Nostalgia, utopia, spaghetti: Utopian and anti-nostalgic time in the Italian Western

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The conventional Hollywood Western is founded on a nostalgic break with the past; it contemplates the end of the Old West and its chivalric codes with a bittersweet regret, even while acknowledging it was necessary for the world of law and order that came after. This radical break with the past was, of course, essential for the creation of the viewer's nostalgia. The Italian Western undid this nostalgia on two levels, however: first, at the level of the image, the Italian Western eradicated the whitehatted knight in favor of con-men and mercenaries whose trademark was dirt, sweat, facial hair, bloodstains, and execrable table manners. What was the viewer to be nostalgic about? More radically, the Italian Western undid the essential structure of nostalgia. The spaghetti Western repeatedly suggested a radical continuity with the past: The present is a continuation of the nineteenth-century robber-baron capitalism and state exploitation of the disenfranchised. While most Italian Westerns are 'simply' cynical about modernity (and cannot, as a result, imagine political or personal change), a few imagine a utopian rather than a nostalgic break with the past - one in which the future remains unknown, what the political philosopher Hannah Arendt termed a 'miracle'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-91
Number of pages13
JournalStudies in European Cinema
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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