Sergio Leone Web Board

Films of Sergio Leone => Duck, You Sucker => Topic started by: Groggy on January 06, 2009, 10:36:19 AM



Title: My DYS Review
Post by: Groggy on January 06, 2009, 10:36:19 AM
This review is apparently too long for a single post, so it's coming in two parts. Here's the link:

http://nothingiswrittenfilm.blogspot.com/2009/01/duck-you-sucker.html (http://nothingiswrittenfilm.blogspot.com/2009/01/duck-you-sucker.html)

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Duck, You Sucker! (or A Fistful of Dynamite) is one of Sergio Leone's oddest and most problematic films, and not just for the silly title. I've seen the 138 minute cut numerous times until my old VHS tape gave out last year, and in that form I always considered it one of Leone's lesser efforts. I finally got to see the extended 155 minute cut in my Topics in Film Class last fall (as part of a larger unit on Leone) and I loved it. A rewatch last night, however, confirmed that my problems weren't merely with the editing of the truncated version, but with the film itself. It's not in the same league as Leone's masterpieces - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and the Once Upon a Times - and it's as frustrating and problematic as Once Upon a Time in America, and not nearly as rewarding. In Groggy-speak though, it's Leone's equivalent of Doctor Zhivago or Major Dundee - a fascinating film whose myriad flaws make it all the more interesting.

The film takes the general form of the Zapata Westerns, the subgenre of Spaghettis which transposed political issues of the '60s and '70s onto Mexico's various revolutions. Juan Miranda (Rod Steiger) is a grotesque Mexican bandit who comes across John Mallory (James Coburn), an IRA terrorist working in revolutionary Mexico as a miner/terrorist. Miranda decides that Mallory's "holy water" - he is a walking munitions dump, replete with nitroglycerin, dynamite and bombs of all sort - will be perfect for his plans to rob the Mesa Verde bank, and he none-too-gently persuades John to join him. Eventually they arrive in Mesa Verde, but when Juan robs the bank, he finds that it's been turned into a political prison for captured revolutionaries. Unwittingly drawn into the Mexican Revolution by his "friend", Juan finds himself in the cross-hairs of counter-revolutionary troops led by the brutal Gunther Ruiz (Antoine Saint-John), leading to an escalating amount of violence and brutality - with little or no hope of escape.

Leone's film is somewhat schizophrenic. It's obviously intended as a critique of the Zapata films, whose attempts at political commentary more often than not turned into juvenille, unconsidered Marxism (see A Bullet For the General for the most egregious example). The first half of the movie (save the bizarre and powerful opening scene) is more in line with Leone's adventurous and violent Dollars trilogy than the mature and elegiac Once Upon a Time in the West, but it takes an abrupt turn after the bank robbery and becomes a somber political film. Its nihilism, however, proves much more interesting than the sophomoric leftist practiced by most of its peers.

The opening scene is the most-discussed part of the film, and certainly worth examining. As Juan hitches a ride on a luxurious stagecoach, filled with a cross-section of upper-class society. The scene quickly turns into a grotesque parody of Eisenstein, showing extreme close-ups of the aristocrats as they eat and mock their fellow passenger. The political message of this scene is obvious and completely unsubtle; but lest we have too much sympathy with Juan and his peasant class, the scene is abruptly interrupted by a stage robbery - engineered by Juan's family. Juan's family robs the passengers and inflicts humilitation on them - stripping the men naked, raping the aristocratic woman (Maria Monti) who had earlier fantasized about the promiscuity of peasants like Juan, and they are ultimately dumped into a pig sty. Leone immediately stakes out his position, immediately perverting the revolutionary ideal - the simple peasant rising up against his capitalist oppressor - with an overt display of vulgarity and violence. It's a difficult scene to watch at times, but nonetheless it works, effectively foreshadowing what's to come.

Leone continually presses home the futility of revolutionary politics. Juan's big speech about the futility of Revolution is rather obvious but manages to be one of the most pointed things any film has ever said about this issue. Rejecting the romanticized view of his fellow Spaghetti directors - Damiano Damiani and Sergio Corbucchi most notably - Leone sees Revolution as something bloody, and ultimately futile. The movie reinforces this message with its almost endless scenes of massacre - most notably the death of Juan's family at the hands of Ruiz's men (unseen except for the tragic aftermath), the execution of men betrayed by revolutionary leader Dr. Villega (Romolo Valli), and the crane shot of prisoners being slaughtered en masse by the retreating Federales. There are perhaps a bit too many of these scenes, but they serve their purpose within the story. Revolution is a violent, bloody thing, with men like Villega benefitting as the proletariats and peasants die en masse. And only rarely is anything actually achieved but a repositioning of the status quo - as the futile cycle of coups and internicine warfare that engulfed Mexico itself from 1910-1921 proved.

