Friday, February 23, 2007

K. Silem Mohammad writes about American comedies at Lime Tree, and yeah these are great films, but what about Blazing Saddles? Might be the funniest movie of all time. But who knows. Never has 'holy shit' been used in a film with such perfect timing. I've noticed over repeated viewings that there's constant use of the s-word but no f-word. One can only guess that there was some in-between period in Hollywood where the s-word was cool but the f-word still wasn't allowed. I'm sure one could make alot out of the racial aspects of Blazing Saddles. What Blazing Saddles does is comment on how Westerns cast race. It deals in the stereotypes that Westerns (and other films) deal with. Its a satire. And a mind-boggling one at that- see Mel Brooks playing a stereotype of an Indian Chief as a stereotype of an Orthodox Jew. What made for so much institutional racism in Hollywood was how one-sided it was, no? In this film everybody gets it, and the only thing that's important is comedy.

A film like Gone With The Wind seems much much worse to me, because not only are stereotypes unquestioningly presented to us, but the dichotomy of White/Black characters is so jarringly unrealistic. The white characters are genteel and courageous, while most of the black characters are presented as people who are better off being led by white characters.

In Blazing Saddles, the protaganist is played by Cleavon Little, an African-American. As the new sherriff of Rock Ridge, he's possibly the only character who doesn't show himself to be an idiot. There's the saint-like doe-eyed Gene Wilder, but he's in a bottle for the first portion of the film. Like the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup, the film solves any and all problems with regard to 'plot' by allowing itself to simply succumb to insanity. Blazing Saddles has the wildest last 45 or so minutes of just about any film I can think of, and then, after the fourth wall's been blown up many times over, it returns to Western satire, but hey this is the 20th Century, 1974, so Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder ditch their horses and get into a classy ride. They drive off into the sunset. If you're still hung up on the racial epithets in this film, I direct you to the scene where the town of Rock Ridge is forming a group to stop the Governor from demolishing their homes to make room for the railroad. A comment on the provincialsim of Westerns, but you'll notice how diverse the group is. Unlike a satire such as say Team America, which has the "America Fuck Yeah" song, but no real point of view, Blazing Saddles has a position. It's anti-greed, anti-exploitation, pro-solidarity, pro-humor. Blazing Saddles comments on racial stereotypes, but it doesn't exploit them unquestioningly.

2 comments:

K. Silem Mohammad said...

Yeah, I mentioned at the end of my long post that I was surprised Blazing Saddles didn't end up on my "top ten +" list, and now I'm thinking that was because I was originally shooting for a hundred films, and it really should be included. In fact, your celebration of the film reminds me how great it truly is.

Mike H said...

Indeed.