The ecstasy of gold: Love, greed and homosociality in the Dollars trilogy

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Love, in any romantic sense, is notable by its absence in the Italian Western. Its protagonists are loners, desperadoes or avenging angels, for whom women are either whores or (dead) ex-lovers and for whom familial relations merely represent an impediment to the pursuit of wealth. Where romantic interludes occur, they are either briefly alluded to in flashback as a source of pain or take the form of emotionless sexual episodes with prostitutes. Instead, 'love' such as it exists is demonstrated as being manifested by a concern for the endless and often fatal pursuit of wealth. This article explores the ways in which homosociality in the Italian Western is a function of the nature of the (mostly male) domestic audience for the films in conjunction with the polemical and fragmented nature of 1960s Italian political culture. It will do so by focusing upon the Dollars trilogy, directed by Sergio Leone between 1964 and 1966. The works of Sergio Leone as both the most high-profile and most iconic Spaghetti Westerns offer an interesting case study for examining the distinct absence of any traditional form of 'love interest', instead demonstrating an oeuvre that stresses greed and the love of gold as its protagonists' defining life goal. The films set up a distinctly homosocial environment whereby emotional attachment is limited to the self and bounded to others only to the extent they can help achieve the protagonists' material goals. In so doing they also offer a potential critique of Italy's post-war economic 'miracle'. 'There are two types of people. Those with loaded guns and those who dig'. -Blondie, 'The Good, The Bad & The Ugly'
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-78
JournalStudies in European Cinema
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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