Top 100 American Movie Quotes of the 21st Century: #68

The actor:David Lynch
The character:John Ford
The film:The Fabelmans
The quote:“Where’s the horizon?”

One of three quotes from last year (which I guess could change but it is getting real difficult to just shuffle things in and out at this point in the ballgame), and the one which I am personally the biggest sucker for. I love the story behind getting Lynch to play Ford.

I watched The Informer a couple days ago, which I hadn’t seen since 2018, and even then was one of my first six or seven Ford experiences. Is it nature or nurture which gave Ford the power to set up a series of shots like he has early in that film? A close-up of a woman underneath her blanket, hair covered, only her face revealed to the world in a sludgy night of fog and grime. An American shot of an obviously wealthy man, wearing gloves, a top hat, has a cigarette. A shot where the woman pulls the blanket off of her to reveal tousled curly hair, a skimpy little top. She walks, and the camera walks with her. The dance of sex worker and sex customer, down to the way that she walks just a few steps past him and leans against a street lamp, ensuring that she is neither too easy to catch, ensuring that he is what he appears to be, ensuring that she allures him beyond any lingering doubts this rouĂ© might have in his head. Is that nature, to see those shots in advance, to know how they’ll be strung together, to casually put together a suggestive sequence in which no one must speak? Or is that nurture, what happens when you follow your older brother out to Hollywood, take his adopted last name as your own, and live and breathe pictures for twenty years?

I cherish two things about “Where’s the horizon?” First, that David Lynch, whose head is more Bert than Ford’s Ernie, looks so right for this moment. Lynch will always sound a little more like himself than he can sound like anyone else, but the work he did on his costume was perfect. Ford, especially in these final years of his life, looked like crap. He used to chew handkerchiefs during shoots. He wore old, ragged clothes, always seemed filthy. He sounded terrible. And Lynch gets it, gets that even if he doesn’t sound like Ford he can absolutely look like the guy. The other thing I cherish about this is that the movie doesn’t oversimplify Ford. He’s been talked up as the greatest director of all time by a guy at the studio, and he’s also been talked up as the world’s champion sourpuss. The latter is the one that the movie privileges, because that’s a more interesting scene. That “Where’s the horizon?” line is so perfect because it helps us understand that this man is different without pretending like this is the only thing that makes him the greatest director of all time. It’s what he has time to do, it’s what he has the patience to do, it’s what he has the breath to do. The frame is not about people or objects within it. It’s the shape of the frame that matters. “Where’s the horizon?” is the kind of question that a young filmmaker ought to ask him- or herself over and over and over again, for it is a question that must beget ever more fruitful questions.

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