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The Big Country

Screening on Film
Directed by William Wyler.
With Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker.
US, 1958, 35mm, color, 166 min.
Print source: HFA

The Big Country carries an adjective that ties the feature to hundreds of variants (Big and the Bad, Big Jack, Big Land, Big Stampede, Big Sky, Big Trail, Big Trees…), but few films offer such epic takes of sky and land by virtue of William Wyler’s long takes, in deep focus, that we recall from The Best Years of Our Lives. Here (in Ione, California) the shots that follow inhabitants about and out of their dwellings – a great house under the sky, a remote canyon valley – we feel an astonishing pleasure of agoraphilia.  In a film that has Gregory Peck – then the refugee of Moby Dick – and Burl Ives bringing social awareness to what was then, before Sergio Leone, the “surwestern.”

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