“Spaghetti Westerns” at Film Forum, June 1 – 21, 2012

Tomas Milian (left) and Lee Van Cleef in director Sergio Sollima’s “The Big Gun Down,” part of “Spaghetti Westerns” at Film Forum

From June 1 – 21 Film Forum will present  “Spaghetti Westerns,” a 26 movie festival about this important, and often neglected, film genre.  This series is the most ambitious of its kind ever presented in the United States.  Due to the extreme rarity of prints and complex issues involving rights, not to mention expense, a series of this nature has been virtually impossible to mount, until now.  “Spaghetti Westerns” will include rare 35mm prints obtained from the Cineteca Italiana in Rome, as well as other national archives, private collections and Hollywood studio archives.

The Italian filmmakers who made spaghetti westerns actually prefer the term “Italian Western,” or “Western all Italiana,” to “Spaghetti Western.”  They feel that the term “spaghetti” implies that they were copying an American genre, the western, when in fact they were re-inventing it.

A brief background: During World War II, when Italy was under fascist rule, American movies were banned.  After the war Italy was flooded with American movies, westerns especially.  These westerns were very influential to the men who would become directors of westerns.  Coincidentally, the top three of these directors were all named Sergio: Sergo Leone, Sergio Carbucci and Sergio Sollima.

Film writer and curator Giulia D’Angnolo Vallan explains that, “The classic Spaghetti Western is deeply rooted in the cultural and socio-political life in Italy in the sixties – a love letter to the most mythopoetic American genre and also a subversion of it.”

Simply put, the Italian westerns were not about John Wayne riding in to save the day.  The “heros” were not necessarily good guys in white hats.  They often tended to be morally ambiguous as in Leone’s “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1966).  Sometimes they even failed to achieve their objectives.

Film director and spaghetti western enthusiast Alex Cox (“Repo Man” 1984, “Sid and Nancy” 1986) explains that, “Hollywood had chosen to manufacture a certain type of product.  It was sentimental, propagandistic, authoritarian stuff.  The Italian directors made cynical, popular action films.  Beyond the violence, the Italian directors shared a sense of radicalism, of anarchy, of a moribound fantasy world being turned on its head to reveal terrible truths, social and political.”

“Spaghetti Westerns” has been programmed by D’Agnolo Vallan and Film Forum repertory director Bruce Goldstein.  The series includes many special events.  Spaghetti Western actor Tony Musante will appear at Film Forum on June 4, with Alex Cox appearing on June 7.  A panel discussion on Spaghetti Westerns will take place at the Italian Cultural Institute (686 Park Avenue) on June 6.  For more information go to http://www.filmforum.com.

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on May 29, 2012, in Feature Articles, Film Forum and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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