Along the Great Divide (Walsh, 1951)

Along the Great Divide (Raoul Walsh, 1951)

“Down in the valley, the valley so low; Hang your head over, hear the wind blow; Hear the wind blow, dear, hear the wind blow; Hang your head over, hear the wind blow.”  These hypnotic lyrics soak the background, accompanied by chirping crickets, the clomping of horse feet, and the awkward tension of a traveling party wondering if or when the torture will end. The song, a trigger for past regrets by the US Marshall leading the travels, is sung by his prisoner, a man the Marshall  rescued from a mob only hours before, as a slow and sly attempt to gain his freedom. Slow and sly are good descriptions of this film – one dripping in gorgeous cinematography, each shot allowed to consume as much time as needed to create proper atmosphere. A film so methodical in peeling layers from its characters and smoothly using those to naturally connect and disconnect each, that moral assessments quickly become frivolous. Everything weaves together marvelously as the group puts land behind them on their meditative journey. This is my favorite kind of western and a fine example of the beauty of the genre.  9.5/10

along the great divide

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