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Unbridling the Western Film Auteur

Contemporary, Transnational and Intertextual Explorations

Edited By Emma Hamilton and Alistair Rolls

According to Jim Kitses (1969), the Western originally offered American directors a rich canvas to express a singular authorial vision of the American past and its significance. The Western’s recognizable conventions and symbols, rich filmic heritage, and connections to pulp fiction created a widely spoken «language» for self-expression and supplemented each filmmaker’s power to express their vision of American society. This volume seeks to re-examine the significance of auteur theory for the Western by analysing the auteur director «unbridled» by traditional definitions or national contexts.

This book renders a complex portrait of the Western auteur by considering the genre in a transnational context. It proposes that narrow views of auteurism should be reconsidered in favour of broader definitions that see meaning created, both intentionally and unintentionally, by a director; by other artistic contributors, including actors and the audience; or through the intersection with other theoretical concepts such as re-allegorization. In so doing, it illuminates the Western as a vehicle for expressing complex ideas of national and transnational identity.


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We wish to thank the English Language and Foundation Studies Centre at the University of Newcastle, Australia and the Kelver Hartley Bequest for their support of this project. We also wish to express our gratitude to our contributors who provided innovative and thoughtful contributions to ‘unbridled’ auteur analysis. When we were contemplating a cover image that would encapsulate the ideas in this collection our minds immediately wandered to the iconic images of Western directors. You know the ones, in black and white, of serious (usually white) men on set, looking weather-beaten and worn down, surrounded by cameras, equipment and costumed extras. But that is not what this book is about. These contributions consider the complexities and complications of Western auteurism and they move beyond the American context, although they are never entirely divorced from it. Westerns portray, after all, a global process of frontier-imperialism that impacts all nations; while America’s portrayal of this process is a cultural landmark, the Western is continually reinterpreted and adapted for meaning in local contexts by a range of forces and actors, all of whom, we should suggest, should be subject to critical interrogation via the lens of auteur analysis. Ultimately then, the image we chose was an artwork by Peter Coad used in the Australian film The Tracker (2002, Scene 122 – Final Landscape [The Tracker is the subject of Chapter 4]), which signals the Tracker’s journey home to his own country. This image speaks to us of similarity but difference in frontier experiences, all...

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