Essay, Research Paper: Spaghetti Westerns

Cinema

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Which is the cheesiest? The answer is pretty obvious, but let’s take a close
look. “Spaghetti Westerns,” as their called, are a genre of western films,
that have been created or filmed in Italy and are meant to portray the “Wild
West” of America. “Macaroni Westerns,” as I’ll call them, make up the
traditional western genre, made in the United States. Let’s take a look at the
similarities and differences of these genres, and at two films in particular
that represent each genre; The Good the Bad and the Ugly(1966) and Rio
Bravo(1959), which most critics will agree, are great examples of each genre.
Let’s start with the most obvious aspect that differs in the two genres.
“Macaroni Westerns” are the cheesiest. These films have are pure cheese. I
can barely sit through one of them. They have the typical characters; the hero(s),
the bad guy(s), the fair maiden, and the quirky sidekick(s). These characters
spout out cheesy lines, demonstrating how good or how bad they are, but they
language always remains basically clean. In the Spaghetti Westerns, the language
is a lot more diverse(lots of cussing). This is because each of these genres
play to a different audience. The “Macaroni Westerns” are family films. They
present right, wrong, and have many morals played out, such as, “no matter how
many bad people are trying to kill you, you can take them all on if you wear a
badge and talk like John Wayne.” The “Macaroni Westerns” were typically
family movies, because it was typical Hollywood(serving to the masses, whatever
sells big). Violence, profanity, and not having blatantly evil and good
characters, wasn’t selling at the time, so we got “Macaroni.” The
“Spaghetti Westerns,” on the other hand, were not trying to please
everybody.(just the Italian roughnecks) Sure, these westerns took a lot from the
traditional westerns, but they break away from the traditional “Macaroni
Westerns” in many ways.(which we shall soon see) The “Spaghetti Westerns”
play to a more liberal audience. They had a lot more creative liberty. Let’s
take a look at the aforementioned films in terms of plot, framing, editing,
sound and cinematography. The plot in Rio Bravo is your typical American
western. It is a “conflict between civilized order and the lawless
frontier.”(Bordwell/Thompson p.56) We have our heros and bad guys laid out
before us in black and white. “Colorado” is the typical hero who tries to
stay out of the conflict and then eventually sides with civilized order.
“Dude” is another hero who fallows the same path. Our bad guys are made
obvious from the early moments of the film by means of a murder. There isn’t
much to wonder about. In The Good the Bad and the Ugly, everything isn’t laid
out for us from the beginning. Our “good guy” isn’t revealed till quite a
ways into the film. In this film, we get a pretty good idea who the worst guy
is, but we are left to constantly wonder where one of the main characters
stands, or if he will eventually become “good.” We are forced to study each
character more as they develop, to know who they are. In Rio Bravo, you don’t
give it a second thought. Rio Bravo introduces the plot motivation at the very
beginning. The bad guy is in jail, and the heros have to keep him there till the
marshal arrives. In The Good the Bad and the Ugly, the motivation is revealed as
the 200,000 dollars, but most of the characters don’t know about it for half
the film. This film seems to stretch things out like that. Now let’s take a
look at the framing. In Rio Bravo, the framing seems to be very simple. The main
character is always in the center of the frame unless another character is
coming into the frame. In The Good the Bad and the Ugly, there is much more use
of set framing. Many scenes and sequences are framed through window, alleys and
doorways. This type of framing seems to pull you into the film much more. It
creates framing in the same way that we frame things in the real world. Also, in
The Good the Bad and the Ugly, there are many more close ups than Rio Bravo, as
well as many extreme close ups that let you catch small eye and facial
movements. Next let’s discuss editing. The Good the Bad and the Ugly have, in
general, much longer shots than Rio Bravo does. These extremely long shots are
put together into extremely long scenes; again, much longer than Rio Bravo. Both
of these films use great amounts of continuity editing. That’s about as far as
Rio Bravo goes. The Good the Bad and the Ugly, goes much further with it’s use
of graphic editing. One sees graphic matches again and again in this film. One
great use of graphic matching occurs when a character points his gun towards the
camera, so that we stare down the barrel, then the film cuts to a cannon’s
barrel facing us and firing directly at us. Another great example would be the
match between the horses legs on the street and the thugs legs as they walk down
the hall toward one of our main characters. When we hear the horses legs stop,
we see the thugs legs stop. This helps the audience make the connection that the
thugs only move when there is noise to cover the sound of their steps. Another
piece of editing that we should take a look at are the fades. Fade in’s and
Fad out’s are very typical in westerns, and we see them in both of these
western genres, although there are significantly less fades in The Good the Bad
and The Ugly, than in Rio Bravo. Sound, and more specifically, music, is very
important for the overall feel of the film. In Rio Bravo, we have traditional
country cheese music, including the ol’ sing-a-long cliche’. This is perfect
for the cheese that we see and hear from the characters. The music in The Good
the Bad and the Ugly is much different. It is much more dramatic and
orchestrated. It seems like more timeless music. An exception would be the theme
music that appears when something “cool” is about to or currently happening.
These eerie whistle-like sounds cut through everything and let us know when
something important is happening. Let’s now move to lighting. This is an area
where we see more major differences between the two films. Rio Bravo uses the
traditional three light system of character lighting. There is the key light,
the fill light and the back light. This creates full and soft features for the
characters. The Good the Bad and The Ugly is a far throw from this style. In
most of the scenes there is only one major light source.(key light) There is
usually a strong key light, no back light, and very little, if any, fill light.
This makes for dark shadows and sharp features. This creates very dramatic
lighting for the scenes. Everything seems more intense and powerful. Let’s not
forget Cinematography. How about some generalizations. Many of the shots from
The Good the Bad and the Ugly have a very deep depth of focus compared to a much
more shallow depth of focus in Rio Bravo. There are also much deeper zooms in
The Good the Bad and the Ugly than in Rio Bravo. There are also many cliches
that we need to discuss. First of all, let’s talk about the names and
nick-names. In Rio Bravo, all of the heros have “clever” little names. We
have Chance, Colorado, Dude, and Stumpy. We see these type of names show up in
The Good the Bad and the Ugly. In this film we have, Blondie, Angel Eyes, and
Shorty(not present very long). Another cliche is the “bad guy gets shot and
falls from high above the ground to his death.” In both films we see this play
true as bad guys fall from rafters and buildings.
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