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Is the Western dead?

14 minutes

How Westerns captured the American psyche and eventually bit the dust

A staple of American cinema since the release of the silent film The Great Train Robbery in 1903, the Western arguably became its defining genre with the release of Stagecoach in 1939 – the first of nine Western collaborations between the iconic duo of director John Ford and actor John Wayne. For the next several decades, Westerns evolved with the times, embracing an American mythos of freedom and opportunity before filmmakers such as Sergio Leone began using the language of the genre to reflect the more cynical mood of the Vietnam era. Part of a film-analysis series from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, this video essay by the US film critic Dave Kehr discusses how the Western helped to define the language of American film until modern filmmakers began adopting Western signifiers for shorthand, self-reference and parody, leaving the genre itself more or less in the dust.

Commentary: Dave Kehr

Website: The Museum of Modern Art

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