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Johnny Guitar

USA 1954. Dir: Nicholas Ray. 110 min. DCP

French New Waver and former Cahiers du cinéma critic Jean-Luc Godard once wrote that “cinema is Nicholas Ray.” Outlandish, perhaps, but those familiar with Ray’s magisterial chef d’oeuvre Johnny Guitar— a genre-subverting, noir-steeped Western with oodles of style (and subtext) to spare — can empathize with the urge to hyperbolize. Shooting on a shoestring for B-movie studio Republic Pictures, the maverick director was granted enough creative elbowroom to craft a pseudo-shoot-’em-up (Truffaut called it a “fake Western”) that pivots on gender-bending feminism and thinly-veiled anti-McCarthyism. Joan Crawford, in an impassioned performance, commands the screen as Vienna, the true-grit saloonkeeper at odds with the raving townsfolk. “A miraculous movie that should never be far from the screen” (Richard Brody, The New Yorker).


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REVIEWS

"A surpassingly tender, sensitive film, Ray's gentlest statement of his outsider theme. "

Chicago Reader | full review

★★★★ "One of the boldest and most stylized films of its time, quirky, political, twisted."

Roger Ebert | full review

"One of the strangest and most memorable of the great American Westerns."

Chicago Tribune | full review