Daily Archives: January 27, 2006

The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada

A contemporary western with political overtones and acerbic gallows humor, Tommy Lee Jones’s first theatrical feature as director (2005) is impressive. Inspired by the unpunished 1997 killing of 18-year-old Ezequiel Hernandez Jr., the script by Guillermo Arriaga (Amores Perros) concerns the accidental and unpunished shooting of the title character, a Mexican ranch hand (Julio Cesar Cedillo) working in west Texas. Jones plays the ranch hand’s foreman and friend, who kidnaps the border patrolman responsible (Barry Pepper) and drags him and Estrada’s corpse across the border, determined to fulfill his friend’s wish to be buried in his remote hometown. A very capable piece of storytelling, clearly showing the influence of Sam Peckinpah and beautifully shot in ‘Scope by Chris Menges, this recaptures some of the grandeur of the classic western while adding modernist and absurdist ironies. With Dwight Yoakam, January Jones, and Melissa Leo. R, 121 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Sun Shines Bright

My favorite John Ford feature (1953) was also the director’s, and it’s one of his cheapest and coziest, made in black and white at Republic Pictures. Vaguely a remake of his 1934 Judge Priest, set in an idyllic Kentucky town at the turn of the century, it features the same alcoholic herothis time played by Charles Winninger and even more transparently a stand-in for Ford. The busy plot, confused by insensitive studio cutting, concerns racial strife, prostitution, prudery, and death and involves the entire community; Ford makes the film a ceremonial elegy and testament to everything that he loves and respects. With Stepin Fetchit, John Russell, Arleen Whelan, Francis Ford (in his last screen appearance), and Slim Pickens (in his first). 90 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Sun Shines Bright

My favorite John Ford feature (1953) was also the director’s, and it’s one of his cheapest and coziest, made in black and white at Republic Pictures. Vaguely a remake of his 1934 Judge Priest, set in an idyllic Kentucky town at the turn of the century, it features the same alcoholic hero–this time played by Charles Winninger and even more transparently a stand-in for Ford. The busy plot, confused by insensitive studio cutting, concerns racial strife, prostitution, prudery, and death and involves the entire community; Ford makes the film a ceremonial elegy and testament to everything that he loves and respects. With Stepin Fetchit, John Russell, Arleen Whelan, Francis Ford (in his last screen appearance), and Slim Pickens (in his first). 90 min. Screening in a double feature with Judge Priest (see separate listing). Sun 1/29, 7 PM, Univ. of Chicago Doc Films.… Read more »