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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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8. Auteurism versus Genre in the Romanian New Wave: Radu Jude’s Interpretation of Western Tropes in Aferim! (Maria Ioniță)


Maria Ioniță 8 Auteurism versus Genre in the Romanian New Wave: Radu Jude’s Interpretation of Western Tropes in Aferim! Abstract Since the late 1990s auteur theory has informed, implicitly and explicitly, the vast majority of film criticism in Romania. Such options represent a reaction against the ideologically regimented film industry prior to 1989 and its perceived lack of artistic independence. At the same time, the critical focus on the formal and philosophical elements of the potential ‘New Wave’ establishes an implicit split between a film’s aesthetic value and its possible socio-political implications, with the former being valued at the expense of the latter. Of the most recent challenges to these assumptions, none has been as forceful as Radu Jude’s Western Aferim! (2015). Set in early nineteenth-century Wallachia, it employs a classic Western narrative to tell the story of a constable and his son who are tasked with retriev- ing an escaped Roma slave. Its subtext functions as an indictment of the systemic anti- Roma racism and xenophobic nationalism that are still present in Romanian society. This chapter will explore the reasons Jude adopted the Western format to tell such a culturally and historically specific story as well as his use of specific Western tropes as outlined by Jim Kitses, especially the genre’s relationship to a historical past populated by archetypal incidents and characters. Ultimately, Jude’s status as an established auteur suddenly tran- sitioning from black comedy to overtly genre fare confuses previously established critical and scholarly interpretations. Aferim! claims, sometimes...

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