loss of the human being buried, plus the funeral scene encompasses good, bad, time, birth and death and everyday life with the village in the background. Waiting for the deer to raise its head, to frame the arrival of the hero might not be the usual way of most western directors, but George Stevens had his own vision and this film is its result.

 

There are gestures which detail the impossible love between Shane and Joey's mother, that even Joey picks up on, but once Shane has succumbed to the necessary violence, he knows his mission is ended and he must leave. A beautiful film well deserving of its fame and legendary status to those willing to look into its vision.

 

Thanks for such a wonderful exposition and the reference to the Duchamp goatee meaning on the Mona Lisa was a masterful analogy!

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One thing bugged me,though. In the end, when the kid runs after Shane, where are the parents? When the kid started running, my maternal instinct kicked in and I wanted the parents to run right after him

No offense, but to quibble about this seems kind of petty, Cathy or Kenton.

 

I can see your point if I look at the film as a literal story about an American farm family, but this film is on a bigger scale in a mythic way and needs that scene to solidify Shane's influence on the child, and the goodness in Shane in not wanting to create a hero-worship belief in little Joey, that if the parents were around to see, would be utterly lost.

 

Shane's concern for Joey to love his parents more than him, is the reason for the ending.

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you may have brought this up in your original post, but the thing that really struck me about SHANE the first time I saw it, was the juxtaposition of great beauty with stark ugliness.

 

just as good contrasts with evil so starkly in the movie, the images of the canyons and valleys and natural splendor of the western scenery is contrasted with the manmade ugliness of the crude town and muddy fields.

 

there is, as I recall it- A LOT of mud in this movie; it's very authentic in its depiction of the frontier town as being, well, kind of a youknowwhathole. 

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Slayton, your post illustrating the beauty of the movie, "Shane" was so well said.

 

To downgrade a film for the search for perfection that George Stevens put into it, is anathema.

 

In my opinion, he was out to create a myth and a mythic character, and he did so with Shane. 

 

The film is different from a John Ford film, in that Stevens uses all his skills learned over his years in filmmaking, to create almost a fairy tale. The blond knight errant who has come to rescue those suffering the slings of a vicious villain, but who refuses to use his well honed skills to kill, until it is absolutely necessary, even forsaking a fear of being thought a coward, is to me the backbone of the film.

 

The funeral scene is so tantalizingly directed that even a shot of the dog pawing at the ground, makes one feel it is acknowledging the loss of the human being buried, plus the funeral scene encompasses good, bad, time, birth and death and everyday life with the village in the background. Waiting for the deer to raise its head, to frame the arrival of the hero might not be the usual way of most western directors, but George Stevens had his own vision and this film is its result.

 

There are gestures which detail the impossible love between Shane and Joey's mother, that even Joey picks up on, but once Shane has succumbed to the necessary violence, he knows his mission is ended and he must leave. A beautiful film well deserving of its fame and legendary status to those willing to look into its vision.

 

Thanks for such a wonderful exposition and the reference to the Duchamp goatee meaning on the Mona Lisa was a masterful analogy!

 

One of the things I like about Shane is that there is no silly romance between the mother and Shane.    You appear to believe there was some type of 'impossible love' which to me sounds like romantic love.    I don't see it as that.   Instead I see a mother that knows her only child is hero-worshiping this stranger and she has concerns if the character of this stranger justifies this type of  love\worship. 

 

There are a few scenes that communicate this,  mostly related to Shane's use of a gun and the fact we know he has killed people (outside of war).      The mother comes to understand and respect Shane and is glad this man had a profound impact on her child's life.    But to me that doesn't mean she had romantic,  I want to sleep with this man and cheat on my Husband,  feelings for him.     

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You've made a good case for this outstanding movie. Plus, it's a beautiful love story: Shane, the boy (in the novel he was the narrator), and the life that Shane wishes he could share.

There is no "flaw" to this film and I believe it is in some way evocative of the way Stevens was feeling after he came home from the war.  It is so evident the war changed him as you go from THE MORE THE MERRIER to this and others of his post war films and then you sense something significantly changed in him.  For all those interested in what made George Stevens I recommend you read his biography, you'll see his amazing career from Hal Roach studio to his stint as an independent director. 

