Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Recently Published

My essay on James Mangold's remake of 3:10 to Yuma has just been published in the latest edition of Splice: Western Myth, Historic Truth provides a critical examination of the triangular relationship between protagonist Dan Evans , his son William and the outlaw Ben Wade through the idea of the Western as a journey and through the failure of the father.

Here is a brief extract:

It could be argued that the Western is a dying genre. With its most successful period long over and contemporary popular audiences constantly desiring to see the next spectacle of high-concept cinema, the Western now seems like an outdated form of film. Its location within the past denies any sense of the special-effects driven spectacular as its physically dramatic moments relying on bar brawls, horse chases and cattle rustling, bank robberies and gunfights as opposed to interstellar combat, technological weaponry and fantastical creatures. Yet, regardless of this, the genre continues to develop, shifting and changing, responding not to the audiences visual needs but to their times. Consequently, the Western has shifted from a ‘heroic’ vision to one that is gritty, dirty and dark, a ‘truth’ as it were. In these new narratives the eternal conflict between the sheriff and the outlaw, the oppressor and the oppressed, Good and Evil, are played out in an intimate and dramatic fashion as ordinary people – as tangibly real as they get on screen – fight for their families, livelihoods, beliefs and the ‘truth’. One such film is James Mangold’s 3:10 to Yuma (2007). Contemporary Westerns, such as Yuma, elicit a powerful affect upon the viewer. They are concerned with the small but violent incidents of human interaction, morality plays in which the concerns of society are often played out. They affirm not just the ‘truth’ of the past but also the ‘truth’ of ourselves, albeit one that is safely located in the past. In essence then the contemporary Western is eclipsed by the constant roll of blockbusters, their powerful and evocative moments dismissed in favour of throw-away images, paper-thin plots and cardboard characters. To watch 3:10 to Yuma now, to discover it for the first time, is a refreshing change and a challenge to the blockbuster for it presents a tangible plot, believable characters and a tragic outcome. To ignore it would be to deny the Western one of its greatest qualities – to show us who we are and what we may become.

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