Ken Tucker
February 10, 2006 AT 05:00 AM EST

What better way to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday than an immersion into director John Ford’s beautiful biography, Young Mr. Lincoln, a film about not the Great Emancipator, but a lanky Honest Abe as a fledgling country lawyer? Henry Fonda manages plainspoken eloquence in this visually simple, morally complex movie, a too rarely emulated model for political filmmaking. Neither director nor star has an ideological ax to grind — the only ax is the one Lincoln uses to split rails in one of the most iconic, enjoyable scenes. EXTRAS A fine overview of Ford’s career presented by director Lindsay Anderson for the BBC, and a TV interview with Fonda by the BBC’s Michael Parkinson, whose self-effacing thoroughness puts our James Lipton to shame. And be sure to read Geoffrey O’Brien’s essay on Ford’s ”cinematic language fit for democratic myth.”

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