Oh, turn those judging eyes away.]
In the Guardian, Alex Cox writes about the prolonged death of the western at the hands of Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah. Describing a photo of the two with Monte Hellman on the set of "China 9, Liberty 37," he writes:
In the photo, Peckinpah and Leone don’t look at each other. Leone is gazing out, past the camera, his glasses reflecting movie lights. Peckinpah is looking at Hellman, his director. The significance of the second photograph, I think, is what Leone and Peckinpah are doing. Neither is directing. Leone is a visitor to the set. He has time on his hands. Peckinpah is an actor, in a battered coat and hat, playing a supporting cowpoke in a work-for-hire directed by a friend.
By 1978, neither had a western of his own to make. Each would direct one more feature, but the men who had killed off the western had pretty much written themselves out of a job.
We grew up watching post-westerns â€” it wasn’t until later that we ever discovered that there were westerns that weren’t concerned with the fact that life out there was grim and violent, that we’d run out of frontier, and that the unheroic creep of civilization was far worse than any hardscrabble existence you could dream up. There are many interesting things about "The Proposition" (which we saw too long ago to write a full review of now), most interesting of all its use of the nearly otherworldly Australian outback…jagged and alien, with no ocean to run up against for thousands of miles, it’s genuinely intimidating and bleakly lovely. If the neo western is ever marked by a sense of deflation, of encroachment and the end of free spaces in which to run, "The Proposition" is a rarity in that the fragile "civilization" of its main settlement seems genuinely in danger of being crushed by the vast empty spaces around it.
At one point, Danny Huston‘s
character, staring out at the sunset from a rocky perch, sums it up as "the end of
things," and quite right. Beyond the obvious Peckinpah references,
writer Nick Cave and director John Hillcoat have clearly been reading up on their Cormac McCarthy â€” the most obvious reference point for something so almost profanely, biblically violent swirled with moments of still beauty.
+ A bullet in the back (Guardian)