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Comes a Horseman (1978)

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We’re a long way from Klute, Alan J. Pakula and Jane Fonda’s legendary 1971 collaboration and some distance from the paranoid conspiracy urban thriller with which he really cemented his name. However he’s working again with Gordon Willis, who supplied the terrifying light and shadow to that phase of his career. When her father dies rancher Ella Connors (Fonda) struggles to save the place, coveted by rival JW Ewing (Jason Robards) even with the assistance of former GI Buck Athearn (James Caan) who has survived a murder attempt that killed his partner Mark Harmon in the film’s early scenes. Dennis Lynton Clark’s screenplay deftly explores many of the tropes of the western in this modern (1940s) setting, with a lush location a great juxtaposition to tough emotions:  and just watch Fonda’s performance, particularly disclosing her past with old Ewing to a disbelieving Caan. (It was shot mainly in Coconino National Forest, Flagstaff, Prescott and San Francisco Peaks in Arizona.) There’s a nifty visual reference to her role in A Doll’s House and some lovely work by Richard Farnsworth who earned a Best Supporting Academy Award nomination. The next-to-last scene is tough to watch because a stuntman died but it’s cut right before the fatal incident. Pakula and Fonda would work together again a couple of years later in Rollover but here she’s still recognisably herself, Henry Fonda’s daughter, in Joad country. Beautiful in so many ways.

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About elainelennon

An occasional movie-watching diary.

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