Cassidy Red is a Western fable chronicling the existential struggle of protagonist “Josephine Cassidy”. When she is led to believe that her lover has been killed by her scornful ex-fiancée, she returns to her hometown, seeking retribution. Torn between love, hate, loyalty, and vengeance, Joe’s path to satisfaction widens out of her control.
Cassidy Red started as a love letter to the Western, specifically the Westerns of Sergio Leone- a personal hero of mine. Leone, a man of enormous ambition and ingenuity, loved the genre unconditionally. But, like so many filmgoers and filmmakers of the mid 20th century he had grown fatigued with the predictability, formula, and stylistic blandness characteristic to so many American Westerns of the 50s and 60s. Leone was confident he could inject new life and fresh ideas into a genre he felt still had plenty of fertile, unexplored artistic real estate left in it. So he imagined a new vision of an old genre. His creation, the tacky but evocatively-named “Spaghetti Western” changed the genre and filmmaking as a whole for better and for always.
Leone’s "Western" was always my favorite take on the genre. There was a vitality and a stylistic confidence that seemed to open up the form and define what the iconography of the frontier was actually about, at its core. I appreciated and respected the films of John Ford, Sam Peckinpah, or John Sturges. But I loved and mythologized the films of Leone. It had always been a dream of mine to write a cinematic love letter to the man- a pastiche of reverence and reference. But as the script and conception for the film Cassidy Red began to take shape I realized that I wasn’t nearly as interested in the style or semiotics that would define the film as a “neo-Spaghetti Western” as I was in the characters and, crucially, the film’s central love story. That’s when it became clear to me that this film didn’t need to be beholden to the visual or tonal expectations of films I had grown up loving. This film’s only responsibility was to itself and ultimately to the character of Josephine Cassidy.
Leone’s films instilled a deep, formative love for the Western inside me and that affection will last a lifetime. But the goal of Cassidy Red evolved from making a “Leone film” to making a film “like Leone did”. He looked at the Westerns and decided there were stories and characters and themes he didn’t feel were represented in his favorite genre. This is exactly the way I approached our film. The superstructure of Cassidy Red is forged from the familiar elements we all associate with the Western- the untamed frontier, the constant threat of violence, outlaws, betrayal, corruption, saloons, jail cells, livestock, prostitution, lawlessness, and bloodshed. But, at its core, what the film is principally interested in, is to examine the elements underrepresented in the genre- strong, complex female characters, familial ties, heartbreak, sacrifice, and star-crossed love. Cassidy Red is a film about family. It's a film about legacy, lineage, and the loaded implications of a surname (hence the title). It’s a film that knows exactly who its spiritual ancestors are and ultimately wants nothing more than to make them proud.
-Matt Knudsen, 12/2017