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Western Movies

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Western Movies

  1. 1. Western Movies Conventions, History and Examples
  2. 2. An Overview – Key Points <ul><li>Telling stories set in the American West </li></ul><ul><li>Often portray films in a romanticised light </li></ul><ul><li>Nostalgic historical feel </li></ul><ul><li>Genre has been popular throughout the history of the movies </li></ul><ul><li>Has diminished in importance as the United States moves further away from the period depicted in these movies. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Setting and Time <ul><li>Set in the American West </li></ul><ul><li>Almost always in the 19 th Century </li></ul><ul><li>Incorporate the Civil War into the film directly, or the background </li></ul><ul><li>May extend further back into the colonial period </li></ul><ul><li>Or forward into the mid-twentieth century </li></ul><ul><li>May range geographically from Mexico to Canada </li></ul>
  4. 4. The Hero <ul><li>Semi – nomadic characters </li></ul><ul><li>Sole possessions consist of clothing, a gun and maybe a horse </li></ul><ul><li>Some high technology of the era present, e.g. telegraph, printing press, railroad </li></ul><ul><li>Occasionally these referred to as a development just arriving, symbolising the end of frontier lifestyle and the march of civilisation </li></ul>
  5. 5. Some general conventions <ul><li>Each movie is a morality tale </li></ul><ul><li>Usually set against stunning American landscapes </li></ul><ul><li>In some movies the landscapes are more the stars than the actors </li></ul><ul><li>Stress the harshness of the landscape, or juxtapose the beauty of it with the dirtiness of a town </li></ul>
  6. 6. Some possible locations <ul><li>Isolated forts </li></ul><ul><li>Ranch houses </li></ul><ul><li>Isolated homestead </li></ul><ul><li>Saloon </li></ul><ul><li>Jail </li></ul>
  7. 7. Iconography <ul><li>Stetsons </li></ul><ul><li>Spurs </li></ul><ul><li>Colt. 45’s </li></ul><ul><li>Prostitutes </li></ul><ul><li>Saloon </li></ul><ul><li>Sheriff </li></ul><ul><li>Faithful Steed </li></ul><ul><li>Indians </li></ul>
  8. 8. Common themes <ul><li>Conquest of the wilderness and the subordination of nature, or the capture of territory from the natives. </li></ul><ul><li>Depicts a society based on a code of honour rather than law. </li></ul><ul><li>Social status is only achieved through acts of violence, or generosity. </li></ul><ul><li>These themes are forefront, as in the western, the arrival of the law is often seen as regrettable. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Evolution <ul><li>Structure drawn from 19 th Century melodramatic literature involving virtuous hero and a wicked villain who menaces a virginal heroine </li></ul><ul><li>Action story, composed of violence, chases and crimes </li></ul><ul><li>Introduction of the history of migration westwards and opening of frontier – films like The Covered Wagon (1924) </li></ul><ul><li>Revenge structure, present in films like Billy the Kid (1930) </li></ul>
  10. 10. Sub-genres <ul><li>Classical Western </li></ul><ul><li>Epic Western </li></ul><ul><li>Shoot ‘em up </li></ul><ul><li>Singing Cowboy Westerns </li></ul><ul><li>Spaghetti Westerns </li></ul><ul><li>Revisionist Western </li></ul>
  11. 11. Classic Westerns <ul><li>The Great Train Robbery (1903) was the first narrative film produced in US </li></ul><ul><li>Starred Bronco Billy Anderson </li></ul><ul><li>He then starred in hundreds of western shorts </li></ul><ul><li>Genre epitomised by work of two directors – John Ford who used John Wayne as his lead directed Stagecoach (1939), which is considered one of the best westerns ever made. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Spaghetti Westerns <ul><li>Revival of the western genre in Italy </li></ul><ul><li>Low budget affairs </li></ul><ul><li>Locations chosen for their cheapness, and similarity to mid-West (southern Spain was often chosen) </li></ul><ul><li>More action and violence than Hollywood westerns. </li></ul><ul><li>Sergio Leone’s contributions were the most notable – Once Upon A Time in the West . </li></ul><ul><li>Clint Eastwood started his career in these </li></ul>
  13. 13. Revisionist Westerns <ul><li>Questioned the role of native as a savage </li></ul><ul><li>Questioned the hero versus villain theme </li></ul><ul><li>Some gave women much larger roles </li></ul>
  14. 14. Clint Eastwood
  15. 15. Critical Thinking <ul><li>Long derided for simplicity </li></ul><ul><li>Later came to be seen as a series of linked films which convey meaning – this links with Todorov’s theories of conventions of genre. </li></ul><ul><li>Worked on the principle of semiotics as well – e.g. a white hat represented the good guy </li></ul>
  16. 16. Influences <ul><li>After 1960, heavily influenced by Japanese Samurai movies </li></ul><ul><li>Magnificent Seven was remake of Seven Samurai (Dir. Akira) </li></ul><ul><li>Western was a strong influence on Eastern bloc cinema </li></ul><ul><li>Superheroes like Spiderman are modern, urban representations of the western hero </li></ul><ul><li>Star Wars films use many codes and conventions of the western </li></ul>
  17. 17. And Finally… <ul><li>‘As far as I’m concerned, Americans don’t have any original art except western movies and jazz…’ </li></ul><ul><li>Clint Eastwood </li></ul>

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