Go West, Comrade: Unearthing Politics in the Spaghetti Western

(Austin Fisher) #1

Hi all. I’m not quite sure what the protocol is here concerning pointing people towards articles on the SWDB (eg is there a child topic for threads on them? Can’t find one).

Anyway, I’ve written an article entitled “Go West, Comrade: Unearthing Politics in the Spaghetti Western”, which covers some of the material I discuss in my forthcoming book. I’d be interested to hear what you all think:


(scherpschutter) #2

I normally announce my reviews and articlkes on the main page, and also make a link to them in the film’s thread or the thread ‘latest contibutions’ (somebody stole the r)

I’ll announce it on the Main Page for you, will be done within a few minutes

(Austin Fisher) #3

Great thanks!

I don’t have rights for editing the main page, so much appreciated. I shall post in the “latest contibutions” thread too.

(scherpschutter) #4

It’s a very nice article. Politics and SWs, that’s really my cup of tea.
I’m a bit too busy with other things at the moment to write a serious reaction, but I’ll do that later

I wrote a (more general, not too specific) article on SWs and politics, it was published on another site
Here it is:


(Austin Fisher) #5

Now that is interesting. My book goes into some depth on the semantic link between the Civil War and the ongoing cultural memory of the Risorgimento and related brigand wars in the Italian peninsula. While I was researching the PhD, I searched high and low for an academic who recognised what I saw as a clear link, to no avail.

This rather confirms my belief that film studies academics are wont to overlook nuances in the scramble for theory, while fans of popular genres can pick up on them far more readily through spectatorship.

(Austin Fisher) #6

Thread shifted over to “latest contributions” under “The Database”

(titoli) #7

I would like to express few personal thoughts regarding this interesting article and the movies it deals with (+ Face to Face). There are SPOILERS.

I would like to point out that, even tough often the same circle of people were involved in making all of them, we cannot simply squeeze all the movies in the same box.
“A propensity to seek easily recognisable symbols, to reduce the bewildering complexities of 1960s politics into a set of clearly defined binary oppositions, and to frame one’s opponents as an ‘absolute enemy’: all are equally evident throughout the group of films under consideration here.” - I find this to be true in Corbucci’s works and somewhat in Tepepa. As articles states: “Corbucci relies upon broad brush strokes and starkly drawn caricatures, and he was certainly not alone”. Sollima works I think aim at different targets, and Quien Sabe? I found most thoughtful and the one which actually succeeds to “more apt directly to address the ideological complexities and the volatility of the 1960s”. Article does states that Quien sabe? shows glimmers of more nuanced analysis, bit dismisses this analysis because it “concludes with a resounding revolutionary sound bite, as the native bandit awakens to his political duty and advises a peasant to buy dynamite, not bread”. I find that ending to be powerful conclusion to the movie, and the kind of the ending that the movie needed. It could’ve been different, but Solinas saved his personal opinion for the ending. During the course of the movie questions with ambiguous answers are constantly thrown at us, and film does offer what political film should offer: “authorial intent, carefully constructed ‘messages’ and purposeful oppositions”.