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There is no "flaw" to this film and I believe it is in some way evocative of the way Stevens was feeling after he came home from the war.  It is so evident the war changed him as you go from THE MORE THE MERRIER to this and others of his post war films and then you sense something significantly changed in him.  For all those interested in what made George Stevens I recommend you read his biography, you'll see his amazing career from Hal Roach studio to his stint as an independent director. 

 

there's also FIVE CAME BACK, which was about how taking footage in WWII changed Stevens and four other filmmakers. saw it at the Liberry the other day, but ended up getting something else instead.

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There is no "flaw" to this film and I believe it is in some way evocative of the way Stevens was feeling after he came home from the war.  It is so evident the war changed him as you go from THE MORE THE MERRIER to this and others of his post war films and then you sense something significantly changed in him.  For all those interested in what made George Stevens I recommend you read his biography, you'll see his amazing career from Hal Roach studio to his stint as an independent director. 

 

It looks like you didn't read the OP.    The first comments were:

 

O, well, there isn't any.

Even the dog is flawless.     :)

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Thanks for all your comments.  They were really great to read.  I have a few comments-on-comments.

 

 I've heard movie host after movie host go on about how BRINGING UP BABY was such a wonderfully funny and delightful "screwball comedy"  and gush shamelessly over stars KATHERINE HEPBURN and CARY GRANT.  So much so, I couldn't WAIT to finally see this "gem".

 

Imagine my disappointment.  Personally, I didn't find it that entertaining.  But that's me.  I realize that many people DO find it what all those adoring movie hosts of the past say it is.  But I wonder....

 

  We also in here, see examples of "the reflexive adoration of  cultural icons". . . .[and]  I suppose the same is true when it comes to some movies that are culturally accepted as being "great".

 

 

Sepiatone

 

It isn't just you about Bringing Up Baby.  I've always found it tiresome and annoying.  There is one brilliant moment at the end in the jail when Katharine Hepburn plays the moll.

 

 

  We also in here, see examples of "the reflexive adoration of  cultural icons" and. . . . I suppose the same is true when it comes to some movies that are culturally accepted as being "great".

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

Keeping in mind that something revered as a cultural icon can also be worthwhile.

 

One thing bugged me,though. In the end, when the kid runs after Shane, where are the parents? When the kid started running, my maternal instinct kicked in and I wanted the parents to run right after him

 

If I remember, Joey feels bad about telling Shane he hated him for hitting Starrett with a gun to keep him from going to meet Ryker.  He tells his mother he wants to go after him and apologize, and she says it's ok for him to go.  She stays to tend to Starrett who is still groggy.

 

 

In my opinion, he was out to create a myth and a mythic character, and he did so with Shane. 

 

The film is different from a John Ford film, in that Stevens uses all his skills learned over his years in filmmaking, to create almost a fairy tale. The blond knight errant who has come to rescue those suffering the slings of a vicious villain, but who refuses to use his well honed skills to kill, until it is absolutely necessary, even forsaking a fear of being thought a coward, is to me the backbone of the film.

 

Spot on, CaveGirl.  Stevens used a lot of elements from myth and folk tales in the movie--of course a lot of that filtered through form the book.  Anyone familiar with myth and folklore will see them.

 

you may have brought this up in your original post, but the thing that really struck me about SHANE the first time I saw it, was the juxtaposition of great beauty with stark ugliness.

 

just as good contrasts with evil so starkly in the movie, the images of the canyons and valleys and natural splendor of the western scenery is contrasted with the manmade ugliness of the crude town and muddy fields.

 

there is, as I recall it- A LOT of mud in this movie; it's very authentic in its depiction of the frontier town as being, well, kind of a youknowwhathole. 

 

Good point. I never caught on to that.  Thanks for bringing that up.

 

One of the things I like about Shane is that there is no silly romance between the mother and Shane.    You appear to believe there was some type of 'impossible love' which to me sounds like romantic love.    I don't see it as that.   Instead I see a mother that knows her only child is hero-worshiping this stranger and she has concerns if the character of this stranger justifies this type of  love\worship. 

