Monday, March 12, 2012
The Best of The West Production: MadMan's Top 20 Westerns
As started on Match-cut.org, starting at 20 and working up to #1:
20. High Plains Drifter (1973, Eastwood)
Unlike John Wayne, Clint Eastwood wasn't afraid to play a straight up villain more than once or twice. Even though he was always the protagonist and the main character, Eastwood's characters were men who didn't typical do the right thing, and were more accurate in terms of the people who populated the west in general.
With High Plains Drifter, Eastwood crafted a dark, at times rather bleak, and nasty movie that is highly unromantic and perverts the western mythology that Peckinpah, Leone, and Ford bought into and presented on screen. This is fascinating since the movie does not have a single likable character at all, giving us people who are either cowards, ruthless gunslingers, murders, or general scum of the earth.
What truly stands out for me here is the painting of the town red, with Eastwood's nameless brutal avenger accurately renaming the town "Hell." Which is a rather unsubtle statement, and a commentary on the bloody nature of the west before it was actually settled. Eastwood does not flinch from showing brutal violence on screen, or even giving us a satisfying ending: by the final shot, the only one who has achieved their goal and aim has been Eastwood himself. The town is left in shambles, and even though peace has been restored it is a shaky, unassured calm that promises nothing good for the future.