<i>To the Last Man</i>

Courtesy MoMA

Set among the Kentucky mountains that recently concluded their role on TV's Justified, this 1933 adaptation of Zane Grey's To the Last Man is a tale of two families locked in an eternal blood feud, inevitably wrinkled by the romance of two relative innocents from each house (Randolph Scott and Esther Ralston). Director Henry Hathaway yields a sustained artistic profit from limited resources by finding costless ways of conveying momentum and emotion, like fraught close-ups and impatiently inventive blocking. Hathaway's direction isn't constricted but inward-facing; he employs restorative calm as an overarching, natural force, achieving a multiplicity of effects. (It's as if he weighed humanity's petty squabbles against the turning of the earth, and judged humanity wanting.) The violence that breaks out during the final minutes, with bullets, brawling, and pounding hooves on the warpath, is all the more propulsive as it follows ancient contours.
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