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Western Cinematography


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#1 Enzo Blonde

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Posted 05 November 2008 - 03:35 PM

Hello everyone, I am a student working on my thesis which is a short film. I've been eager shoot a film in the old Western and Spaghetti Western style, however this is where I get stuck. I've been trying to do some research on what the characteristics of Western Cinematography are, and really there is not that much research on anything other than plot. So hopefully I can get some feedback from you guys on what some critical points of Western Cinematography are.

Thanks in advance,
Blondie
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 05 November 2008 - 06:33 PM

Of all the film genres, in some respects, Westerns contain some of the widest range of cinematography movements -- probably because it is also one of the oldest film genres. You have color and b&w Westerns, widescreen and square-screen Westerns, dark & contrasty, blown-out & washed-out, you have Technicolor-hued movies like "Duel in the Sun" and "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" and very desaturated Westerns like "Heaven's Gate" and "McCabe & Mrs. Miller". You have sharp ones and diffused ones. Ones with high-key lighting and ones with very soft lighting. Stage-bound and on location.

The look of the Spaghetti Westerns is sort of unique, not indicative of all Westerns.

One visual element that a lot have in common, other than the obvious elements, is the juxtaposition of a lone person against space, often outdoors. There is a preponderance of wide shots in Westerns for one thing, and often that is juxtaposed with very tight shots to emphasize the difference even more. It's almost a Romantic notion, nature as a reflection of the emotional state of the character. Though perhaps this is less an element of Leone's Westerns, which are more interested in interpersonal conflict and conflict between groups of people or people and institutions.
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#3 Simon Wyss

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Posted 06 November 2008 - 01:07 PM

The Western genre used to be a most political one. It was a vehicle for transporting sexism, racism, fascism or blunt either-or scheme thinking just according to the ruling party. Values like patriotism or faith were held high. There is alway the good and the bad, some feminine complication and a last minute rescue or showdown. Cheap Westerns were produced to entertain second and to keep everybody busy first. Do not forget the impressive mews. We can only dream of the teamwork they enjoyed then. Great Westerns such as High Noon bear classic plots inside: Schiller's Wilhelm Tell drama as an example.

I think the Western stands in solid correlation with the doom of manhood of the old age. New age (aquarius) starts around 1894-95, has transition 1929-30 and fully pulls away in 1967-68. C'era une volta nel west of 1968 is nothing else than a swan song on the time gone with a strongly modern face. The film's base is a memory (boy with brother on shoulders, revenge as adult). See, the simple and clear lines of Western lives contribute to so to speak distilled-out dramatic situations. You have been encoded to all that within the first six to eight minutes . . .
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#4 Enzo Blonde

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Posted 07 November 2008 - 10:40 AM

Thanks a lot guys, that helps :)
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