The Far Country (1954 USA 97mins)

The Far Country

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Ruth Roman in “The Far Country” (1954)

Cotton candy existence. Have you ever eaten cotton candy? I have, I think. Actually last time I put cotton candy in my mouth it seemed to disappear. It looked real pretty, it promised a great deal, but it didn't deliver. The far country is a land of deception.

But then director Anthony Mann raises the game to make "The Far Country" more of a character study, an examination of the selfish Jeff Webster and as such casting Hollywood's Mr. Nice Guy, James Stewart, as a self centred cowboy adds a further dimension. So instead of being generic "The Far Country" becomes much more interesting as we come to understand that Jeff really is quite cold hearted, willing to use others to suit his own needs. Surprisingly we don't get a back story as to why Jeff is so cold and cruel but we don't need it, we can guess at some point he's been let down and betrayed, maybe more than once and so is shielding himself from more hurt by being so self centred.

James Stewart and Corinne Calvet in “The Far Country” (1954)

James Stewart and Walter Brennan in “The Far Country” (1954)

The Far Country saw Andrew Peterson going to great lengths to create a thought-provoking acoustic concept album, a sparkling feat indeed considering how dry the CCM-folk well had run by 2005. Of the theme for the CD, the lead singer said, "These songs are representative of what God's been teaching me over the last few years, that believing in and longing for Heaven affects every aspect of our lives here on Earth." Lyrically, the band portrayed these lessons with various references to scripture and fantasy works (Lord of the Rings fans will recognize at once "The Haven's Grey"). Musically, the material was tickled by a range of folk instrumentation that went well beyond the usual touches of accordion and mandolin; Peterson tapped the sounds of the ocarina, bouzouki, resonator guitar, hammered dulcimer and even an Irish whistle in "Little Boy Heart Alive." The album artwork and song titles also dealt with the joyful journey from life to death, showing a reverent yearning to leave everything behind and explore the next realm of eternity. Peterson's warm yet thin timbre continued an evolution toward Glen Phillips' recognizable tenor. The album never roared above a whisper, yet it spoke loudly of gospel themes. Christianity Today named it number eight on its list of the best Christian albums of 2005, deeming it "an engaging folk pop album" with "top-notch musicianship" and a "strong sense of melody and lyrical insight."

On face value "The Far Country" initially appears to be just another western, almost immediately we meet the central figure of Jeff Webster your archetype loner who travels around the country doing what it takes to basically look after number one. And what follows could be deemed as a series of western cliche's where we get a few gunfights, a bit of romance and a storyline which twists its way along till the big climax, the big shoot out. As such you would say that "The Far Country" on face value is entertaining but generic.