Tepepa on the other hand, even tough it is somewhat of a Quien Sabe? part 2, draws its character and messages in less subtle way. Our Mexican hero this time is revolutionary hero, during the course of the movie he is shown as very noble man so we are led to believe that in the end we will find out that he is wrongly accused (similar to Cuchillo in Big Gundown), but he turns out to be rapist and misogynist: message is that revolution and it’s leaders are nowhere near perfect, there is still work to do. And than kid kills British doctor because “gringo doesn’t likes Mexico”. This is somewhat similar to last message of the Quien Sabe? but I don’t like the ending of the Tepepa while I love the ending of Quien Sabe?. In later, foreigner, although he can be charming and likeable, is mercenary who will step over any body for his personal profit and he is clear symbol of CIA interventions in South America. In Tepepa foreigner is simply a man who seeks revenge for his own personal tragedy and he will help common people when they need his help. So he is a noble man if there ever was one in SWs, yet he is killed at the end simply because “he doesn’t like Mexico”. We are not given the reason why he doesn’t like it, it is probably because his wife was Mexican who was raped and committed suicide in Mexico, so the only reason he doesn’t like it is likely because country reminds him of his personal tragedy. Off course, he was made more likeable probably to make the message more powerful (“Fuck you gringo!” and “The native’s work is to imagine all possible methods for destroying the settler”), but I don’t like it. I don’t like it because it resembles “dangerously casual attitude towards violence” and “confused, unfocussed, disputed and frequently reductive mythologies” which were adopted by radical left-wing groups in western Europe like RAF, which philosophies I find superficial as they are deadly. This brings us to Sollima.

Sollima is interested in similar topics about class struggle but with his movies (especially Face to Face) he sends message that is diametrically opposite of “let’s go and kill, companeros” and RAF’s member Gudrun Ensslin’s declaration that ‘This fascist state means to kill us all […] violence is the only way to answer violence.’ In Face to Face state indeed means to kill them all but Sollima makes anti-violent point. And we have Berger’s character who is honest, moral representative of the law (like LVC in Big Gundown). He is a symbol of the state that is there to protect true justice and order. Even that kind of state representative has to deal with difficult decisions: he must kill a sheriff to keep his cover (is it OK to drop the atomic bomb to end the war?) and he lets bandit go even tough it is not by the law (but it is by the justice). I find Sollima’s view to be similar to Beatles’ song Revolution in which Lennon states that, although he has sympathies for the revolution, he “wants to see the plan” and says to “count him out” when it comes to violence and destruction. Like Lennon, Sollima’s SWs also point that we must change whats wrong with the system, corruption and injustice, but not the system itself, and definitely not with the use of violence. Although he was definitely leftist, Lennon was condemned by far left because of this song which some saw as “a lamentable petty bourgeois cry of fear”. Of all ‘political’ SWs, Face to Face is probably the one that has most universal appeal, that is best suited to be interpreted in various ways and to be reflected in modern days. When Volonte says “Out here in the west it’s difficult to distinguish the instinct for survival from the lust to aquire power.”, I immediately see recent pictures from Libya in front of my eyes for example.

In another article about politics Scherpschutter wrote that in 60s “many thought a Revolution was imminent” and this was reflected in movies and culture of the time. I think we are witnessing resurgence of similar feelings in recent years, think of movements like Occupy the Wall Street, and happenings in Greece, Cyprus and Genova, strikes in Spain etc. This sentiments and struggles are again reflected in movies which by their definition should belong in pulp culture and interested only in mass-oriented fun (The Dark Knight Rises and other superhero movies). Therefore it’s very interesting to me to discuss this kind of films.

If you still with me, here’s something about my background: I’m form Croatia, country that has seen couple of bloody upheavals in last 100 years (last one I’ve witnessed from first hand), that has experienced fascist, communist and capitalist rule, that was in civil war state during WWII and that is nowadays divided between richer, more developed northwest and rural, unemployed and conservative south (I’m from south but I live in north). Hope you didn’t mind my ramblings.

Tepepa (Giulio Petroni, 1969)
Tepepa (Giulio Petroni, 1969)
Tepepa (Giulio Petroni, 1969)
(Richard--W) #8

This is a very interesting and worthwhile thread.

I’ve always thought the Europeans were using the trappings and iconography of the American west to work out their – European – concerns. Spaghetti westerns have nothing to do with the American west, and everything to do with Italian history and Italian conflict. Austin Fisher should submit his article to The Journal of Popular Culture (Michigan State university).

Anyhow, most enlightening and well done.

(scherpschutter) #9

@ titoli - interesting thoughts. I’m to busy with a particular article on a movie to react at this moment. But I will later.