Set in winter in the Old West. Charismatic but dumb John McCabe arrives in a young Pacific Northwest town to set up a whorehouse/tavern. The shrewd Mrs. Miller, a professional madam, arrives soon after construction begins. She offers to use her experience to help McCabe run his business, while sharing in the profits. The whorehouse thrives and McCabe and Mrs. Miller draw closer, despite their conflicting intelligences and philosophies. Soon, however, the mining deposits in the town attract the attention of a major corporation, which wants to buy out McCabe along with the rest. He refuses, and his decision has major repercussions for him, Mrs. Miller, and the town.Written by
John J. Magee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
At 1:46:02 into the film, when McCabe is hiding in the door of the hardware store, a leg and a foot of a crew-member are visible reflected in the window on the left. After the cutaway it is even clearer when the person moves. See more »
[muttering to himself]
I told you... Think I'm stupid?... S'exactly what I said. Six, six of 'em...
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New 4K digital restoration, from Criterion, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. from 2016, 2 discs, lots of new extras See more »
It was a good script. The bad guys were corrupt businessmen. So what? Love did not conquer all. But it was there. It was heroic. Why?
The setting: old, wet, miserable. It seemed futile. It turned out to be futile. It seemed absurd. It was absurd.
The preacher was absurd. His cartoonish "gun control" was absurd. His absurd behavior led to the church fire.
The Leonard Cohen music tied it all together. Leonard gave it meaning while his lyrics explicitly addressed the absurd:
> "you knew I was a stranger."
> "about this or any other matter."
> "you could read their address by the moon."
> "Yes you who must leave everything / that you cannot control / it begins with your family / but soon it comes round to your soul
What made this a good film? It reminded me of the French writer Albert Camus who died in a car crash in 1960. His literary mission was the unblinking confrontation of the absurdity of life, and the heroic response to such an absurdity: rebellion.
Camus used the Greek myth of Sisyphus, condemned to eternal frustration by the gods, having to push a rock uphill only to see it roll back down day after day.
Camus wrote: "We might imagine Sisyphus happy."
Neither of the lead characters of the film were conventional. They rebelled against the conventional wisdom represented by the preacher, and they knew that there was such a thing as right and wrong, even though they didn't know how they knew it.
Did the movie accurately represent American history? In my view it did. The "seamy side," but accurate.
Where was it shot?
"The film was shot in West Vancouver and in Squamish (BC, not WA), almost in sequential order, a rarity for films." (Wikipedia)
Was the plot "camusien"? Yes. The characters worked against Sisyphean odds, and they were rebels. Their hard-scrabble lives had "become so absolutely free that you'd believe their freedom was an act of rebellion." (Translation of a quote from Camus.)
That's what made the movie work. Otherwise it would have been nihilistic, mean but without meaning.
McCabe and Mrs. Miller were heroes, not victims, villains, or vegetables.
What does it mean to rebel against absurdity?
It means to make the meaningless meaningful, while knowing the futility of that effort. Pushing the rock up the hill, knowing that it will just roll down again.
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