The Discreet Bourgeois

Possessed by an urgency to make sure all this stuff I love doesn't just disappear


Book Recommendation

searchersThis book traces the evolution of the classic film from the true story of Cynthia Ann Parker, captured and raised by Comanche, ‘rescued’ by Whites after living and raising children among the Indians for over twenty year. The sad story of Cynthia Ann’s return to ‘civilization’ is followed by the story of her son, Qua’nah, first a renegade among the Comanche, then a shrewd politician deftly negotiating his way between the declining Comanche and the ascending White Man.  Cynthia Ann’s story is fictionalized by Alan Lemay in his novel The Searchers, which was read and turned into the classic film.

Only about one third of the book deals with John Ford and his film. The arc taking us from the ‘true story’ to the film version is the main event here.

The decline of the Comanche makes for very grim reading.

Frankel’s assessment of the film seems to be the latest installment of critical approach to The Searchers. Upon its original release, it was regarded as little more than a John Wayne Western.  The French critics of the Cahiers du Cinema were really the first to elevate it to masterpiece status. Then came the backlash declaring the film to be racist in its depiction of Native Americans. The next pendulum swing seems to be apologist in rationalizing Ethan Edwards’ hatreds.

It seems that Frankel is voicing the latest and, to me at least, most satisfying view of this film: it is undeniably great, brilliant, breathtaking, etc. but at the same time confounding, ambiguous and unsettling.  The same can be said of King Lear. Not bad company to be in.


Book Recommendation




The Nashville Chronicles by Jan Stuart

In August 1975 I came back to NYC after backpacking around Europe for the first time. I was still swimming in all things European. A very good friend at the time told me ‘There’s a new movie called Nashville. When you see that movie, you see truth’.

Was she ever right. I saw it a few days after my return and it was an experience that I never recovered from. The sheer hugeness of that American world it depicted stunned me. It almost wiped my European trip from my brain. That entire summer I followed that movie all over NYC and have since seen it at least 30 times.

Over the years I have made sure that everyone I care about not only sees this movie but understands why it is probably the great film of the 1970s – probably one of the greatest American film of all times, sharing that pride of place with its equally audacious older brother Citizen Kane.

This book was written on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the film. I never knew it existed until I happened to see the author’s by-line in a review in the New York Sunday Times Book Section a few weeks ago.

This is essential reading for anyone else obsessed with the movie. Stuart interviewed almost everyone involved with the making of Nashville and has woven together a chatty, gossipy but never cheap backstage story. The thorough explanation of how Altman’s improvisational style gave the film its unique form is probably what led my friend to declare it as ‘Truth’ so many years ago.

See the movie, please, at least 25 times. Then luxuriate in this tasty book!

(reprinted from