Quentin Tarantino Tackles Old Dixie by Way of the Old West (by Way of Italy)

In this essay by Quentin Tarantino, the famed auteur director dissects the spaghetti westerns of Italian drectors like Leone and Corbucci and how it inspired his own rendition in Django Unchained.

Any of the Western directors who had something to say created their own version of the West: Anthony Mann created a West that had room for the characters played by Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper; Sam Peckinpah had his own West; so did Sergio Leone. Sergio Corbucci did, too — but his West was the most violent, surreal and pitiless landscape of any director in the history of the genre. His characters roam a brutal, sadistic West.

Corbucci’s heroes can’t really be called heroes. In another director’s western, they would be the bad guys. And as time went on, Corbucci kept de-emphasizing the role of the hero. One movie he did, “The Hellbenders,” doesn’t have anybody to root for at all. There’s bad guys and victims, and that’s it. In “Il Grande Silenzio,” he has Klaus Kinski playing a villainous bounty hunter. I’m not a big fan of Kinski, but he’s amazing in this movie — it’s definitely his best performance in a genre movie. The hero of “Il Grande Silenzio” is Jean-Louis Trintignant, playing a mute. By taking his hero’s voice away, Corbucci reduces him to nothing.

And “Il Grande Silenzio” has one of the most nihilistic endings of any western. Trintignant goes out to face the bad guys — and gets killed. The bad guys win, they murder everybody else in the town, they ride away and that’s the end of the movie. It’s shocking to this day. A movie like [Andre de Toth’s] “Day of the Outlaw,” as famous as it is for being bleak and gritty, is practically a musical in comparison to “Il Grande Silenzio.”

“Silenzio” takes place in the snow — I liked the action in the snow so much, “Django Unchained” has a big snow section in the middle of the movie.

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