The film nonetheless has a number of flaws which prevent it from reaching the status of Leone's masterpieces. One of the movie's biggest problems are the villains and supporting characters. Gunther Ruiz (Antoine Saint-John, of The Wind and the Lion), the presumably German officer who provides our main antagonist, is a weakling with little screentime and few dialogues; the most menacing thing he does in the film is viciously brush his teeth. His henchmen are pushovers, making Darth Vader's Stormtroopers look competent by comparison, thus creating little dramatic tension in the later parts of the film. Other seemingly important characters - Rik Battaglia's revolutionary general, Franco Graziosi's crooked Governor - flit in and out of the story seemingly at random, without making any real impression. Our main characters and Villega are interesting personages, but the world they move through is full of ciphers. Perhaps that's the point - the Revolution is the villain, not any individual - but the fact that Leone sets up such characters and then abandons them (without their having much to do to begin with) proves problematic.

To Be Continued...


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Groggy on January 06, 2009, 10:36:40 AM
Part Two:

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Another problem is that the film suffers from serious problems of pacing. The film's first hour or so is leisurely build-up, establishing characters and conflicts, but as it makes it shift into more serious territory it stumbles a bit. The movie jumps quickly from John and Juan's battle with Ruiz at the bridge, to the grotto massacre, to the night-time executions, with little transition between these scenes. The individual scenes are powerful enough, but the quick transitions between them seem jarring and disconcerting; only during John and Juan's train journey does the film fully regain its footing. John's flashbacks are also a bit overdone - the final one in particular goes on beyond all reason and goes from poignant to ridiculous. The movie also has a few odd moments of cartoonishness - most notably Juan's vision of John with a Bank of Mesa Verde banner glowing above his head - which are jarring and don't seem to have much purpose, amusing as some of them are.

Technically, Leone is at the top of his game. He makes wonderful use of editing and juxtaposting close-ups with landscapes throughout. He handles the action scenes with aplomb and the more intimate sequences are also skillfully directed. Although Giuseppi Ruzzolini is not quite a distinguished a cinematographer as Tonino Delli Colli, he still manages to make the rugged Almerian plains eerily beautiful, as well as the beautifully shot Ireland sequences. Ennio Morricone's eclectic and decidedly quirky score - especially the jaunty Sean Sean Sean theme sequeing into Edda Dell'Orso's beautiful soprano - is a bit jarring at first but contributes beautifully to the film.

Rod Steiger gives a decidedly grotesque performance as Juan. His character certainly comes across as a pale pastiche of Eli Wallach's Tuco, only more vulgar and overtly violent. Steiger indulges his hammier instincts, with a ridiculously comic accent. And yet, Steiger manages to draw some pathos out of his character - not surprisingly, the scene where he finds his dead sons is remarkably affected - not the least because Steiger's mouth is shut for most of the scene. Still, his realization during the bank robbery that he's been the victim of a cruel joke by Mallory (as he finds vault after vault of political prisoners) and the poignancy of his final plea - "What about me?" - as he's left alone in the midst of a Revolution he doesn't believe in and never wanted is remarkable.

More impressive, in spite of a no-less embarrassing accent, is James Coburn. His John seems throughout to be a nihilistic dilettante, lacking any real motivation as he flits around Mexico on his motorcycle. His suicidal destructiveness, embodied by his arsenal of explosiveness, is his defining characteristic. As the film progresses, however, and the flashbacks become more clear, we discover the source of his personality - burned out by an aborted revolution in Ireland, in which he was betrayed by his best friend (David Warbeck), he is a bitter, disllusioned shell of a man with nothing to live for. However, as he sees the massive human toll of the revolution - most notably on his unlikely friend Juan - John regains some sense of purpose, and ends up going out in perhaps the ultimate blaze of glory. Coburn's given only a handful of comparable performances (Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid comes to mind), and in spite of his accent is a marvellous, convincing and very human John.

The rest of the cast isn't worth mentioning, with one exception. Romolo Valli gives a layered performance as the dignified Villega - like Gabriele Ferzetti in Once Upon a Time in the West, this veteran Italian actor serves as a more reserved ballast to the more flamboyant American co-stars, and like Ferzetti he gets many of the film's best dramatic moments - most notably being forced to watch the executions of the men he's betrayed.

All things considered, Duck, You Sucker is a fascinating film, however problematic. The film's message is its title - the only sane course of action is to keep out of all things political, lest you lose your head. But as Leone hopes to show, even this nihilistic recommendation isn't really possible. The key ultimately is survival - and that is difficult enough without ideological baggage.


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: dave jenkins on January 06, 2009, 11:13:36 AM
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Ennio Morricone's eclectic and decidedly quirky score - - is a bit jarring at first but contributes beautifully to the film.
That's it? That's your complete take on Morricone's contribution? You're hopeless, Grogs . . . .


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Groggy on January 06, 2009, 11:22:58 AM
I forgot to write in what was supposed to go between the two hyphens, which you'll note is there now. In any case, Jenkins, you're free to write your own reviews if you don't like what I have to say. I appreciate the 40% of a film is a score idea, but I don't apply it as literally as you do. (Also, given my limited knowledge of things musical, I'm not sure how much you'd like me to write.)


