Title

From Slashing to Blasting, or How to Subvert a Genre: Spaghetti Western

Subject Area

Film and Literary Studies

Abstract

At the beginning of the 1960s, the classic American western was still a commodity exported across national boundaries by the powerful Hollywood distribution machinery, even if it was no longer produced in numbers as high as in the 1940s and 1950s. Sergio Leone (Rome, 1929-1989), a profound connoisseur of classic westerns and an admirer of the genre, ‘transported’ the American western into an Italian frame of reference that jettisoned the ideological foundation of the original, modified it, imbued it with a different value system and redistributed it world wide very successfully. The history of the creation of the first spaghetti western proves not only that cinema is transnational, but also that cultural formations are invariably hybrid and impure. As we will demonstrate the Italian western reached the U.S. and was not treated as an ‘exotic’ commodity by the audience, but was translated into the ‘local idiom.’ The hegemonic message of the spaghetti western was absorbed together with the revolutionary, iconoclast, violent and rebellious message of the film and the outcome was the birth of a new type of western. The influence of classic Hollywood westerns on Leone’s films is undeniable, but by the time his trilogy was distributed world wide he became an established icon of world cinema and his films in turn became models for American western directors.

Brief Bio Note

Flavia Brizio-Skov received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Washington, Seattle in 1988. She is Professor of Italian at the University of Tennessee where she teaches modern literature and cinema. She has written numerous articles and she has published a book on Lalla Romano (La scrittura e la memoria: Lalla Romano. Milano: Selene Edizioni, 1993), a critical monograph on Antonio Tabucchi (Antonio Tabucchi: navigazioni in un universo narrativo. Cosenza: Pellegrini Editore, 2002), and has edited a collection of articles entitled Reconstructing Societies in the Aftermath of War: Memory, Identity, and Reconciliation (Boca Raton: Bordighera Press, 2004). Recently she has published a volume, Popular Italian Cinema: Culture and Politics in a Postwar Society (London: I.B. Tauris, 2011), that has received positive reviews and at the moment she is working on a manuscript that re-writes the history of the western genre.

Keywords

Western, Genre, Italian cultural studies, Filmic studies

Location

Room 218

Presentation Year

2015

Start Date

3-26-2015 1:30 PM

End Date

3-26-2015 2:45 PM

Embargo

5-23-2017

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Mar 26th, 1:30 PM Mar 26th, 2:45 PM

From Slashing to Blasting, or How to Subvert a Genre: Spaghetti Western

Room 218

At the beginning of the 1960s, the classic American western was still a commodity exported across national boundaries by the powerful Hollywood distribution machinery, even if it was no longer produced in numbers as high as in the 1940s and 1950s. Sergio Leone (Rome, 1929-1989), a profound connoisseur of classic westerns and an admirer of the genre, ‘transported’ the American western into an Italian frame of reference that jettisoned the ideological foundation of the original, modified it, imbued it with a different value system and redistributed it world wide very successfully. The history of the creation of the first spaghetti western proves not only that cinema is transnational, but also that cultural formations are invariably hybrid and impure. As we will demonstrate the Italian western reached the U.S. and was not treated as an ‘exotic’ commodity by the audience, but was translated into the ‘local idiom.’ The hegemonic message of the spaghetti western was absorbed together with the revolutionary, iconoclast, violent and rebellious message of the film and the outcome was the birth of a new type of western. The influence of classic Hollywood westerns on Leone’s films is undeniable, but by the time his trilogy was distributed world wide he became an established icon of world cinema and his films in turn became models for American western directors.