Genre Review

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night: A Monochromatic Western-Noir-Horror


A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) is the brilliant debut of Ana Lily Amirpour, who wrote and directed the film. We might call it an “Eastern,” given the story’s setting in an Iranian town. But the film’s themes and actual setting (Taft, California) give it a deliberate Western flavour. So, an eastern western, which makes for a productive tension—the sort that we find in Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel Perspolis (2000), which, like Amirpour’s film, is in black and white.


Genre Review: The Negotiable “Home” in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)


I concluded my Genre Review on The Searchers by arguing that the film “spelled the end of a certain type of western, not the least because the very idea of ‘home’ (and the associated categories of nation and race) had been overturned.” If this is the case, how did subsequent westerns differ in their attitudes towards race, nation, and “home”?

A glance back at Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) demonstrates a new sophistication in storytelling, dialogue, and cinematography, which work in tandem to situate nation as both vibrantly and violently hybrid, and race and “home” as fluctuating and negotiable. While I’d love to talk about all three topics, I’ll narrow my focus in this piece to how industrialism affects the conception of the home and notions of domesticity.


Genre Review: John Ford’s The Searchers and the “End of the Western”?


In the later films of John Ford (i.e., late 1930s onward), we already see how much the western has developed as a genre: yes, the depiction of women and “Indians” is still problematic, but, compared to most westerns of the day, characterization seems a bit more complex, motives more ambiguous, and the narrative more sophisticated as a result. To be sure, we’re still a decade or so away from really outstanding westerns like Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) and The Wild Bunch (1969), and a half-century away from the western’s complete overhaul thanks to programs on HBO, AMC, and FX. But both Stagecoach (1939) and The Searchers (1956) demonstrated the potential for the genre to use the traditional western setting as a backdrop to bloody good story telling. The second film’s thematic concern with the dissolution of traditional boundaries such as race, nation, and home marks this film as one of the more complex of the period and signals that the genre had lost its innocence.


Genre Review: Sky High (1922), a Silent Western


On my “About this Blog” page I promised I’d give some attention to silent films, so here goes (and with a “Works Cited” and everything). Sky High (1922) was part of what became known as the “Alaskan Cache,” a set of four nitrate film prints recovered from an Alaskan warehouse in 1972; as the story goes, a university student, Laura Bland, travelled by dogsled to acquire the films from an antique collector. That’s determination. Other films recovered included lost films by John Ford and Howard Hawks. For more on the preservation of Sky High and other films in the twentieth century, see Lawrence F. Karr’s article “The American Film Institute and the Library of Congress: A Twelve-Year Perspective.” (See Works Cited below.)