Precisely two decades ago, a friend of mine insisted I go see a movie about the American West, a film made in Italy and shot partially in Spain. At the time, it was intellectually acceptable to be passionate about Italian films that limned the sick soul of Europe; the idea of an Italian western was oxymoronic – at best, like, oh, a German romantic comedy. What’s more, in America the western as a genre seemed bankrupt, and going to see A Fistful of Dollars, which featured an international no-star cast headed by Clint Eastwood, some second-banana cowboy on an American TV series called Rawhide, promised to be entertaining in a manner the director, another unknown named Sergio Leone, probably never intended. My friend was a graduate student in philosophy, and she’d seen the movie three times because she thought it was “existential.” The Clint Eastwood character was called the Man with No Name, and he went around rescuing people for no stated reason and outdrawing ugly, sweating bad guys who insulted his mule. A lot of the violence was stylized, tongue-in-cheek comic-book mayhem, and you couldn’t take it very seriously, though several critics did just that, describing the film as… Read full this story
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