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Jordan Krug on January 12, 2009, 01:04:12 PM
Groggy, I enjoyed your review very much, having just watched the film for the first time in a while this weekend. One thing you forgot to mention in terms of a narrative problem is the odd cut from John leaving Juan and his sons, suddenly he's drunk (or high?), or out of his mind and laying dynamite wire to the church, to kill people he doesn't even know (he doesn't know who they are and was going to kill them anyways?) Very odd scene, I know there was some material (a desert scene?) cut between the two scenes, and it really threw me just as the movie was gaining momentum. 


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: The Firecracker on January 12, 2009, 01:15:56 PM
Groggy, I enjoyed your review very much, having just watched the film for the first time in a while this weekend. One thing you forgot to mention in terms of a narrative problem is the odd cut from John leaving Juan and his sons, suddenly he's drunk (or high?), or out of his mind and laying dynamite wire to the church, to kill people he doesn't even know (he doesn't know who they are and was going to kill them anyways?) Very odd scene, I know there was some material (a desert scene?) cut between the two scenes, and it really threw me just as the movie was gaining momentum. 

He knew it was Juan and his family. He set the charges to kill them.
His motivation for this isn't exactly clear since the desert scene was cut.


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: noodles_leone on January 12, 2009, 01:19:12 PM
Very good review.
Furthermore, I agree with a lot of it.


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Colonel GŁnther Ruiz on June 16, 2009, 06:18:26 PM
A good review for what has become my favorite Leone movie.  I agree with you about the problems with DYS but I still found it to be a richly rewarding film as you did.  I also thought that it was a better realized story about friendship than OUATIA, in part because Steiger and Coburn seem a better fit than DeNiro and Woods.  And for me DYS never drags at all but OUATIA does sometimes.  Still a smart review and I agree about Colonel Ruiz as a weak villain.   O0


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Timmy Mac on August 10, 2009, 09:24:25 AM
Through a stroke of luck, I stumbled on DYS again on IFC yesterday.  I still love it, and I still couldn't agree more with this line from your review:

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The movie jumps quickly from John and Juan's battle with Ruiz at the bridge, to the grotto massacre, to the night-time executions, with little transition between these scenes. The individual scenes are powerful enough, but the quick transitions between them seem jarring and disconcerting; only during John and Juan's train journey does the film fully regain its footing.

The jump from the bridge to the grotto still bugs me to the point that I've spent the morning searching the web frantically for some version that has some scenes in between (as described in another thread I started on this topic; obsessive?  me?), but alas...no such luck.


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Sucker on August 10, 2009, 11:18:04 AM
Thanks, Groggy for your interesting review, however,

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John's flashbacks are also a bit overdone - the final one in particular goes on beyond all reason and goes from poignant to ridiculous.

I could not disagree more with this comment. It is necessary for it to go on like that and here's the reason. The final flashback is the piece de resistance, the sucker punch. We are led on to believe as it begins that SeŠn, in his death throes, is recalling the wonderful, carefree days back in Ireland with his girl and his friend. All looks so idyllic until just before the end the girl brushes him aside and kisses his friend. The movement of the hat across the screen is almost like a barrier being erected between them. You can see the sudden change in SeŠn's expression as he realises he has been two-timed. Leone doesn't reveal all until the "point of dyin' when we get hit by a hammer blow. (By the time SeŠn gets betrayed in the pub it is a lot easier for him to shoot his friend having, in effect, being screwed twice). After this betrayal and the shooting in the pub there was nothing left for him in Ireland. I mentioned this aspect before in some older thread but some didn't agree, wanting to believe that it was a simple menage-a-trois to the end, with which I can never go along with.

If I was cast away on a desert island and was allowed to have only one Leone movie it would be DYS not because it is the best one but for what it is.

BTW, being Irish I adore James Coburn's accent :)




Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Dust Devil on August 10, 2009, 11:26:25 AM
That's an interesting theory, Sucker. Although I'm usually a sucker myself when it comes to deeper interpretations of various characters/themes/motifs/events/moments in Sergio Leone's movies, I don't think I'm ready to buy that what you're saying.


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Colonel GŁnther Ruiz on August 10, 2009, 12:21:35 PM
a simple menage-a-trois to the end, with which I can never go along with.

Simple?!  A jilted lover is far more simple.  Also Coburn smiles as the girl and the friend embrace and kiss.  How do you explain that?   ???


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Dust Devil on August 10, 2009, 12:30:27 PM
Well it's some strange friends-around-girl company they're having, but the camera never goes far in order to disclosure the true nature of their happiness. They're smiling, they're kissing, they're running, they're dancing... Perhaps someone is jealous of someone else, perhaps someone loves someone more than is permitted, perhaps someone in the triangle dreams of something that is out of his reach... or perhaps it's all just a dream (!). It doesn't really matter.


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Sucker on August 10, 2009, 12:39:44 PM
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when it comes to deeper interpretations

It's not a deep interpretation at all. When me and my friends first saw the film in the cinema that's what we saw. However, in later years the versions in the video rental shops and those on TV were the trimmed crowd-pleaser versions that were distributed in the US. 30 years of these versions being shown over and over have left an impression that all was luvvy-duvvy so I was very pleased when the special edition DVD was issued as it showed what really went on.


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Also Coburn smiles as the girl and the friend embrace and kiss.  How do you explain that?

