Friday, August 06, 2010

The Hearse Ride

"The Magnificent Seven" depicts vigorous liberalism. The hearse ride near the beginning is a suspenseful and exciting sequence, grounded in reality, surrounded with humanity. We see gawkers following the hearse, including the three Mexican villagers who've come north to buy guns. We see Chico following also.

"I have to see this," a stage driver says. The townsmen don't know what will happen-- and neither do we! They're the audience. They're us. Afterward, the reaction of the salesman whose decency initiated the matter is perfectly genuine. Again, if we're not too jaded by having seen too many lesser movies, that's our reaction.

More important, the sequence establishes the character of Chris, and sets up the rest of the movie. Who is this guy? This "Cajun" is an atypical Western hero in that he's short, looks and talks different, is of uncertain ethnicity in an environment announced to us as blatantly racist. Why does Chris drive the hearse? For the hell of it? Or is something else going on within him, and within the movie?

Chris is the moral center of the movie. This is established in this early sequence and maintained throughout. Others are drawn to him because of his moral authority. He's a man of conscience. (Different but comparable to the Joel McCrae character in "Ride the High Country.") Chris is himself an underdog. Chico idolizes him for his demonstrated courage and ability. The three villagers see more in him. Not that he's a man of tolerance-- but that he's a man INtolerant of injustice.

Because Chris stood up against racist townfolk, he's a man they "can trust."

"The Magnificent Seven" is not quite the standard white-man-rescues-Third-World scenario, because the Seven, in different ways, are themselves underdogs.

Anyway, the hearse ride is a wonderful sequence; wonderful for its vigor, its conscience, its realistic humanity.

No comments: