The move toward revisionism in the western film genre is generally identified in earnest from the early to mid 1960’s onward, with the last years of the 60’s earmarked as the time in which the traditional western met a prematurely announced demise while supplanted by revisionism in the form of both a vastly more cynical vision of the West (which, in itself, is not specific to the definition of revisionism, but more a result of violent cultural mood swings) in the American cinema, the continuing influence of Italian spaghetti westerns (which in regard to a discussion of revisionism may be relevant if the discussion is limited to aesthetic exaggerations rather than a general rethinking of the contextual constructs within the traditional western form) and the sudden growth of a societal bent toward introspection by way of publicly pronounced shame built on a sense of forced historic guilt, which was not specific to film, but whose strangulating tentacles would nevertheless eventually cripple open expression as much as the then-recently jettisoned Production Code. This, however, predisposes the theorem that westerns are entirely intended as historical documentations, an erroneous assertion which fails to account for the very formulaic tropes which define the genre, and if taken into account the elemental half dozen or so monomythic thematic threads which essentially characterize all western films, it might be truthfully said that there hasn’t been a genuinely ‘new’ western in decades, merely shadowy variations of the same drama. The true Art within the genre, if indeed it may exist (and let’s presume it does) in a film type born of such a seemingly restrictive formulaic nature, might be found in finding ways to reach beyond that formula, not through cosmetic aesthetic alterations, but in an elevated expression melding new contextual priorities within the increasing predictability of the genre. (All films genres are beholden to the same type of adherence to formula; perhaps with only the noir film approaching as strictly rigid a guiding set of foundational strictures.)
And history is far too precious a mistress to be left entirely to the capricious whims of Art.
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