Have another look. He does smile at first but then..........?
You could even, if you wanted to  :), lip-read Coburn's faded out last words as "Oh, fxxk".


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Colonel GŁnther Ruiz on August 10, 2009, 12:42:24 PM
or perhaps it's all just a dream (!).

Mallory is the Irish Noodles?  Interesting...


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: dave jenkins on August 10, 2009, 12:50:34 PM
Well it's some strange friends-around-girl company they're having, but the camera never goes far in order to disclosure the true nature of their happiness. They're smiling, they're kissing, they're running, they're dancing... Perhaps someone is jealous of someone else, perhaps someone loves someone more than is permitted, perhaps someone in the triangle dreams of something that is out of his reach... or perhaps it's all just a dream (!). It doesn't really matter.
Well, it IS an idyll.

I think it is presented as a moment of supreme happiness in the lives of the three people, at least in Mallory's memory, an Eden from which all have fallen. Unlike other flashbacks in Leone's work, I don't think the purpose here is to reveal plot elements. Thematic concerns are being put across. Perhaps we are merely being reminded of what Mallory has lost, thus underlining the angst in the conclusion. I prefer to see something more positive, though: Mallory, because of his renunciation of revenge and his commitment to self sacrifice, has been rewarded with a vision--a beatific one, if you will.  The vision itself my be all the reward he receives (an existentialist reading) or it may be indicative of his having achieved a final state of grace (a Catholic reading). Either way, the ending is very "up" (as the flames ascend, as the music soars).


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: The Peacemaker on August 10, 2009, 01:03:38 PM
Many people misinterpret the final flashback because of the incorrect music cues on the MGM dvds. I can't tell you how many people think that Sean felt jealousy over his friend and the girl just because in the MGM version the music changes when he gives the girl to his friend. The correct version of the music remains orchestrated and up-beat making us realize that there is no tension or jealousy in this relationship.


And it really kills me when they all start calling his friend Sean. The only evidence of this is from John Kirk who decided to change elements of the movie to suit his own interpretations. In the script the friend's name is Nolan.


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Dust Devil on August 10, 2009, 01:13:40 PM
That is the general consensus, though Sucker's interpretation is an interesting one, albeit not much believable. I mean, in the eyes of most people a scene with one woman sharing kisses with two men at the same time is strange and suspicious, it just doesn't feel right, blame it on whoever. Perhaps it was a bit excessive from Leone to use it, but given the circumstances it is obvious that that scene is there to reflect what Mallory felt at that point - profound happiness. The barriers of friendship, jealousy, morale, sexual attraction, etc., all collided in one point, the flashback, the idyll, the moment of absolute happiness and satisfaction.


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Sucker on August 10, 2009, 01:34:58 PM
OK, I rest my case based on what I saw first time round and what I see in the full DVD.
However, just to add that if I was in Mallory's position my happy memories of that day would end when I kissed the girl under the tree and I wouldn't be reminding myself who she passionately kissed after me :)  O0


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And it really kills me when they all start calling his friend Sean

Agreed 100%.


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Colonel GŁnther Ruiz on August 10, 2009, 03:50:04 PM
Also Coburn smiles as the girl and the friend embrace and kiss.  How do you explain that?

Have another look. He does smile at first but then..........?
You could even, if you wanted to  :), lip-read Coburn's faded out last words as "Oh, fxxk".

I just watched the final flashback and Coburn continues to smile until the end of it.  You just can't miss that famous grin.   ;D


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Groggy on August 10, 2009, 04:19:45 PM
It's all interesting interperetation, but I'm still not wholly convinced on this point. We've already seen Nolan's betrayal and the consequences thereof, I don't see a need for further emphasis of this point. Ms. Chandler's character only appears in these two flashbacks so her role up till now has been tertiary at best; we can infer interesting things enough ourselves without having them shown to us at unnecessary length. If Leone is attempting to show the consequences of betrayal as personal and political - well, that strikes me as rather heavy-handed and obvious, and apparently assuming the audience wouldn't get that from the scene where John shoots Nolan and the soldiers.


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Sucker on August 10, 2009, 06:37:10 PM
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We've already seen Nolan's betrayal and the consequences thereof, I don't see a need for further emphasis of this point

Up until the final scene we have been led to believe that Sean had been betrayed to the British by Nolan, had killed him and the soldiers and fled Ireland. The purpose of the final flashback is to tell us that there was more to it than that. We could not possibly assume from the pub killing that the girl had anything to do with it. In that final flashback we see in retrospect that with the love aspect betrayal by the girl and Nolan the killing in the pub was a kind of double revenge (the judgment "once in my life") after which Sean knew he could never remain in Ireland with both Nolan and the girl gone from his life forever. (Apart from being a wanted man).

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I just watched the final flashback and Coburn continues to smile until the end of it.  You just can't miss that famous grin.

