Saturday, 21 May 2011
True Grit and the Resurgence of the Western
Every once in a while there will be a somewhat successful Western. Before last year, James Mangold’s 3:10 to Yuma remake was the most recent example, and with it, as always, came the discussion about the resurgence of the genre. But sorely, back then the resurgence never emerged. It was the same with Unforgiven, Dances With Wolves, Maverick, etc.
Prior to the 70s, the Western was one of the most venerable of Hollywood genres, one which spoke to the quintessential qualities of the American spirit. But in hindsight, the genre also furthered the history of bigotry and the marginalization of groups such as the North American First Nations peoples.
The genre has never fully gone away, nor will it ever. It’s an entrenched institution, so full of history, great filmmakers always seem to want to carry on the tradition and ‘make a Western.’
And then True Grit came along, an unlikely hit from the Coen Bros. With $171 million in earnings at the US box office, it’s by far their most successful film to date. It struck a chord with everybody, yet it’s a very traditionally-executed genre film and arguably the least ‘Coen-Bros.-esque’ of all their films.
Is the Western coming back? Who knows?
But everyone seems to be scrambling to take advantage. Take note of some of the catalogue releases on Blu-ray this month. No less than seven Westerns are given the high-def treatment timed with the BD/DVD release of Paramount's True Grit. Father’s Day is coming up, and clearly our sons and daughters are being tempted with these fine looking titles. Admittedly, I’m no exception. Let’s run them down:
From Paramount Home Entertainment:
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
Sergio Leone’s romantic epic and ode to the American romanticism of the genre.
A Man Called Horse (1970)
Richard Harris as a British Lord captured by the North American Sioux Indians, who gradually embraces the tribe's way of life and of course falls in love with the Chief's daughter - Avatar anyone?
Rio Lobo (1970)
Howard Hawks' last film starring John Wayne in this Civil War-era action picture.
MGM/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment:
The Horse Soldiers (1959)
John Wayne and William Holden directed by John Ford; another Civil War actioner featuring Wayne as an ornery cavalry leader banging heads with Holden as a peaceful surgeon along for the ride.
Michael Curtiz's last picture and his only one with John Wayne.
The Misfits (1961)
Sure, it’s not a traditional Western, but it has Southern Western sensibilities; Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable's last picture, directed by John Huston.
So do that man in your life a favour and indulge him with a good ol' Western or two. They’re coming back!