the fate of the western


However much certain optimists may talk about the survival or possible resurrection of the Western, I fear—much to my regret—that, as a genre, it is pretty well dead and buried, a relic of a more credulous, more innocent, more emotional age, an age less crushed or suffocated by the ghastly plague of political correctness. Nonetheless, whenever a new Western comes out, I dutifully go and see it, albeit with little expectation that it will be any good. In the last decade, I can recall three pointless remakes, vastly inferior to the movies on which they were modelled and which weren’t exactly masterpieces themselves: 3:10 to Yuma by James Mangold, The Alamo by John Lee Hancock, and True Grit by the Coen brothers, all of them uninspired and unconvincing, and far less inspired than the distinctly uneven originals made, respectively, by Delmer Davies, John Wayne, and Henry Hathaway. I recall, too, Andrew Dominik’s interesting but dull The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Ed Harris’s bland, soulless Appaloosa, David von Ancken’s unbearable Seraphim Falls, and the Australian John Hillcoat’s The Proposition, of which my memory has retained not a single image. The only recent Westerns that have managed to arouse my enthusiasm have been those made for TV: Walter Hill’s Broken Trail, and Deadwood, whose third and final season no one has even bothered to bring out on DVD in Spain, which gives you some idea of how unsuccessful the magnificent first two series must have been. In my view, Kevin Costner’s Open Range, which came out slightly earlier, was the last decent Western to be made for the big screen, even though it has long been fashionable to denigrate anything this admirable actor and director does.

more from Javier Marías at Threepenny Review here.