If you watch the sequence closely this is my interpretation of it as it happens:

1. The three run to the tree. Sean kisses girl up against the tree. Nolan is close up.

2. Sean pauses kiss, looks up at Nolan and pulls girl away - Nolan moves close again.

3. Sean/Girl kiss passionately again.

4. Now things begin to happen. Girl in middle of kiss glances up at Nolan but resumes kiss.

5. Nolan taps Sean on shoulder - girl looks up at him again - Sean kisses girl.

6. Nolan pulls at Sean - girl looks at Nolan again.

7. Now more begins to happen. Sean looks around inquisitively at Nolan and then looks back at girl whom he tries to recommence kissing but but she goes to Nolan instead as Sean is moved aside. Nolan and girl kiss passionately. The hat goes across the screen.

8. Sean looks on with huge grin but then there is an ever so minutely noticeable fading of the grin as he begins to realise what has been going on. As the scene goes out of focus his pained expression and lip movements are on the lines of "oh fxxk".

I just can't see that if the final flashback was there just to make things cuddly for Sean at the end it would have ended with Sean/girl's first kiss at the tree as, indeed it did in the trimmed versions. Hollywood likes luvvy duvvy endings. But, no, it goes on until the love betrayal is revealed and, with that memory, he blows his unhappy life to smithereens.

The above is taken from some notes I made a while ago. Sorry to go into such length and I know I said earlier that I rest my case but, well, there it is.

Now, it's way past my bedtime. :) so goodnight to you all!!



Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Dust Devil on August 10, 2009, 06:45:16 PM
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The purpose of the final flashback is to tell us that there was more to it than that.

Yeah, sure, but, what puts your interpretation in front of the others?


Maybe there really is more to that flashback... Following your logic; one could easily assumpt the guys were fags. I mean, why not, maybe that's the right ''more to it''. Maybe that's why she was kissing them both so casually, and maybe that's why one of them looked jealous.


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Dust Devil on August 10, 2009, 09:15:14 PM

LMAO ;D

Boys and girls, I was expecting your opinions, why the silence all of a sudden? :-\


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: dave jenkins on August 11, 2009, 04:16:39 PM
Yeah, sure, but, what puts your interpretation in front of the others?


Maybe there really is more to that flashback... Following your logic; one could easily assumpt the guys were fags. I mean, why not, maybe that's the right ''more to it''. Maybe that's why she was kissing them both so casually, and maybe that's why one of them looked jealous.
Right. Once you decide you can read anything you want into the flashback, there is no reason to privilege one "interpretation" over another. The idea that Malory and Nolan were homosexual lovers is just as valid as the one about Malory being jealous about Nolan and the girl. The film offers the same amount of evidence for either view--none.


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Groggy on August 11, 2009, 05:06:59 PM
It's all subjective.


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: dave jenkins on August 11, 2009, 05:23:40 PM
No. There is actually "evidence" that one can build a theory around: things that are actually present in the film.


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Groggy on August 11, 2009, 06:09:07 PM
If I've learned anything from my film classes, it's that you can read anything into anything.

I actually read a very lengthy article arguing that DYS was a literal love story between Juan and John on IMDB once.


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Colonel GŁnther Ruiz on August 11, 2009, 06:33:11 PM
If I've learned anything from my film classes, it's that you can read anything into anything.

I actually read a very lengthy article arguing that DYS was a literal love story between Juan and John on IMDB once.

Was John's frequent flashbacks due to the guilt of trying to move on after Nolan?


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: dave jenkins on August 11, 2009, 06:34:38 PM
If I've learned anything from my film classes, it's that you can read anything into anything.
Of course. But that is very different from the "it's all subjective" meme. There are very concrete things (dialogue, music, gesture, gaze, et. al.) you can point to in making a point about a film, and the fact of such things is not subjective. Interpretations are subjective, but one can still distinguish between well-argued interpretations and those that are unpersuasive. In spite of what your average Joe Dipshit might believe, not all opinions are equal.


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Groggy on August 11, 2009, 06:36:52 PM
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In spite of what your average Joe Dipshit might believe, not all opinions are equal.

Ebert wrote a great article on this topic a few weeks back. I was glad to hear someone say it. ;D


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Colonel GŁnther Ruiz on August 11, 2009, 06:41:58 PM
Ebert wrote a great article on this topic a few weeks back. I was glad to hear someone say it. ;D

But didn't Ebert build a career by appealing to the average Joe Dipshit?


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Groggy on August 11, 2009, 06:43:25 PM
If so, they've turned on him.


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: dave jenkins on August 11, 2009, 06:44:56 PM
Was John's frequent flashbacks due to the guilt of trying to move on after Nolan?
I'd say it was guilt from having actually killed his best friend. Just because someone betrays you it doesn't mean that all that has gone on before between the two of you counts for nothing. Friendship and betrayal are the great irreconcilables in Life and Leone. Friends always betray friends to a certain extent, rarely, though, to the level we see in SL's films. But SL's highly dramatic presentation makes it possible for him to present his great theme in a compelling way.


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Dust Devil on August 11, 2009, 07:21:33 PM
I actually read a very lengthy article arguing that DYS was a literal love story between Juan and John on IMDB once.

My heart goes out to you.


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Colonel GŁnther Ruiz on August 11, 2009, 07:23:55 PM
If so, they've turned on him.

He should've learned from his favorite movie that "the people" are fickle.

