Revisionist Western

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The Revisionist Western, Anti-Western or Post-Western is a subgenre of the Western film that subverts the standard format or theme of the Western. The traditional Western generally follows a standard format, in which a strong, male lead character, through direct action, leads the forces of a civilized people against the uncivilized forces that stand in their way. Traditionally, this pitted the "good guys,” usually lawmen, against the "bad guys,” usually criminals or Native Americans. Revisionist westerns subverted this standard format in a number of ways, such as setting criminals as the protagonist, or presenting morally ambiguous storylines without clear heroes. They often featured antiheroes or sympathetic villains more than in earlier films, blurring the traditionally clear boundaries between "right" and "wrong". In general, these films sought to depict a world in which actions could not be strictly judged as righteous or evil, pulling narrative emphasis away from the struggle between "good" and "bad", toward survival amidst ambiguity.

Some of the earliest revisionist Westerns came out in the 1950s in the milieu of McCarthyism and attempted to strike back against the blacklisting of the film industry of the time, notably High Noon (1952) starring Gary Cooper. By the time of the loosening, and later abolition, of the restrictive Hays Code in the 1960s, many directors of the New Hollywood generation such as Sam Peckinpah, George Roy Hill, and Robert Altman took aim at the Western and each produced their own classics in the genre, including Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (1969), Hill's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), and Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971). Meanwhile, in Europe directors such as Sergio Leone had been making Western films unencumbered by American expectations nor Hays Code inspired censorship, and these Spaghetti Westerns also provided a new perspective on the Western genre. The revisionist Western has been carried from its traditional setting into modern times, notably the Coen brothers' 2007 No Country for Old Men, based on the work of Cormac McCarthy, an author known for writing revisionist western literature, such as the novel Blood Meridian.

Hollywood revisionist Westerns[edit]

Most Westerns from the 1960s to the present have revisionist themes. Many were made by emerging major filmmakers who saw the Western as an opportunity to expand their criticism of American society and values into a new genre. The 1952 Supreme Court holding in Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson, and later, the end of the Production Code in 1968 broadened what Westerns could portray and made the revisionist Western a more viable genre. Films in this category include Sam Peckinpah's Ride the High Country (1962) and The Wild Bunch (1969), Arthur Penn's Little Big Man (1970) and Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971).

Beginning in the late 1960s, independent filmmakers produced revisionist and hallucinogenic films, later retroactively identified as the separate but related subgenre of "Acid Westerns,” that radically turn the usual trappings of the Western genre inside out to critique both capitalism and the counterculture. Monte Hellman's The Shooting and Ride in the Whirlwind (1966), Alejandro Jodorowsky's El Topo (1970), Robert Downey Sr.'s Greaser's Palace (1972), Alex Cox's Walker (1987), and Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man (1995) fall into this category.[1] Films made during the early 1970s are particularly noted for their hyper-realistic photography and production design.[2] Notable examples using sepia tinting and muddy rustic settings are Little Big Man (1970), McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971) and The Culpepper Cattle Co. (1972).

Other films, such as those directed by Clint Eastwood, were made by professionals familiar with the Western as a criticism and expansion against and beyond the genre. Eastwood's The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) and Unforgiven (1992) made use of strong supporting roles for women and Native Americans. The films The Long Riders (1980) and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) are revisionist films dealing with the James Gang. Jeffrey Wright's portrayal of Black Confederate Daniel Holt riding with the Missouri Bushwhackers in Ride with the Devil tells the stories of the Kansas Border War and Lawrence Massacre.

Spaghetti Westerns[edit]

Foreign markets, which had imported the Western since their silent film inception, began creating their own Westerns early on. However, a unique brand of Western emerged in Europe in the 1960s as an offshoot of the Revisionist Western.[citation needed]

The Spaghetti Western became the nickname, originally disparagingly, for this broad subgenre, so named because of their common Italian background, directing, producing and financing (with occasional Spanish involvement). Originally they had in common the Italian language, low budgets, and a recognizable highly fluid, violent, minimalist cinematography that helped eschew (some said "de-mythologize") many of the conventions of earlier Westerns. They were often made in Spain, especially Tabernas Desert, in Almería, the dry ruggedness of which resembled the American Southwest's. Director Sergio Leone played a seminal role in this movement. A subtle theme of the conflict between Anglo and Hispanic cultures plays through all these movies. Leone conceived of the Old West as a dirty place filled with morally ambivalent figures, and this aspect of the Spaghetti Western came to be one of its universal attributes, as seen in a wide variety of these films, beginning with one of the first popular Spaghetti Westerns, Gunfight at Red Sands (1964), and visible elsewhere in those starring John Philip Law (Death Rides a Horse) or Franco Nero, and in the Trinity series.

Red Western[edit]

The Ostern, or Red Western, was the Soviet Bloc's reply to the Western, and arose in the same period as the Revisionist Western. While many red Westerns concentrated on aspects of Soviet/Eastern-European history, some others like the Czechoslovak Lemonade Joe (1964) and the East German The Sons of the Great Mother Bear (1966) tried to de-mythologize the Western in different ways: Lemonade Joe by sending up the more ridiculous aspects of marketing, and The Sons of the Great Mother Bear by showing how American natives were exploited repeatedly, told from the Native American rather than white settler viewpoint.

A Man from the Boulevard des Capucines (1987) was a sensitive satire on the Western film itself. It was also highly unusual in being one of the few examples in Soviet film of post-modernism.

List of films[edit]

Films[edit]

1940s[edit]

1950s[edit]

1960s[edit]

1970s[edit]

1980s[edit]

1990s[edit]

2000s[edit]

2010s[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan (Spring 1996). "A Gun Up Your Ass: An Interview with Jim Jarmusch". Cineaste. Vol. 22 no. 2. Retrieved 2014-09-01.
  2. ^ Brophy, Philip (1987). "Rewritten Westerns: Rewired Westerns". Stuffing. No. 1. Melbourne. Retrieved 2014-09-01.
  3. ^ Erickson, Hal. "Johnny Guitar (1954)". www.allmovie.com. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
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  28. ^ Erickson, Hal. "The Ballad of Little Jo (1993)". www.allmovie.com. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
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  30. ^ Ramsey, Lucinda. "Tombstone (1993)". www.allmovie.com. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
  31. ^ Williams, Karl. "The Quick and the Dead (1995)". www.allmovie.com. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
  32. ^ Deming, Mark. "The Missing (2003)". www.allmovie.com. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
  33. ^ Buchanan, Jason. "Seraphim Falls (2006)". www.allmovie.com. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
  34. ^ Buchanan, Jason. "September Dawn (2007)". www.allmovie.com. Retrieved 13 September 2019.