WHAT it is…

A genre taking off from the Western that took shape in Europe, specifically in Italy, during the 60s and the 70s. Markedly different in form and substance from the Hollywood Western, this extremely influential genre has inspired a host of modern day filmmakers, such as Quentin Tarantino, in a way perhaps even its classical counterpart hasn’t.

WHO its pioneers were...

One of the major inspirations for the Spaghetti Western is the samurai films of Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, which ported the classic Hollywood Western into a feudal Japanese setting. Sergio Leone, the single most important director associated with the genre, drew from Kurosawa and entirely transposed it, creating some of the most memorable Spaghetti Westerns. Other filmmakers include Sergio Corbucci and Enzo Castellari.

HOW it is characterised…

Objectives

The films of this genre dislodge Western from its essential American roots, uprooting it from the ideological conflicts that gave the latter thematic resonance and replacing it with more universal and time-tested themes such as revenge and lineage. On the other hand, this transformation also helped rebel filmmakers to remodel the West not as the land of great American pioneers, but as a country of opportunist charlatans, murderous brutes and greedy land grabbers.

Style

Spaghetti Westerns have frequently been accused of being all style and no substance. While it is true that many of these films are highly stylised to the point of attention-mongering, with dizzying use of wide angles, close-ups of rough, worn-out faces, deadpan acting, legendary scores rife with organs, hackneyed Wild West architecture and self-consciously long shots, it is debatable that these films do not have any substance, for what is style but the substance of cinema?

WHY it is important...

Spaghetti Westerns came to prominence just about the time classic Westerns were fading out. With the end of the studio era, the Spaghetti Western boom took the Western out of American historical and aesthetic context and made it a universal genre. So much so it spawned numerous imitations around the world, including in India, where “curry Western” and other cowboy movies came to the limelight.

WHERE to find it...

Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966) is a classic Spaghetti Western starring the iconic Clint Eastwood. This ultra-stylistic, genuinely oddball film makes stunning use of widescreen cinematography, tense, rhythmic editing and a now-too-famous musical score to create a landmark film of the genre.