I'd say it was guilt from having actually killed his best friend. Just because someone betrays you it doesn't mean that all that has gone on before between the two of you counts for nothing. Friendship and betrayal are the great irreconcilables in Life and Leone. Friends always betray friends to a certain extent, rarely, though, to the level we see in SL's films. But SL's highly dramatic presentation makes it possible for him to present his great theme in a compelling way.

I don't disagree with you but I've always felt that a part of Mallory feels that he should have shot himself after killing Nolan.  He is physically in Mexico but in his mind he's still in Ireland.  His death, and the final flackback that precedes it, are his homecoming.  Thats why I don't believe in the theory that Sean is angry with Nolan for taking his girl.  Mallory's demise is a joyous occasion except for poor Juan ("what about me").


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Dust Devil on August 11, 2009, 07:30:33 PM
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I'd say it was guilt from having actually killed his best friend.

Of course, and here's an interpretation that makes more sense than the others: the flashback never actually happened, in any form (with or without the 'idylization'), it is Mallory's dream of what could have been.


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: dave jenkins on August 12, 2009, 02:32:52 PM
Of course, and here's an interpretation that makes more sense than the others: the flashback never actually happened, in any form (with or without the 'idylization'), it is Mallory's dream of what could have been.
I myself have suggested that as a possible reading.


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Dust Devil on August 12, 2009, 03:50:50 PM
I'm thinking of a credited SL Encyclopedia entry?


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Dust Devil on August 15, 2009, 11:54:30 AM

;D Hahaha, you narcissistic old fart, don't sweat it, I was just joking. ;D


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: dave jenkins on August 15, 2009, 06:23:35 PM
Are you talking to yourself, DD? ;D


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Dust Devil on August 16, 2009, 12:37:48 AM
Sure. ;D


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: drinkanddestroy on March 03, 2011, 12:34:39 AM
the way I always understood the last flashback (I believe this is the way Frayling explains it on the commentary) is that it serves demonstrate the depth of Sean's friendship with Nolan -- he smiles when Nolan kisses the girl, demonstrating that he is cool with it -- for the purpose of demonstrating the depth of Nolan's betrayal.
The point of showing how close Sean and Nolan were -- neither minded (too much!) that the other was in love (or "in lust?" to borrow a phrase from Amadeus ;)) with his girl -- was simply to emphasize the seriousness of the betrayal.

(I never agreed with the interpretation that Sean was happy to kill Nolan cuz Nolan was stealing Sean's girl, cuz if that were so, why would Sean be smiling when Nolan kisses the girl? One of the main themes of the movie is about betrayal; the issue of a possible triangle relationship in Sean's youth, ON ITS OWN, is so far removed from the themes of the movie, that I cannot believe it was placed in the final flashback for any reason other than to demonstrate the extent/seriousness of the betrayal).

However, what is now bothering me about my long-held interpretation, is that if it were true, I think it would be more appropriate to have that flashback earlier. I mean, we know that Sean and Nolan were friends, cuz we saw the earlier flashbacks with them driving through the countryside together and organizing the revolution together, etc. Therefore, we already understand that Nolan's betrayal is absolutely devastating, even if Sean and Nolan were not banging the same girl. Showing that they were perhaps accentuates the depths of the betrayal EVEN FURTHER, but i do not believe it adds that much to the seriousness of the betrayal that it warrants being placed at the crucial final moments of the film.


Therefore, I am beginning to think that the final flashback has a far different purpose than simply to demonstrate the extent of Nolan's betrayal. Rather, I believe the purpose of the flashback may be to contrast Sean's youthful idealism, with the cynicism he is currently experiencing as he is dying.

Sean once believed in the ideals and beauty of Revolution: it was as beautiful as the lush green countryside and a pretty girl, etc. Now, however, he is experiencing utter cynicism: there is a huge gunfight and carnage taking place all around him, he has just been shot, and he realizes that revolution is a bunch of BS, which is the main theme of the film: Duck, You Sucker. So at this moment of the apex of his cynicism, he is remembering and contrasting that with his youthful beliefs, at the apex of his idealism. And Leone is trying to show that though it may at first seem like Revolution is so wonderful, ultimately you will realize that it is ugly and awful, and it is best to just "keep your head down."

According to this interpretation,  however, you may ask:  Would it not suffice if we just had an extended flashback of youthful scenes in the beautiful countryside, to represent the youthful idealism of Revolution? ie. what does the kissing scene add to it? I do not have a great answer, but perhaps its that the kissing scene -- which, as we discussed, emphasizes the extreme seriousness of the betrayal -- serves to further bring out this contrast between the youthful idealism and the later cynicism; and that some of the very things that made the youthful times so wonderful -- eg. the girl, the friendship, etc. -- can in an instant be turned into your biggest curse (ie. Nolan, the person with whom you most closely shared your Revolutionary idealism), nearly led to your demise... and his betrayal was possibly the beginning of your cynicism about Revolution.

So Sean and Juan are sharing the main theme together: at the same moments, Juan is realizing that the Revolution took from him everything that he held dear (ie. his family and his new friend Sean); similarly, Sean realizes that his youthful beliefs in Revolution caused him to lose everything he had -- his home in the beautiful Irish countryside, his friendships, and ultimately his life -- and were just a load of crap.

