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TUMBLEWEED AND TOMAHAWKS: ESSENTIAL WESTERNS

by Kenji
TUMBLEWEED AND TOMAHAWKS: ESSENTIAL WESTERNS by Kenji
Click on the green links. My Darling Clementine Canyon Passage This list is a representative selection, not just favourites. I think this is a genre that would benefit from a hefty dose of the Native Americans’ viewpoint: it was a bloody business. For all the romance attached to them their descendants are hardly at the feast today, in their own land. It’s not always been the most progressive genre, but has travelled the world and colonised the collective subconscious. Like so many, as a kid we played cowboys and injuns, and Champion the Wonder Horse was my favourite aged 7. Still i often imagine those “red indians” on their horses… Read more

Click on the green links.

My Darling Clementine

Canyon Passage

This list is a representative selection, not just favourites.

I think this is a genre that would benefit from a hefty dose of the Native Americans’ viewpoint: it was a bloody business. For all the romance attached to them their descendants are hardly at the feast today, in their own land. It’s not always been the most progressive genre, but has travelled the world and colonised the collective subconscious. Like so many, as a kid we played cowboys and injuns, and Champion the Wonder Horse was my favourite aged 7. Still i often imagine those “red indians” on their horses majestically framed against the sky on the top of certain hills. There are parts of Wales that would be great for a Western. The legend has been printed, history written by the winners. There have been revisions but some way to go for a full picture. Cue the documentary Reel Injun. Broken Arrow was something of a landmark in 1950 but in that decade we still had white men and women in make up, Burt Lancaster as an Apache, though at least as the hero. In the early 60s John Ford made some films questioning his own myth-making, and yes, even black men existed. In 1980 Heaven’s Gate, which has been called a Socialist western (rarity indeed), was a financial disaster and is widely considered to have spelled the end of the “Movie Brats”’ Easy Riders to Raging Bulls era, replaced by so many juvenile rollercoaster rides. In 1990 Costner’s Oscar winner Dances with Wolves, acclaimed as revisionist and sympathetic to native Americans, still had a white couple at its centre. Little Big Man had delved further into the genocide in 1970, following on from the alternative visions of a rebellious decade, the baroque operas of Leone and the brutal blood-spattered montage of The Wild Bunch. Here is a forum thread on Native American cinema- not yet fully represented on mubi..

Chief Sitting Bull

The West was the place for the pioneer spirit, bold trail-blazers, hardened independent men as rugged as the landscapes, who taught their compatriots and the world what it means to be American. They could shoot hard, drink hard amidst the whoopin’ and hollerin’ saloons and on occasion, if a more feminine audience required it, kiss hard. But the gun was king and it’s a surprise anyone lived to tell the tale. A manly genre, and the undertakers were glad of it. Johnny Guitar (beloved of the French New Wave) with its female protagonists was an exception. Female directors are notable by their scarcity- Kelly Reichardt’s austere female-centred Meek’s Cutoff a (recent) rarity. I’m tempted to pick some Japanese films like Seven Samurai and Yojimbo, models for famous Westerns, and there have been Australian (Story of the Kelly Gang, The Proposition), Czech (Lemonade Joe), Hungarian (The Wind Is Whistling Under Their Feet) and other Eastern European (see Anton Williams’ list The Red Western), even Thai (Tears of the Black Tiger) and one from Niger (Le Retour d’un Aventurier), as well as Spaghetti westerns. Still, i am sticking to American-set films, including a few modern cowboy films (Brokeback Mountain) that may not strictly qualify as Westerns, and The General (seemingly more a “Southern” than a Western, but filmed in Oregon) too. The Great Train Robbery was a cinematic landmark in 1903, and i’ve included a few other important silents, Last of the Mohicans, The Covered Wagon, The Iron Horse. Stagecoach was crucial to the careers of both Ford and Wayne, and the development and popularisation of the Western, but now may appeared clichéd from its imitations and influence, an influence that spread to Belgium, France and the Lucky Luke comic books. Lucky could have rounded up the James gang, Butch and Sundance and any number of desperadoes single-handed, he could smoke the peace pipe, ride like the wind, throw a neater lassoo than Buffalo Bill, charm the ladies in their finery from gay Paree, shoot straighter than Annie Oakley and draw faster than Billy the Kid, faster even than his own shadow.

Lucky Luke

~

Tears of the Black Tiger
(Roy Rogers meets Kwaidan)

My favourites:

The Wild Bunch
The General (?)
Track of the Cat
The Searchers
The Way of a Gaucho
Once upon a Time in the West
The Outlaw Josey Wales
One Eyed Jacks
Johnny Guitar
Vera Cruz
Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Stars in my Crown
The Good the Bad and the Ugly
Canyon Passage
Day of the Outlaw
Wagon Master
The Far Country
Meek’s Cutoff
The Man who Shot Liberty Valance
My Darling Clementine
There Will be Blood (?)

~

The Searchers

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