This is my angry face.
I had an argument of sorts with a friend of mine last night. I suggested an evening of watching Sergio Leone's Dollar trilogy. He said, "That's not for girls."
Sickeningly, like Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, it made me wonder - Are westerns just for boys?
Truthfully, until a few years ago, I used to dislike westerns. I probably would have agreed with my friend in that westerns and war films are 'man films'. Westerns didn't hold much fascination for me. It was all dust and guns and there was a lack of strong women characters; they were either wenches with a heart of gold who end up getting shot, or farmer's wives who would simper for about 5 minutes before being raped, slapped about and hung by the baddie, spawning a thirst for vengeance in the widower and the plot of the the rest of the film. The feminist klaxon rang and my hackles rose. This wasn't the genre for me. Plus, there weren't nearly enough pretty clothes, so I probably would rather have watched Pride and Prejudice instead. What a plank.
Thankfully over the last few years I've mellowed, seen reason and developed a love of westerns. I always think of Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon and Seven Samurai as being a forerunner of the way westerns changed in the 60s. Kurosawa's films were themselves inspired by the Hollywood westerns of the 30s. Less "Hi-h0 Silver", more anti-heroes, injustice, base emotions and motivations in a lawless, desolate world. Really, what you're left with are tales about humanity. People just surviving with more ambitious, twisted characters stepping over them, hungry for power. Just life really. Kurosawa inspired Sergio Leone, who more of less singlehandedly revitalised the genre in my opinion. The Hollywood westerns in the 50s and 60s were getting very stale.
3:10 to Yuma, The Searchers, Anthony Mann's and James Stewart collaborations such as The Far Country and Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns are some of my favourites. These led the way for later films such as Soldier Blue, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Pale Rider, Unforgiven, and even films like Kill Bill, No Country for Old Men and Inglourious Basterds. Even the rather strange, slightly vacuous, but nonetheless enjoyable films such as Sukiyaki Western Django are more than just flash and a gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and certainly not just for men. Like books, cinema shouldn't be pigeon-holed into 'chick flicks' and 'boys own' films. If you have that kind of mentality, especially in regards to Westerns, then you're shutting yourself off from some of the most emotionally charged cinema which will stay with you for the rest of your life. Rent Once Upon a Time in the West. It's one of the most beautiful films ever made.