Watching Westerns This Week

This week I’ve been watching Westerns to get into the genre more. I watched Blazing Saddles (which I’d never seen all the way through), True Grit (the Coen brothers version, 2nd watching), and Once Upon a Time in the West.

I’ve seen most of the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns but I’m not sure how I missed Once Upon a Time in the West–maybe because it’s almost 3 hours long? Anyway, it didn’t feel that long and it’s a great film that really takes advantage of the medium. It’s very much a visual story (and so beautiful) with sparse dialogue and a 15-minute opening sequence that’s full of tension and story with barely a single line spoken. Anyway, it’s my favorite Spaghetti Western now, replacing For a Few Dollars More, although that’s definitely a more playful, fun movie.

True Grit is also beautiful but with sparring witty dialogue as opposed to just letting the images tell the story. I saw True Grit as a film about about overcoming oneself to help another (at least in the end) and Once Upon a Time is about overcoming another to help oneself (and get revenge).

There’s something about westerns that I admire. Or maybe it’s just old movies in general. There’s a certain willingness to accept your fate and face it stoically. It’s theatrical and perhaps not true to life, but there’s a nobility to it, something to aspire to.

On the other hand, I wonder if these men go home and are ever happy. The protagonists never seem to have parents or wives or families or even friends. So the individualistic life is romanticized but I wonder if in reality it wouldn’t be cripplingly lonely.

As for Blazing Saddles, it’s hilarious, but you already knew that. And nobody had to cry. Imagine that, a comedy where no men cry or have awkward sex.