Jeremiah Johnson (1972)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Jeremiah Johnson</strong> (1972)

(On Cable TV, November 2018) The 1970s were an interesting time for the western genre. Its heydays were clearly over, and the New Hollywood atmosphere was pushing filmmakers toward a revisionist approach to the genre, especially when it came to its portrayal of Native Americans, or newfound environmental attitudes toward the wilderness. All of this can be found in Jeremiah Johnson, arguably less of a western and more of a survival film in which a white protagonist learns to live in nature and fight enemies both natural and human. (It does feel a lot like The Revenant at times.) Native Americans here are portrayed anywhere from helpful to bloodthirsty, but with understandable motives. The on-location footage (nearly the entire film was shot outside studios) is fantastic and does drive home the loneliness of the protagonist against the elements—not to mention the famously slow pacing of the film. Robert Redford stars in nearly every scene as the title character, but frankly the natural landscapes steal the show. The result may not be for everyone, but it’s certainly striking in its own way. Hilariously enough, Jeremiah Johnson remains more noteworthy today as the source of an animated GIF showing Redford (somehow mistakable as Zach Galifianakis) nodding in approval in the wilderness. I’m OK with that if it leads even one person to have a look at the original film.

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