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June 1994


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David Desser <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 3 Jun 1994 10:10:36 -0500
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>>  And James
>> Coburn has a supporting role, not a cameo, for his contribution to a film
>> that is, at best disappointing, and is, whatever else, NOT A WESTERN!
>> David Desser, Cinema Studies
>> 2109 FLB
>> 244-2705
>For the sake of discussion, could you please amplify on why you think
>_Maverick_ is  "at best disappointing," and why you think it is "Not a
>Patrick [log in to unmask]
Patrick brings up a good point that I should amplify so let me do so just a bit.
    It was disappointing because I had hoped I would enjoy it more, a
simple matter of expectations vs. reality.  More to the point, the
filmmakers seem to have done everything they could to remove the elements
of "the Western" from the film or by using "standard" Western elements in
either arbitrary ways or with a degree of self-consciousness and archness
as to make the motif meaningless.
(WARNING--Do not read further if you have not seen the film or do not want
to know what happens!)
     What I mean by "arbitrary" use of Western images and motifs is, for
instance, the "stunt" with the runaway stage.  It was an extended set piece
which had nothing to do with the plot and little to do with
characterization. The stunt was not all that impressive and the bantering
between the characters while it was occurring was not funny.
     As for self-consciousness and archness, I am thinking, of course, of
Graham Greene's character and the use of "Indians" in the film.  The very
modern perspective taken by the characters here is played for laughs (and
it is pretty funny, I'm happy to say) but does it tell us anything about
the image of Native Americans in Westerns of the past; in history, etc.
    Not to make an "academic" issue out of all this (a temptation that as
the editor of _Cinema Journal_ I find hard to resist!) but the best
Westerns say something about American history and culture through the
mythical-historical period of the taming of the frontier.  What does
_Maverick_ have to offer>
    Mostly, I take the film to be part of a genre usually called "the Caper
film" of which _The Sting_ is a prime example.  A look at Maverick will
reveal more in common with _The Sting_ than say, virtually any Western of
the classic era (1946-1975).
David Desser, Cinema Studies
2109 FLB