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November 1996, Week 1


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Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 5 Nov 1996 17:42:35 -0600
text/plain (36 lines)
Sorry that this is a bit dated, but I'm slowing cleaning up my email backlog:
Lang Thompson wonders:
"Is the first a Japanese film
inspired by or based on American Westerns?  Would it have existed
without that example?  Fistful of Dollars is the same plot/structure
but this time actually moved to the traditional Western time and place
so there would be little question that it actually is a Western.  Last
Man Standing is Western in setting but not time and has numerous
elements of the gangster film incorporated.  In fact, it would be easy
to imagine Last Man Standing actually set in New York City, so if the
plot can be easily converted, what is essentially Western about it?"
It seems that there are a number of aspects that define any given "genre"
(which is bad enough when defining something everyone would agree is
a genre, such as the Western, but even worse when there is disagreement
about its very status, as in "film noir"): the notion of "conventions"
seems prominent.  There are conventions of setting (time and place),
narrative (eg. good guy vs. bad guy), plot construction, and audience
affect, just to mention a few.  Any of these elements is transposable on
its own from one genre to another.
Thus certain plot motifs, as in Kurosawa or Leone or that Sean Connery film,
are recognizable as "western" even if the rest of the conventions have
been altered.
But "genre" has always seemed most potent as a film industry marketing tool--
just consider Hong Kong martial arts, Japanese anime, Hollywood "action
films" and so on.
Don Larsson, Mankato State U (MN)
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