FILM / Director's Cut: George Miller on a poetic scene from John Ford's Stagecoach

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The Independent Culture
MY DEFINITION of poetry is the maximum meaning in the minimum unit of information. There's a moment in Stagecoach where everyone in the coach is being polled on whether to go ahead or go back. We know that they all have their own agenda, and will vote for going ahead into danger or not.

And there's this very enigmatic figure - a Mississippi gambler played by John Carradine - whom you know very little about. He's closest to the camera and he's playing with the cards, just cutting the cards. When it's his turn to vote he lifts the cards, sees a certain card and decides to go ahead. His whole life is determined by that. It's a complete throwaway moment that only the audience sees, and in which his entire character is defined. Such a slight gesture but so efficiently shot - the camera just sits back and watches it - yet incredibly powerful.

It was John Wayne's first major movie, but for me Carradine was probably the most memorable character, although he's barely in it: someone who's so given up hope that he will let the cards decide his destiny. I suppose what you're trying to do when you make movies is to fill them with moments like that.

George Miller directed the 'Mad Max' movies and 'The Witches of Eastwick'. His new film, 'Lorenzo's Oil', is on general release.

(Photograph omitted)