VICE Presents: The Film Foundation Screening Series: The Big Country (William Wyler, 1958) on Tuesday, November 19 at 9:30pm | Buy Tickets
The seventh screening of the VICE, The Film Foundation, and Nitehawk trifecta presentation of restored 35mm prints by The Film Foundation is none other than William Wyler’s epic western, The Big Country. As we’ve done with the previous screenings, we’ve invited people to write about the film and this month we have William Wyler scholar Gabriel Miller and Susanna Moross Tarjan, the daughter of renowned composer Jerome Moross, write about The Big Country. You can read their texts on VICE.COM.
A last minute addition (which will be included in the printed program) is by scholar Jennifer L. McMahon who co-edited The Philosophy of the Western and is included below. We’ve also added some stunning still images of The Big Country to prepare you for the scope of the film. So be sure to come on Tuesday, it’s surely the best way to get ready for Thanksgiving.
Jennifer L. McMahon, Professor of Philosophy and English, East Central University, OK and co-editor with B. Steve Csaki of The Philosophy of the Western (The Philosophy of Popular Culture):
William Wyler’s The Big Country (1958) offers audiences more than an entertaining drama about a land war that pits eastern values against western grit. Indeed, like most classic westerns, The Big Country not only supplies audiences with a glimpse into a period of American history, it constructs our perception of that period. In addition, the film, like others in the genre, shapes our cultural perception of the west, a perception that is crafted as much by fantasy as fact. Indeed, to the extent The Big Country supplies mainstream audiences with a satisfying (but historically inaccurate) narrative about how white culture tamed the “virgin yet violent” west, a desolate and uninhabited land waiting domestication, the film epitomizes a viewpoint that invites productive critique. At the same time, it encourages audiences to wrestle with important subjects, framing them for the viewers, and guiding them toward a particular view. Clearly, The Big Country is focused on rights, particularly rights to resources such as land and water, rights that remain points of dispute in the American west today. In addition, the film encourages audiences to consider competing models of masculinity, the role and rights of women, whether loyalty to persons or principles is more important, and whether it is legitimate to use violence to secure one’s interests. By virtue of its aesthetic character, preoccupation with moral concerns, and the way in which it epitomizes a cultural view of the American west, The Big Country remains as significant a film today as it was upon its release.