Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Film Fest - Modern Westerns

I watched Blackthorn the other night, a fictionalized account of the life of Butch Cassidy after his supposed death... and the death of everyone else important to him.  The story is set in Bolivia - very beautiful and very bleak.  An unexpected plot puts Cassidy in the role of dupe to what turns out to be one of the nastier Western villains.

There are the classic films like Stagecoach or Shane.  

Cowboy Breaking a Horse, Frederick Remington, public domain image

Then a new period starting in the 1960s when the western was reconsidered.  There are several variations: spaghetti westerns, like those starring Clint Eastwood - or sort of Pop westerns like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and many which modified or even shifted traditional audience sympathies from the white settlers to the displaced native peoples as did Little Big Man, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, or Dances With Wolves. 

Now comes this tough strain of modern variations where the traditional western virtues exist alongside sympathy for the natives plus a sometimes bleak, even nihilistic, viewpoint ...  3:10 to Yuma, True Grit (tougher than its '70s predecessor), The Three Burials of Melquides Estrada, or There Will Be Blood.  Or Blackthorn.

I'm impressed with this latest generation of westerns.

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