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June 1994


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Patrick B Bjork <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 9 Jun 1994 23:09:52 -0500
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On Thu, 9 Jun 1994, David Desser wrote:
> >I haven't seen MAVERICK yet (but probably will eventually), but in re:
> >the conversations about history and the western, it's often been observed
> >that Westerns echo the times in which they were made (as per remarks on
> >Leone, et al.), and that certainly seems valid for many, if not all,
> >Westerns (not to mention other genres).  STAGECOACH, for example, does
> >offer Ford's "little person" populism and is a commentary on the
> >Depression (Gatewood, the Banker and real villain of the film) mouths the
> >pure Republican Party platform from the 1930s ("America for the Americans!
> >Keep government out of business!  We need a businessman in charge!  The
> >national debt is shocking!"--hmm, was that 1930s or 1980s?).
> >
> >What hasn't been looked at closely, as far as I know, is how direct memory
> >experience affect the portrayal of historical periods or events.  For
> >Hoot Gibson and W.S. Hart had experience in the "old" West that they brought
> >to their silent films.  (Even Tom Mix did as well, as I recall.)  The next
> >generation of "mainstream" western directors (Ford, Hawks, others) tend to
> >come from outside tradition, as much as they tried to recapture it.  Post-
> >WWII films from SHANE and HIGH NOON on tend to allegorize or become
> >increasingly self-refential, until we come to attempts to recapture the
> >surface structure of an older generation's filmgoing experience, not what
> >those films represented, as in SILVERADO.  Does this seem to make any sense?
> >
> >--Don Larsson
> Don--Good points, indeed, abovt "direct experience" versus "surface
> structure." Again, I could recommend GUNFIGHTER NATION by Richard Slotkin
> for the dime novels written by and about contemporary "Western" heroes,
> including Alan Pinkerton, for instance.  "Authenticity" is not, however, a
> standard of value in viewing a film, necessarily (not that you implied it
> was!)
> David Desser,UIUC Cinema Studies
I'm not so sure. It does seem that Don is suggesting some relationship
between "direct memory" and authenticity--that is, films ,such
as _Stagecoach_,  contain  more depth, ie commentary/allegory, than the
surface-like _Silverado_, and this depth is the result of "direct
experience"  and "memory." If true, then how does Eastwood fit into this
surface category; his films are, afterall--and if I read Don's argument
right--made in the absence of "direct memory" and "experience." Of
course, it would help if Don could identify what he means by "direct
experience" and "memory." Is he suggesting  that the closer one is to
the historical experience, the more effective the filmmaker may be?
If so, then allow me to posit a relatively unfair comparison: Which
appears more authentic in the presence of our "indirect" historical
experience: Tom Mix or Clint Eastwood?