Wednesday, July 27, 2011

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 25: Your Favorite Western

Day 25: Your Favorite Western (Hays Code Era Edition):
Originally, this prompt read "favorite independent film," but once again, I called foul.  The lines between independent and studio film have blurred a bit at the edges, and I like too many indies to pull one out and declare it better than its kinfolk.  So, message to you: there's a surplus of little films out there waiting to be watched.  Seek them out.  In the meantime, I will continue the genre breakdown and discuss a category that was curiously absent from the challenge: the western.  Specifically, the old Hollywood notion of the western in existence during John Wayne's lifetime.  For this, There Will Be Blood does not factor, nor does Rango.  For this, I will state for the record that I am no great fan.  Something about westerns has always bugged me, I find them tiresome, and I have to admit that I've yet to find anything appealing about the Duke.  High Noon is a classic, but not a favorite.  For this, I choose three films.  These are the films that make me completely forget I've ever hated the western.

1. The Furies (1950):  Anthony Mann's over the top western melodrama is a feast of rage, passion, and Freudian psychology.  Barbara Stanwyck takes her tough talk to the ranch, and it works so very well.

2. Johnny Guitar (1954):  I'm not entirely sure whether it's the movie that I like, or just Joan Crawford's tough as nails role.  This movie puts the genre gender divide in flux and gives us a lady villain and a lady keeper of the peace in opposition.  Johnny himself is almost an afterthought...

3. Yojimbo (1961): Akira Kurosawa was certainly inspired by the American western, and while Seven Samurai has influenced a great many directors in Hollywood, Yojimbo is Kurosawa's rather direct homage to the films of John Ford.  While its setting is a village that's something other than the ghost towns of American myth, Yojimbo's high noon stand-offs and nomadic hero make for a better western film than a fair percentage of titles produced by Hollywood.

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