Once upon a time in the “Spaghetti” West

What is a “vile genre”? I’ve heard this term from some cinema reviewers in recent days, referred to those kinds of movies which “pervert” the traditional rules of a classic genre (for example, the Spaguetti-western is a filmic perversion of classic American western movies). The “vile genre” is characterized by the rupture of the usual canons in direction, production design, etc., emphasizing a more direct treatment of the situations and roles. In other words, these are movies which don´t need a second interpretation to be understood.

Some imaginative filmmakers (Tarantino, Raimi, among others) have an excellent knowledge of this kind of cinema, often called “B” or “Z” series. Just take a look at “Kill Bill” and you’ll understand what I’m saying.

Once upon a time in the “Spaghetti” West

There are many people (including me) who have always been attracted by “vile genres” (Spaghetti western, especially). True, there are some awful films but, beyond the technical quality of the movies, there´s an undeniably singular taste of entertainment there. Following the previous example, Tarantino’s “Kill Bill, vol. 2” is a fantastic homage to 60’s and 70’s Italian western.

I think that the reason why we enjoy this genre is its deliberately exaggerated conception of the stereotype (the villains are extremely wicked people, and their actions are not justified by previous ones). Besides, the good guys are “outsiders”, cold like ice, but their motivations are deeply and primarily emotional (justice, revenge, ambition, greed, … ). Furthermore, the atmosphere is completely rough, wild, merely basic.

The main trick of a spaghetti western movie is simple: it gives you just what you expect (in that sense, it makes the audience feel satisfied with the result). They are movies whose mission is entertaining, in the most primary sense of the word.

This genre, born in Italy and mostly shot in Spain, has a big name to it. We can say that the true creator of spaguetti western was Sergio Leone, probably the best among all the directors. He adapted some visual techniques and some plots from other genres (the influence of samurais´ movies is obvious). He has made some excellent films, well above from the average: “The good, the bad and the ugly” (where we can see an explicit use of stereotypes, as we said before), “For a few dollars more”, …

But the first film of this genre is “A Fistful of Dollars”, a remake of Kurosawa’s classic “Yojimbo”, in which Leone replaces samurais with gunfighters. In “A fistful of dollars” we can find all the characteristics that constitute the genre: a rude and lonely hero with a mysterious past (a typical outsider); a merciless villain; really close-up shots; betrayal and subsequent revenge; and a final duel for paying off scores. In fact, the ending is a key factor in these movies. It is long and intense, with extreme implicit violence before the explicit gunfight. There´s no sympathy for the villain. The music strengthens the action and takes us to the crucial moment. There will be no surprise and we are waiting anxiously for it. The villain will die, but what a great moment until that!

Of course, there are lots of people who dislike spaghetti western, but the ones who enjoy action movies are very likely to enjoy films like “Once upon a time in the West”, “La resa dei conti”, “Il mercenario”, and many others.

In a forecoming article we’ll review some films of the genre. There will be no surprises, but it will be funny!

Related Article: Once upon a time in the Spaguetti West (II): three different sights.

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