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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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5. The Post-apocalyptic Frontier: Reappropriating Western Violence for Feminism in Mad Max: Fury Road (Matthew Carter)

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Matthew Carter 5 The Post-apocalyptic Frontier: Reappropriating Western Violence for Feminism in Mad Max: Fury Road abstract In From ‘Shane’ to ‘Kill Bill’ Patrick McGee declares that ‘one of the most interesting revivals of the Western is not a Western’. He was referring to the film in his book’s title, Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill. He justifies this unproblematic assumption of genre hybridity by referral to Robin Wood, who advocated an ideological approach to the theory of genre. ‘Despite the tendency to treat the genres as discrete,’ wrote Wood, ‘an ideological approach might suggest why they can’t be.’ Another Western that is ‘not a Western’ is George Miller’s latest Mad Max film, Mad Max: Fury Road. Australian-born Miller is a ‘contemporary’ auteur whose work challenges many of the norms of Hollywood cinema. Investigating Fury Road’s outback setting, we discover transnational approaches that scrutinize traditional Western tropes. Hybridizing science fiction and the Western, Miller re-allegorizes the meanings of Western violence in terms of a post-capitalist world with women at its centre. Indeed, the film’s feminist qualities allow us to explore the cultural value of the Western in ways that move beyond the myth-ideology structures of patriarchal-capitalism that have typically underpinned it, and of the symptomatic masculine violence that has char- acterized it. Strength, courage, fortitude and judgement are portrayed as female virtues in a hostile, dystopian wilderness. The significance of Fury Road resides in Miller’s use of female characters – the warrior, Imperator Furiosa, the wives and the matriarchs – as catalysts through...

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