During these final moments, when it is already too late, they both realize: we should have just kept our heads outta this.



Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: dave jenkins on March 03, 2011, 08:30:12 AM
We know from careful study of OUATITW that Leone likes to use an important flashback as a dying man's final thoughts. In West, Frank, at the point of dying, re-lives the moment that Harmonica has been carrying around inside for so many years. You could say that Harmonica, through the simple act of placing a harmonica in the other man's mouth, actually transmits the flashback to Frank. Frank then understands, under judgment for a past crime, that he is receiving his final reward.

In DYS, the flashback is not shared between Juan and John/Sean, obviously; however, it is occurring in John/Sean's mind (and is not merely an "objective" flashback) because he is at the point of dying. The music makes clear what the slow-motion also indicates: this remembrance is a beautiful thing. Characterize it anyway you wish, but I think Leone is telling us that John/Sean understands, under judgment for a past crime, that he is receiving his final reward.


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: drinkanddestroy on March 03, 2011, 11:00:29 PM
We know from careful study of OUATITW that Leone likes to use an important flashback as a dying man's final thoughts. In West, Frank, at the point of dying, re-lives the moment that Harmonica has been carrying around inside for so many years. You could say that Harmonica, through the simple act of placing a harmonica in the other man's mouth, actually transmits the flashback to Frank. Frank then understands, under judgment for a past crime, that he is receiving his final reward.

In DYS, the flashback is not shared between Juan and John/Sean, obviously; however, it is occurring in John/Sean's mind (and is not merely an "objective" flashback) because he is at the point of dying. The music makes clear what the slow-motion also indicates: this remembrance is a beautiful thing. Characterize it anyway you wish, but I think Leone is telling us that John/Sean understands, under judgment for a past crime, that he is receiving his final reward.

That is a very  interesting point you are making: Just as in OUATITW, where Frank's final flashback served to show how he was paying for his crimes, similarly, in DYS, Sean's final flashback -- in depicting that Nolan was such a close friend --  serves to emphasize the extent of the crime he is about to pay for with his life.

However, I still prefer the interpretation I said above (that the flashback serves to contrast Sean's earlier idealism with Revolution, to his current cynicism of it). Here is why:
Firstly, according to your interpretation, we have to believe that Sean's killing of Nolan was a bad thing; and I am not so sure that we are supposed to believe that. After all, Nolan did betray Sean, and almost got him killed. Sure, it is possible that Sean is now regretful that he killed Nolan -- or at least he is feeling somewhat guilty or unsure, questions whether it was the right thing. But I don't think that we are supposed to believe that it was a clear-cut bad thing for which Sean deserves to die.


Secondly, I prefer my interpretation because IMO that is a better ending to the film, at least insofar as bringing out the theme: that at the end of the film, as Sean is about to die, and Juan is about to lose his friend, they are both realizing the theme of the movie, (ie. not to get involved in Revolutions).
Even if we are indeed supposed to indeed believe that Sean was wrong to kill Nolan and that Sean's death is a punishment for that crime, I don't think  that issue is, by itself, a major part or theme of  the movie. Rather, it would be there to help emphasize the theme (ie. they were only in this awful situation of Sean's close friend betraying him, Sean killing him in revenge, and Sean now being punished with his own death) because they got involved in Revolution in the first place.

So now, in his dying moments, Sean is remembering the cause of all the sad things that have happened(eg. the betrayal and death of Nolan, the death of Juan's family, the general carnage of the battlefield, and culminating in Sean's imminent death): the youthful idealism and involvement in Revolution.

Two final notes:

1) I am not necessarily disputing that (at least one purpose of) the final flashback is intended to show the closeness of Sean's friendship to Nolan. Indeed, it may well be so; however, I believe the purpose of showing that is to further emphasize the ultimate theme: that getting involved in Revolutions can be so bad, that it can even lead to very close friends betraying and killing each other

2. According to my interpretation of the final flashback, the music is therefore actually quite cynical: the beautiful music reflects Sean's youthful beliefs in the beauty of what is occurring [the beautiful Irish countryside, the lovely girl, the great friendship with Nolan, and above all else, the idealism of Revolution] and is actually in quite a stark contrast to what the dying Sean now believes.




Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: drinkanddestroy on March 04, 2011, 12:56:29 AM
Does the final flashback of DYS remind anyone of one of the final flashbacks of The Godfather Part II -- the scene where the young Michael tells his brothers that he is joining the Marines?

In that flashback we see that Fredo was the only brother that was supportive of Michael's decision to join the Marines. The flashback is shown right after the scene in which Michael has Fredo killed  :)





Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: dave jenkins on March 04, 2011, 06:15:39 AM
That is a very  interesting point you are making: Just as in OUATITW, where Frank's final flashback served to show how he was paying for his crimes, similarly, in DYS, Sean's final flashback -- in depicting that Nolan was such a close friend --  serves to emphasize the extent of the crime he is about to pay for with his life.
Not exactly the point I was making. Mallory has spent his life after killing Nolan in penance. His final act is one of expiation. At the point of dying, he receives a beatific vision, confirmation of his final state. His final reward is very different from Frank's.


