(Dir Daniele Incalcaterra & Fausta Quattrini, 2012, Argentina/France, Cert U, 95 mins)
Thursday 4 September | 8pm
Back Room Cinema of The Montpelier pub,
43 Choumert Road, London SE15 4AR
Read more about this film here
El Impenetrable is a western where all characters are real.
The documentary follows director Incalcaterra, who inherits 5,000 acres of land in one of the most remote areas of the world: the Paraguayan Chaco, a harsh, sparsely populated environment where landowners and their thugs run the show.
An unwanted gift from his long deceased father, Daniele decides to give back this land to the indigenous people who have always lived in this territory. But his neighbours – oil companies, transgenic soybean and livestock farmers who clear the forest and do not like intruders, do not seem very supportive of this idea.
Trailer at this link.
El Impenetrable will be screened in its original language (Italian/Spanish), with subtitles in English.
This is a free event. No booking needed.
“I used to believe in many things, all of it! Now, I believe only in dynamite.”
Lima Zulu and Full Unemployment Cinema present Death on the Run a 3 day short season of Spaghetti and deviant Westerns.
21st – 23rd FEB
LimaZulu, 3J Omega Works, 167 Hermitage Road, N4 1LZ
The western is an intensely political genre, but if the American western mythologises heroism, order and Manifest Destiny the Italian “Spaghetti” western deals with an altogether different subject matter. This short season will explore some of the themes central to Italian and other deviant westerns – anti-colonialism, ultra-violence, anti-heroic nihilism and revolutionary intransigence, amongst others.
Connected to the season of screenings Benjamin Noys will give a presentation on ‘The Spaghetti Western, Politics and the Horrors of Resistance’ (Sat.22nd Feb. 17.30).
A publication featuring essays on the Spaghetti Western and the various forms of cynicism, nihilism and revolt that appear within them and other deviant westerns will also be available.
Fri 21st Feb 1300hrs A Fistful of Dollars, dir. Leone, 1964
1500hrs Yojimbo, dir. Kurosawa, 1961
1930hrs Opening event
2100hrs Black God, White Devil, dir. Rocha, 1964
Sat 22nd Feb 1200hrs Le Vent D’Est, dir. Godard, 1970
1300hrs Django Kill!/If you live, shoot!, dir. Questi, 1967
1730hrs Benjamin Noys on The Spaghetti Western, Politics and the Horrors of Resistance
1830hrs Tepepa, dir. Petroni, 1968
2130hrs Django, dir. Corbucci, 1966
Sun 23rd Feb 1300hrs Il Grande Silenzio, dir Corbucci, 1968
1500hrs I Quattro dell’apocalisse, dir. Fulci, 1975
1730hrs A bullet for the general, dir. Damiani, 1966
2030hrs Duck, you sucker!, dir. Leone, 1971
For some further Program notes see below:
Black God, White Devil, dir. Glauber Rocha, 1964
A Fistful of Dollars, Sergio Leone, 1964, Italy, West Germany & Spain, 99 mins
Yojimbo, Akira Kurosawa, 1961, Japan, 110 mins
“Signor Leone—I have just had the chance to see your film. It is a very fine film,
but it is my film. As Japan is a signatory to the Berne Convention on international
copyright, you must pay me.”
– Akira Kurosawa in a letter to Sergio Leone
“Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it.”
– Guy Debord, La Société du spectacle (after Comte de Lautréamont)
Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars (1964) may be seen as the genre defining Spaghetti Western, a visual and thematic reference point for the films that followed it. Leone had noted that Italian audiences found the tired conceits of American westerns laughable and sought to reinvent the Western. Drawing heavily on the plot, characters and composition of Yojimbo (1964), Leone transposed Kurosawa’s tale of a masterless samurai-a rõnin- who plays off two crime lords against one another to the Spanish desert.
The result was a Western that did away with romantic and heroic clichés, replacing them with violence, fatalism and cynicism. Bridging the gap between the classic American Western and the Spaghetti Western is Clint Eastwood who plays the eponymous Man with No Name, an anti-heroic role he chose after he tired of playing ‘the conventional white hat [….] the hero who kisses old ladies and dogs and was kind to everybody.’
