Nice piece. I mean tbh even in posing the question at the start of the thread, I was never of the opinion that the western had gone altogether at any point so, in that sense, it’s true that the western never really left (and I’m talking about actual westerns here). But of course filmmakers transpose the western wholesale to all manner of other times and places; James Mangold for example made Cop Land because he wanted to make the story as a western but wasn’t confident at that stage in his career about taking on a period piece (he went on to remake 3:10 to Yuma, of course). But the themes most prevalent in westerns - morality, struggles through adverse conditions, revenge - lend themselves so well to cinema, you can tell those tales against any backdrop at all (the post-apocalyptic backdrop being especially ripe, stripped and freed as it is from other contemporaneous themes). But whilst some - many - of these tales of revenge or morality or survival will be consciously supplanted westerns, many certainly will not be.
Ultimately though, I’d hate for the western to die altogether and be allowed to do so because, well, they’re all post-apocalyptic films now, aren’t they? Ooh, no.
I wonder how much more popular the western needs to become in the US before the Italian film industry decides once more to exploit the popularity and knock a few spags out?