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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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4. ‘Probably a White Fella’: Rolf de Heer, The Tracker and the Limits of Auteurism (Emma Hamilton)


Emma Hamilton 4 ‘Probably a White Fella’: Rolf de Heer, The Tracker and the Limits of Auteurism Abstract Rolf de Heer, a Dutch-Australian migrant and writer-director, has created some of the most incisive and well-known films in contemporary Australian cinema, including but not limited to The Tracker (2002), Ten Canoes (2006), Twelve Canoes (2008) and Charlie’s Country (2013). His oeuvre examines, in particular, the nature of relationships between colonized and colonizer and challenges us to reconsider the nature of the Western itself and how its tropes apply to international contexts, the historicity of the Western, and the genre’s connections to themes of identity and origin mythology. While de Heer’s status as an auteur exists relatively unchallenged amongst film critics, this chapter uses the de Heer film The Tracker to explore not only the ways in which de Heer fits within traditional defini- tions of ‘auteur’ but also, and perhaps most significantly, the potential limits of auteurism, given the extent to which de Heer was bound by contextual and historical discourses, star power, studio systems and other factors. Further, while a great deal of scholarly attention has been directed towards understanding the changing representation and reception of First Nation Peoples in the American Western film genre, less attention has been paid to the representation of Indigenous Australians in Australian Westerns. This chapter examines the ways in which such representation intersects with history, auteur and international genre entanglements, to various effect. This chapter will examine the Dutch-Australian director, writer and pro- ducer...

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