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W e s t e r n A m e r ic a n l it e r a t u r e S p r in g 2 0 0 6 substantial work. It should also meet the editors’ goal of inspiring further schol­ arship on this prolific writer. In this, their effort to “honor a living writer whose work is not done,” Weltzien and Maher certainly succeed (14). Horizons West: Directing the Western from John Ford to Clint Eastwood. By Jim Kitses. London: British Film Institute, 2004. 342 pages, $24.95. Reviewed by Leonard Engel Quinnipiac University, Hamden, Connecticut Jim Kitses has come out with a new edition of his ground-breaking study of Western film. First published when the traditional Western was declining in popularity and many critics were already pronouncing its death knell, Horizons West: Anthony Mann, Budd Boetticher, Sam Peckinpah; Studies ofAuthorship within the Western (1969) gave scholarly legitimacy to the genre. It also revived inter­ est in the Westerns of Anthony Mann and Budd Boetticher and introduced a relatively new director of feature films, Sam Peckinpah. This new edition goes considerably further. Filled with new material, it deepens and enriches our understanding of Mann, Boetticher, and Peckinpah, adds a lengthy chapter on John Ford, and concludes with fascinating chapters analyzing and interpreting the work of Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood. Kitses proposes in his new examination to study “the Western through the lens of its major directors” and “its major directors within the framework of the genre,” and he does precisely that. These six filmmakers, Kitses contends, “can be seen as constituting a great tradition of the Western genre” (1). For Kitses, the Western hasn’t passed on yet. It has changed considerably, however, and he discusses these changes with perceptive insight, definitive scholarship, and a passion that will satisfy both aficionados of the Western and general readers. In an introductory chapter giving an overview of the Western and inci­ sively commenting on recent representational and psychoanalytic perspectives, Kitses clarifies his prime objective “to provide a greater accessibility to the genre and films, and to the critical and theoretical issues they raise” (22). He elaborates, “My basic premise is that at its core the Western manies historical and archetypal elements ... [and] allows different film-makers a wide latitude of creative play. Where Ford and Peckinpah generate an epic historical canvas, Mann, Boetticher and Eastwood explore archetypal and existential aspects of the frontier experience” (14). Leone, on the other hand, appropriates the genre to his own “mythology, national ethos and authorial system,” demystifying, dismantling, and subverting it (16). Kitses regrets what he calls “limitations of the original project”—primar­ ily not being able to include a chapter on Ford; however, he more than makes up for it in this new edition. In chapter 2, “John Ford: Founding Father,” he thoroughly examines Ford’s Westerns, pointing out that Ford directed about B o o k R e v ie w s one hundred and sixty films, of which approximately one third were Westerns, a prodigious output when compared to other directors. Fascinated by Ford’s thematic ambiguity, Kitses argues convincingly that while Ford’s main theme is “the birth of America, the establishing of nationhood, the shining City on the Hill,” at the same time, he is “the poet of America’s decline, the melancholy chronicler of defeat and loss” (33). Ford created “a heroic cinema, a luminous and uplifting world of myth and memory,” Kitses writes, but over “this shining world a second cast its ... tragic shadow of life’s inevitable pain, sacrifice and compromise” (133). Like Ford, Sam Peckinpah, “Ford’s bastard son” (288), mourned the death of the frontier and the advent of the modem world, and while they both shared the same “spiritual and tragic vision,” Peckinpah’s response was distinctly dif­ ferent. While Ford’s violence “was ritualistic and mythic,” Peckinpah showed violence “both from within and without,” allowing us to “experience it directly and yet to stand back, to register the blood and slaughter plus the fact that it is being presented in aesthetically pleasing forms. ... The complexity of response, visceral and moral,” is what makes Peckinpah’s dramatizations so...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 82-83
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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