I watched a boatload of westerns as a teenager and not even because I had a western-crazy dad or grandpa. I just adored classics, and it was genre I fell in love with about a decade ago — alongside of screwball comedies and Film Noir. But I mostly kept to the glossy westerns of the 40s and 50s where no one ever broke a sweat.
This week, I felt like venturing into the darker, dustier fare that came about in the late 60s, and decided to give A Fistful of Dollars a shot. It’s a well known film that redefined a genre that hadn’t changed much over two or three decades.
The difference and artistry are felt throughout. Clint Eastwood’s anti-hero just kind of ambles along, and the story moves at his pace. It’s very visual. Wars aren’t waged with words or threats, only with bullets and beatings. There’s something about a beautiful woman being held captive. She isn’t exactly a character, just a plot point. The Man With No Name plays both sides in fight that’s never fully explained. Someone’s good, someone’s bad, but it’s all kind of irrelevant.
A lot of the dialogue was added in post production. I’d say that it glaringly shows, except that it somehow it makes every scenario a bit surreal. The film is gritty and violent, but in a stylized way. There’s a vengeful climax that might be significant, because Clint Eastwood is back to wearing his poncho and getting to the heart of the matter. (If you’ve seen this film, you’ll know what a clever pun I’ve made.)
A Fistful of Dollars was intriguing enough that I’ll probably watch For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly eventually. For the moment though, I feel perfectly satisfied because this film stands up quite well on its own.