How the West Was Lost (2008)

TV Movie   |    |  Documentary


Rich Hall looks at how the most quintessentially American film genre, the Western, came to be killed off.

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7.6/10
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3 July 2008 | bob the moo
Engaging, interesting and accessible film genre lecture that will even appeal to those with only a passing interest
When Rich Hall overhears a liberal West Coast Mac user slating the film genre of westerns, he decides to teach him a few things. Having corrected some of his misconceptions, Hall dumps him in the middle of nowhere and heads off into the sunset. However for Hall this is only the start of the road trip as he explores and examines the role of the western down the years.

Say what you want about BBC4 and how many people watch it (and the tabloids do love to dismiss it as too highbrow and bad value for money) but it does produce a higher quality of programme. On any other channel what you would have from this film would be a clips show of famous western with a tabloid-level celeb pretending to have passion for films he/she has probably not seen for quite some time if at all. However what we have here is something quite similar but yet infinitely better. Written and presented by acerbic comedian Rich Hall, this is a really well informed lecture on the western, why the genre is relevant and what it has meant or done down the years. OK there are plenty of clips but they are certainly never the focus and are never shown as filler.

On the contrary, Hall has plenty to say and mostly he does it in a very intelligent and engaging manner. After the first couple of times his stretches to criticise the Bush government and the war on Iraq gets a bit old and distracting but otherwise he is note-perfect. He presents with typical grump but yet it fits the subject really well and he speaks with authority and knowledge that comes over in how he says it and not just what he says. The direction is really good and moves around well in "wild west" locations with rich yellows and blues that match the dried look of Hall and the films.

On the surface it is a film for fans of westerns and undoubtedly those who love the genre will love this, but it is interesting, engaging and accessible enough to appeal to a wider audience if they give it a try. A really good film genre lecture and it does deserve to be seen by more people than I'm sure BBC4 will have reached.

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