Leone’s use of Kurosawa’s film as ‘inspiration’ was entirely unauthorised-The Magnificent Seven it ain’t- with Kurosawa taking legal action that delayed international sales of the film. Borrowing plots and characters was seemingly common in Italian Cinema at the time, and though Leone and his producers would argue that both Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest and Carlo Goldoni‘s eighteenth-century play Servant of Two Masters were equally important influences on A Fistful of Dynamite they eventually settled, with Kurosawa and Kikushima getting Asian rights to the film and 15% of the international box office. It’s also worth noting that Kurosawa in turn stated that a major source for the plot of Yojimbo was the 1942 film noir The Glass Key-an adaptation of Hammett’s novel of the same name- and critics have pointed out Yojimbo’s resemblance to Red Harvest.
The resulting success of the plagiaristic A Fistful of Dollars spurred Italian filmmakers on to produce dozens of films that began to describe and depict a very different wild west to the one the European audience had grown bored with.
Bullet for the General
Director: Damiano Damiani 1966 77 min.
Duck You Sucker
Director: Sergio Leone 1971 138 min.
This double bill presents two very different films that explore the point where the Spaghetti Western exploitation flick directly intersects with representations of revolutionary politics. The 1966 film A Bullet for the General was directed by Damiano Damiani, scripted by Franco Solinas and starred Gian Maria Volonté as the revolutionary bandit El Chuncho. As one of the first overtly political Spaghetti Westerns it more or less provided the blueprint for the ‘Zapata Western’ sub genre. It’s narrative of the friendship between a Mexican bandit/revolutionary and a Yankee gringo in the midst of revolutionary turmoil, with a corresponding focus upon betrayal, violence and the ethics of political radicalization was to be echoed by other Zapata Westerns such as Sergio Corbucci’s Compañeros (1970).
The Leftist intransigence of the film is not to be doubted given the involvement of Damiani, Solinas and Volonté. Damiani insisted that the salience of the film lay in it not being in any way a ‘Western’ movie but ‘a film about the Mexican Revolution […] and therefore […] clearly a political film and nothing else’. Solinas, a communist militant, was best known for working with Pontecorvo on The Battle of Algiers and Burn!, and A Bullet for the General features similar themes of counter-insurgency and anti-colonialism. The actor and theatre activist Volonté would turn down well-paid roles for films he considered ‘too bourgeois’ and spent much of the 1960s and 1970s engaging in the struggles of the time through both provocative Brechtian street theatre and by documenting via film occupied factories. That the film also features Klaus Kinski as bomb throwing priest and liberation theologian only serves as a further recommendation.
However, some of the overt didacticism of A Bullet for the General is thrown into question by Sergio Leone’s 1971 film Duck You Sucker, aka A Fistful of Dynamite and in France Once Upon a Time… The Revolution. While both films are set in the early 20th century Mexican Revolution and are Zapata Westerns this is where the resemblance ends. Duck You Sucker utilizes the Zapata Western template to tell the tale of the friendship between Sean Mallory (James Coburn) and Juan Miranda (Rod Steiger), the former a disillusioned but still militant Irish revolutionary and the latter a Mexican bandit. That the original Italian title of the film Giù la testa means to duck or get out of the way suggests how distant the film is from other Zapata Westerns. The film revolves around themes of self-interested survival, plebeian fatalism and nihilistic revenge, seeming to desire escape from politics rather than ethical commitment to revolution. Simultaneously, though, Duck You Sucker delights in the mythic spectacle of revolution with violent set pieces, battles, executions, immiserated crowds etc. This uneasy juxtaposition draws out one of the central contradictions of the Zapata Western more generally. This is that the blurring of political commitment with entertaining spectacle in such populist cinema is deeply problematic in the terms of radical Leftist politics. While this might explain Gian Maria Volonté’s ultimate preference for avant-garde provocation both films continue to pose this problem in a way very little contemporary cinema is capable of doing.