Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"One Upon a Time in the West" (1968)

Sweep, but also slowness. Landscape, but also proximity, clock-turn, and velocity. The slowness of knowing where your place is (nowhere); the speed that comes with knowing your death comes in threes (at a train station). The myth of the West, after it's passed through the requisite motions of law-making, constitution-forming; you are watching the West directly from the perspective of the Mythical, the time-elapsed, the time-enshrined. Not a western but the Western of westerns; an archetype whose volubility represents its irrepressible duration. A crossroads where men die because they choose to die the only way they know how: by evolutionary selection. To declare, wordlessly: I am faster than you. (Quickness is the state of grace which they call "keeping alive," or the force impressed in the figure of one who remains standing in the midst of gunsmoke; but quickness is also cleverness, sleight-of-hand, country wit.) All of Tarantino is in the final section, when we learn why Bronson seeks revenge, why he is selfish with his gunfire; why he protects Fonda from dying at the hands of his own men. Revenge, such as we understand it, in the mythos of the West, fuels an economy from the remnants of bad speculation; an economy of death that begets townships, train stations, mining prospects, the gold trade, and so forth. The harmonica and harmonica-playing is what you call a man's vigor when he's got no words to express his outgrown, overbearing virility.

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