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From here, can one call the bulk of the film, the actual search for Debbie, and then the famous final scene of the film wherein Ethan is shut out of the house, a disparity representing an out-of-place emotion followed by final narrative stage intended to represent the Transcendent? This is an interesting point to consider because Grist argues that TAXI DRIVER, a modernized retelling of the Ford film, embodies this schematic. Does this retroactively impact the Ford film?

Returning to Eckstein’s point, the film is arguably the story of one of the most taboo emotions known to straight heterosexual Euro-American mankind, desire for incest triggered by the idea of inter-ethnic coupling on the part of a young female relative. This motif is disturbed multiple times by a variety of narrative devices that seem out-of-place and rather ill-conceived in their positioning, perhaps best defined as “multiple forms of incoherence” (Pye 223). They take the form of breakaways to sequences told from the point of view of the Jorgensens, for example, or brief asides played for comedic effect told from Capt. Clayton’s or Marty’s perspective.

Roger Ebert wrote:

In any Ozu film, the action is also punctuated by what he called “pillow shots,” shots of an exterior detail– smokestacks, perhaps, or trees or clouds. These help govern the rhythm of a film, and are inspired by the “pillow words” in Japanese poetry which serve the same function (Ebert).

Can we construe these “multiple forms of incoherence” as being akin to “pillow shots” that provide the audience a moment of respite from a narrative that is extremely dark and disturbing under any circumstances? Are these breaks an instance developed by Ford that, like a pillow, creates a buffer and support for the audience as it is confronted with such fraught conversations as inter-ethnic coupling resulting from integration? Much is made of perspective in THE SEARCHERS, with one critic saying “what is fascinating about THE SEARCHERS lies in the resulting struggle to control point of view” (Pye 223). Grist notes that Scorsese’s film “represents New York as refracted through Travis’s reflected subjectivity” (Grist 162). If one considers these “forms of incoherence” instead to be loosely akin to Ozu’s pillow shots, however, these breakaways from refracting the Western landscape through Ethan’s reflected subjectivity take on an entirely different meaning.

To be continued…

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