Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: I Told You When I Came I Was a Stranger

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I Told You When I Came I Was a Stranger

McCabe & Mrs. Miller at 40

By Tony Dayoub

I’d be hard pressed to find a more evocative opening credit sequence than that of the 1971 Western McCabe & Mrs. Miller. First, we hear the wind blowing over the WB shield logo that precedes the film. As the movie fades up, so do the plaintive guitar strings of Leonard Cohen’s “The Stranger Song,” rising along with the soft light of Vilmos Zsigmond’s cinematography. In a tracking shot, a lonely figure — his body enveloped in brown-orange fur so as to render him faceless — meanders down a winding dirt road on his horse. The fluid camera seemingly drags the film titles into view from screen right at the same deliberate pace that the rider’s horse tows a second beast of burden. The horses stroll past a half-built church sitting in the cold drizzle. The man jumps off the horse when he arrives at the ramshackle mining settlement we’ll come to know as Presbyterian Church. He doffs his fur coat, and big reveal: It is pretty-boy Warren Beatty, bearded and looking as run-down in his tight-fitting dark suit and bowler hat as the rest of the camp. The local saloon’s proprietor, Paddy Sheehan (Rene Auberjonois) soon susses out the stranger’s name from his customers: McCabe...



Andrew K. said...

Excellent article. This is one of those old movies I saw when I was younger and need to rewatch to get an older perspective, but it's expertly made. What I find interesting is that even though, as I remember, it's a film dealing with atmosphere and mood (and the technical aspects underscore) I always think of the two lead performances first. Two fine performances.

Raoul Weiller said...

Great review, thanks!

Tony Dayoub said...

Thanks for the compliments, Raoul and Andrew. Hope you guys keep stopping by.