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Archive for November 22nd, 2013

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By Stephen Mullen

Winchester 73 was the first collaboration between James Stewart and Anthony Mann, the beginning of an extremely successful partnership. The film itself is very innovative – it brought the influence of noir into the western, along with a complex narrative structure, complicated, morally ambiguous characters, classical influences, and psychological depth (and more than a hint of Freud). It may not have been the first western to do any of those things, but the sophistication and depth it brought to the combination helped define a new approach, anticipating revisionist westerns to come. It certainly anticipates Mann’s subsequent westerns, films with an expressionistic style that hovers between film noir and the kinds of family melodramas made by Nicholas Ray or Douglas Sirk, while never skimping on what you might call the conventional pleasures of the western. Mann takes full advantage of the trappings of the genre, telling his tales of psychological conflicts, bad families and tortured heroes through gunfights, chases, brawling, hats and guns and horses, Indians and card players, against a backdrop of magnificent landscapes. And all of it is integrated, the action sequences advance psychologically acute character arcs, the locations and sets shape the emotional trajectory of the films, creating films that reward infinite attention, without detracting from their effectiveness as entertainment. They are remarkable films. (more…)

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