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Western (film)

Parent categories: USA - film

Titles: Midnight Cowboy (1969) - John Schlesinger

Related: Spaghetti western

Broncho Billy Anderson, from "The Great Train Robbery"

One of the first movies to tell a fictional story, The Great Train Robbery (1903), ends with a famous shot of a cowboy firing a gun directly at the camera. Legend says that during initial screenings of the film, this scene panicked many members of the studio audience. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_wall#Film [Dec 2004]

There is an Italian movie in which the characters go to a cinema to see a western movie and one of the cowboys shoots a member of the audience, leaving a little hole in the screen. Can anyone remember the name of this movie?

Lonesome Cowboys (1969)- Andy Warhol

Definition

Western movie is a movie genre commonly referred to as a "Western" and set in the Western United States, usually in the era circa 18601900. Western movies have a characteristic visual style. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western [Mar 2005]

The Western movie is one of the classic American film genres. Westerns are art works films, literature, sculpture, TV shows and paintings devoted to telling romanticized tales of the American West.

While the Western has been popular throughout the history of movies, as the United States progresses farther away from the period depicted it has begun to diminish in importance. The Kevin Costner western, Open Range, is seen by some as a revival of the genre. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_movie [Mar 2005]

Genre studies and westerns

In the 1960s academic and critical attention to cinema as a legitimate art form emerged. With the increased attention, Film Theory was developed to attempt to understand the significance of film. From this environment emerged (in conjunction with the literary movement) a enclave of critical studies called genre studies. This was primarily a semantic and structural approach to understanding how similar films convey meaning. So long derided for its simplistic morality, the western film genre was seen instead as a series of conventions and codes that acted as a short-hand communication methods with the audience. For example, a white hat represents the good guy, a black hat represents the bad guy; two people facing each other on a deserted street leads to the expectation of a showdown; cattlemen are loners, townsfolk are family and community minded; and so forth. All western films can be read as a series of codes and the variations on those codes. Since the 1970s, the western genre has been unraveled through a series of films that used the codes but primarily as a way of undermining them. Little Big Man and Maverick did this through comedy. Kevin Costner's Dances with Wolves actually resurrected all the original codes and conventions and reversed the good vs. bad polarity (the Native-Americans were good, the U.S. Cavalry was bad). Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven uses every one of the original conventions, only reverses the outcomes (instead of dying bravely or stoicly, characters whine, cry, and beg; instead of a good guy saving the day, unredeemable characters execute revenge; etc.)

Due to genre studies, some have argued that "westerns" need not take place in the American West or even in the 19th Century. Hud starring Paul Newman and Akira Kurosawa's Shichinin no samurai (The Seven Samurai) are possible examples of this. Likewise, films set in the old American West, may not necessarily be considered "Westerns." --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_movie#Genre_Studies_and_Westerns [Mar 2005]

Revisionist westerns

Beginning in the 1960s, many people questioned many traditional themes of westerns; aside from the portrayal of the Native American as a "savage", audiences began to question the simple hero versus villain dualism, and the use of violence to test one's character or to prove oneself right. Examples of "revisionist westerns" include Little Big Man, Dances With Wolves and Unforgiven. Some "modern" Westerns give women more powerful roles, such as Open Range and The Missing. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_movie [Mar 2005]

Unforgiven (1992) - Clint Eastwood


Unforgiven (1992) - Clint Eastwood [Amazon.com]

Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven uses every one of the original conventions, only reverses the outcomes (instead of dying bravely or stoicly, characters whine, cry, and beg; instead of a good guy saving the day, unredeemable characters execute revenge; etc.) --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_movie#Genre_Studies_and_Westerns [Mar 2005]

While most Western films glorify violence as a justifiable means to an end, Unforgiven tries to depict violence more realistically as something that harms everyone around it. While Clint Eastwood's earlier roles often featured a "Man with No Name", an anonymous stranger who wanders in to town to set things right, William Munney can be seen as a man who is trying to escape his past identity. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unforgiven [Mar 2005]

see also: Clint Eastwood

Western spoof

  1. Blazing Saddles (1974) - Mel Brooks [Amazon US]
    Mel Brooks scored his first commercial hit with this raucous Western spoof starring the late Cleavon Little as the newly hired (and conspicuously black) sheriff of Rock Ridge. Sheriff Bart teams up with deputy Jim (Gene Wilder) to foil the railroad-building scheme of the nefarious Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman). The simple plot is just an excuse for a steady stream of gags, many of them unabashedly tasteless, that Brooks and his wacky cast pull off with side-splitting success. The humor is so juvenile and crude that you just have to surrender to it; highlights abound, from the lunkheaded Alex Karras as the ox-riding Mongo to Madeline Kahn's uproarious send-up of Marlene Dietrich as saloon songstress Lili Von Shtupp. Adding to the comedic excess is the infamous campfire scene involving a bunch of hungry cowboys, heaping servings of baked beans and, well, you get the idea. --Jeff Shannon, amazon.com

  2. Lust in the Dust (1985) - Paul Bartel [Amazon.com]
    After forming a match made in trash-movie heaven in John Waters's Polyester, Tab Hunter and Divine reunited for this deliciously tasteless Western comedy, which borrows its title from the nickname for Duel in the Sun, the turgid Western that inspired director Paul Bartel's affectionate spoofery. With Hunter wearing two hats as hero and coproducer, the movie indulges its own outrageous excess while staying true to the dustiest traditions of the Western genre. It's just good enough to watch without shame, and rude enough to hide from more offendable members of the family.

    Nothing's sacred in Chile Verde, the wild western town where lone gunman Abel Wood (Hunter) arrives after rescuing corpulent saloon singer Rosie Velez (Divine) from being defiled by Hard Case Williams (Geoffey Lewis) and his gang of misfit gunslingers. Saloon owner Marguerita Ventura (Lainie Kazan) gets hot 'n' heavy for Abel's wood, and passions flare up in a race for hidden treasure, the map to which is tattooed in two sections on Rosie's and Marguerita's ample posteriors. To reveal more would spoil the wretched hilarity; one needn't love Westerns to enjoy this pig-wallow of a comedy, but it helps if you know the legacy of screen villains like Henry Silva, who's riotous here while barely shifting his vile expression. No doubt, this is the wackiest Western that ever cooked under the "blistering, burning, blazing, scorching, roasting, toasting, baking, boiling, broiling, steaming, searing, sizzling, grilling, smoldering, very hot New Mexico sun." --Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com

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