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: drinkanddestroy on March 04, 2011, 06:32:10 AM
Not exactly the point I was making. Mallory has spent his life after killing Nolan in penance. His final act is one of expiation. At the point of dying, he receives a beatific vision, confirmation of his final state. His final reward is very different from Frank's.

I had to look up the definition of "expiation." very impressive  ;)


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: Dust Devil on March 05, 2011, 02:24:00 AM
Are you talking to yourself, DD? ;D

Yeah, for fun, just before editing the Encyclopedia. ;D


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: tintin on March 07, 2011, 11:11:08 AM
Not Fair--Don't be so quick to judgment,

This movie was a delight of Saturday Afternoon adventure fare. I never realised the British were so cruel. My Dad denied it. I have since learned and sympathized with the Irish cause (See "Michael Collins"). The movie's politics were imposed '60's and '70's, true; the fact the I.R.A. had reared its ugly head the week before messed it up some  for me--the whole audience went:"Ummmph..." when Juan displayed Juan's green flag. But,  the I.R.A. has downgraded from noble knights in the early 20th century to random splinter factions, financed by drugs, (so has the Hell's Angels).

Its haunting themes, although weird at first, are common to all Leone's. Possibility the  best of all. Who can't forget the themes to "A Fistful of Dollars " or "The Good, the Bad, and   the Ugly"?

It's only too bad it is obscure. Perhaps the rape scene in the beginning kept it from broadcast TV?  I could live without  most of the first 20 minutes..but it sets Juan's nasty character. This, of course, changes as the Revolution affects him, personally.  These changes, from a  grudging partnership to deep friendship from a common bond make this unique and, in some ways,  one of Leone's best.


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: drinkanddestroy on March 07, 2011, 11:52:58 AM


 I could live without  most of the first 20 minutes.

The first 20 minutes are awesome! Who can forget the incredible stagecoach, those nasty mouth/food/talking scenes with the bourgeoisie, in the manner made famous by Sergei Eisenstein, and the cool holdup by the Juan's kids.

The rape was funny. I mean, I hate to say that, but it wasn't really a rape; there was strong indication that she "wanted it" (her statements in the coach, popping the cherries in her mouth...)

Leone did seem to have a thing for rapes ... FAFDM, OUATITW, DYS, OUATIA twice (though in fairness to Leone, both of the rapes that occur in OUATIA have some basis in the book The Hoods )... and interestingly, of the 5 rapes that occur in Leone's films, 3 of 'em are at least somewhat consensual (Jill, the one in DYS, and Carol)


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: tintin on March 07, 2011, 12:09:31 PM
I can see from an artsy point of view,the eye contact, the symbolism of the cherries.

Bit off-topic, I know:

But the closeups of people eating--there is an oral, tonsorial theme throughout  the movie--I can do without. I.E; Juan's boy giving a haircut; Juan cooking; Gunther Ruiz sucking eggs (of course, this is to establish his awful character.) The hair cutting reminds me of Edward G. Robinson getting his ugly face shaved while Bogey and other hostages have to watch.

Still, I don't miss the torture scene of Dr. Villega being cut. Would you like to see That, too?

I wish the scene of Juan force-marching John thru the desert was left in. Perhaps it seemed too much like the scene in TGTBATU?


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: drinkanddestroy on March 07, 2011, 06:28:19 PM
I can see from an artsy point of view,the eye contact, the symbolism of the cherries.

Bit off-topic, I know:

But the closeups of people eating--there is an oral, tonsorial theme throughout  the movie--I can do without. I.E; Juan's boy giving a haircut; Juan cooking; Gunther Ruiz sucking eggs (of course, this is to establish his awful character.) The hair cutting reminds me of Edward G. Robinson getting his ugly face shaved while Bogey and other hostages have to watch.

Still, I don't miss the torture scene of Dr. Villega being cut. Would you like to see That, too?

I wish the scene of Juan force-marching John thru the desert was left in. Perhaps it seemed too much like the scene in TGTBATU?

whatsa matter, ya squeamish?  ;)

The purpose of the Sergei Eisenstein-type scene in the stagecoach is to capture the racist, repulsive personalities of the people in the coach


Title: Re: My DYS Review
Post by: tintin on March 09, 2011, 06:14:55 AM
Yeah, it's yukkier than a Jason movie (at least, That's all Fake!)

Can you imagine taking a Date to this- Yukk! :o

The Clint Eastwoods are real hero/romantics. Just about everyone I know likes them (although may not love them.) They are torn between spaghettis and John Wayne.

The Eisenstein approach I should have thought of.  I  Did a report on Battleship Potemkin in High School. Mahalos! O0 

 The stuck-up bourgeoisie/upper class are well represented. Plus the background  of the early revolution.  And,the fact it eroded into 4 revolts and several civil wars, splintering off as they quite often do--Juan's tirade in the San Ysidro cave. Many poor were against the American Revolution--they relied on the British backing them. The  Mex Rev was a real grassroots, the peons suffering the most and originally  starting it.

 Mahalos! O0