 

There are a few scenes that communicate this,  mostly related to Shane's use of a gun and the fact we know he has killed people (outside of war).      The mother comes to understand and respect Shane and is glad this man had a profound impact on her child's life.    But to me that doesn't mean she had romantic,  I want to sleep with this man and cheat on my Husband,  feelings for him.     

 

 

Welllll, I dunnoooo. . . . .It's been my impression there was a rather undercurrent attraction between Marian and Shane.  She for him the love and home he forsook oh long ago, and he for her danger and excitement and some kind of refinement absent in the rather meat-and-potatoes Starrett.  The yearniness is a piquant sauce to the plot's bed of rice.  I could detail a few instances that example this, if you want, but I'd have to watch the movie through looking for it.

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... at least on my TV, the night scenes are way too dark to see again.

 

Same here - again!

 

I hope that sometime in the future TCM will receive an older 'print' which hasn't been darkened. Maybe there is no going back though, since everything is digital now. Even the bright, sunlit outdoors seems dark.

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One thing bugged me,though. In the end, when the kid runs after Shane, where are the parents? When the kid started running, my maternal instinct kicked in and I wanted the parents to run right after him

 

 

Well, I misremembered.  Joey's mother doesn't say it's ok to go, but clearly approves.

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Same here - again!

 

I hope that sometime in the future TCM will receive an older 'print' which hasn't been darkened. Maybe there is no going back though, since everything is digital now. Even the bright, sunlit outdoors seems dark.

Yup.

 

It was very, very hard to even see much of the ending.

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O, well, there isn't any.

Even the dog is flawless.

 

So IOW this is as perfect movie. No flaws. I didn't think perfection was a thing of this world.

 

Well, at least it has a flea. There's a dog, so there's gotta be a flea.

 

:wacko:

.

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I've always heard it.  But there IS some kind of condition that some people have that makes people unable to hear sounds at certain pitch and decible levels, so maybe THAT's your issue.

 

Granted, that when I DO hear it, the sound IS very faint.

 

I guess one "flaw" I could point out is when Joey runs after Shane when he rides into Grafton's is the crossing of that little stream or creek, then running up a few yards or so, and then crossing back over to the side of it he was on in the first place!

 

Always wondered why he didn't just keep running straight.

 

 

Sepiatone

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yeah, i probably should frame my earlier statement with the fact that I do not have great hearing AND I had an air conditioner and fan running.

 

But I did move in close to try to hear...personally, it sounded like the SOUNDTRACK had been turned up so high it eclipsed most everything else about the scene.

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yeah, i probably should frame my earlier statement with the fact that I do not have great hearing AND I had an air conditioner and fan running.

 

But I did move in close to try to hear...personally, it sounded like the SOUNDTRACK had been turned up so high it eclipsed most everything else about the scene.

 

In the DVD release the music score was cranked up at the final moments and drowned out or replaced Brandon deWilde's "Bye Shane!" 

As has been stated before, the people mixing the sound probably did not realize that they were effectively removing dialogue by emphasizing the music. They probably thought they were doing good.

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In the DVD release the music score was cranked up at the final moments and drowned out or replaced Brandon deWilde's "Bye Shane!" 

As has been stated before, the people mixing the sound probably did not realize that they were effectively removing dialogue by emphasizing the music. They probably thought they were doing good.

 

I was surprised that George Stevens Jr. was involved in the promotion of the Shane DVD with the sound mixer screwup. (I'm not certain if he was directly involved with the restoration itself but you have to think it's a real possibility). The DVD had his seal of approval, even with the words "Bye Shane" drowned out, not something that would have pleased his father obviously. I've never heard of the director's son expressing concern over the sound mixing flub.

 

The darkness of the night scenes of the film has long been a source of irritation to me. In that regard, I'm sorry about Stevens's day-for-night scenes, and wish that he had just presented the story as occurring during the day. It would be much easier on our eyes today with the prints of his classic now in circulation. It's my understanding the older images of this film do not have this same problem.

 

I once had the Shane VHS tape and, unfortunately, threw it away once I got the DVD. Would anyone know if the night scenes on the VHS are brighter than those on the DVD and Blu Ray?

 

The flaw of Shane are these dark prints of the film in circulation.

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