Last night I watched, via the magic of Netflix streaming video, John Ford's The Searchers (imdb listing here). A few scattered comments to follow, but first this caveat: I'm not that adept at visual analysis, but I hope those who are can help with the discussion.
1. It's visually spectacular. Ford shot dozens of movies in Monument Valley, and the contrast between the almost overwhelming saturated colors in this Technicolor film and the spooky black and white landscape of Ford's Stagecoach is really remarkable. (See, that's what I mean about my limits: "really remarkable" doesn't say what's remarkable about the contrast! So help! What's remarkable about it?)
2. I didn't read any criticism on the film prior to viewing it, but I'm glad to say that the compositions that most caught my eye in viewing it are widely held to be classics: a). the Comanche band along the top of the ridge paralleling the Texas Rangers; b). the captive Debbie running down the sand dune in the background while Ethan and Martin, engaged in argument, ignore her presence, even though she is the target of their quest; c). Ethan holding Debbie aloft like the little girl she once was; d). the final shot of Ethan in the doorway.
3. The explicit thematizing of the intertwining obsession with racial and sexual purity driving Ethan.
4. I'm looking forward to reading Robert Pippin's new book (NDPR review here) for its notions of affect-laden "political psychology" (what I call "political affect") and its taking up of art forms as essential tools for political philosophy (aligned with what I do in my "case studies").
a. On the first point, the NDPR review writes: "[Pippin] believes that the focus of contemporary political philosophy on the question of legitimacy is deeply problematic. This is because he thinks that such a focus neglects what he calls "political psychology." There are a range of human passions (emotions?) -- love, fear (especially of death), desire for ease, and what might be called vanity or self-love -- that Pippin claims are relevant to questions of political philosophy. This is because political philosophy should not just address the question of what the rational or best structure of society should be, it should also, according to Pippin, be asking questions about how different forms of society are suitable or not to the human beings who inhabit them and what sorts of human beings those societies create."
b. On the second point, the review quotes Pippin: "(i) Political psychology is essential to any worthwhile political philosophy. (ii) The sort of political psychology necessary cannot be properly understood as an empirical social science. (iii) It must reflect an understanding of the experiential or first-personal dimension of political experience, and that means it must involve a complex, historically inflected interpretive task . . . . (iv) Novels and films and other artworks are essential, not incidental or merely illustrative, elements of such a task. (v) Most controversial of all, such interpretive work . . . is itself philosophical work (pp. 15-16)."