I haven’t read Annette Insdorf‘s “Cinematic Overtures: How to Read Opening Scenes,” but I can guess what’s in it. I’ve always been more affected by great closing scenes, to be honest, but give me an hour or so and I can come up with several great opening scenes. Or great opening shots, for that matter. Like that baroque steambath shot in the beginning of Arthur Penn‘s Mickey One, for example.
What’s my favorite opening scene or montage? The longish opener of Apocalypse Now is near the top of the list, followed by the dialogue-free beginning of Alfred Hitchcock‘s Rear Window, and then the eight-minute opening of Robert Altman‘s The Player. Right now I’m having trouble thinking beyond these three. No, I don’t have a big sentimental thing about the beginning of John Ford‘s The Searchers.
Speaking once again of The Searchers and Monument Valley: It was ten years ago when I first discussed “the whopping absurdity of any 19th Century settlers living in Monument Valley because it has (a) no grass for cattle to graze on, (b) no rich soil to grow crops with (it’s all sandy, desert-type moon dust with rugged cactus and sage brush-type plants), (c) no big river running through it, and (d) no forest to invade and cut down trees to build log cabins and make lumber with with…no nothin’ in the way of life-sustaining, community-building elements of any kind.
“None of your John Ford worshippers have ever complained about this…not once. Or have I missed something?”