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June 1994


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 10 Jun 1994 14:18:31 -0600
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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Responding the recent discussion on Westerns and "authenticity" by David
Desser and myself, Patrick writes:
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?
In response: This is one of the dangers of e-mail: one tends to shoot from
the hip without the careful reconsideration that writing for publication or
conferences affords.  (Of course, that's one of the values of e-mail, too!)
Anyway, I did not mean to suggest a link between historical experience and
"effectiveness,"  but I don't think "authenticity" and "effectiveness" or
are synonymous terms.  Obviously, the Italian Leone is far more "effective"
than many filmmakers with direct experience--but then would anyone claim
that Leone's films are "accurate" depictions of the Old West (whatever that
was)?  (And of course Eastwood dedicated UNFORGIVEN to Don [Siegel] and
Sergio [Leone].)
I think what I was trying to suggest was that the West is always re-presented
by the filmmakers and mediated by the various kinds of experience they bring
to the project, including participation in whatever was left of the "actual"
experience--albeit long after the closing of the frontier.  What is left now-
adays for many is a particular image (or set of images) of the West, especially
as mediated by films, tv, etc., just as Ned Buntline mediated images for
people early in this century.  So--SILVERADO is basically a play and varition
in formal terms of the genre, not the history.  Similar effects are
observable in YOUNG RIDERS and BAD GIRLS--just to name two contemporary
examples.  Another aspect is public memory--which is what I think I meant by
the term: that is, the referential storehouse of relationships which viewers
bring with them to any film viewing.  Thus one generation brought its memonries
of some actual experience and many more mediated experiences (via dime novels,
etc.).  The current generation (i.e., postwar babyboomers) brings its memory
of television--which is why MAVERICK was made at all (not to mention the
FLINTSTONES).  I've gone on much too long and I don't know if I've clarified
anything to anyone's satisfaction--but I do still feel it's worth study and