Sergio Leone Web Board

Films of Sergio Leone => Once Upon A Time In The West => Topic started by: sinisterplague on June 06, 2009, 12:57:30 PM



Title: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: sinisterplague on June 06, 2009, 12:57:30 PM
I just watched this film for the first time last night. And it was well...different. The "dollars" trilogy and "once upon a time in america" I just understood the first time I saw them. And I knew exactly where they stood on my ranking of Sergio Leone films. when I first saw "Duck, You Sucker," I thought it was Leone's weakest. But after a second viewing I actually liked it even more than the first two "dollars" films.
But Once Upon a Time in the West..I just simply don't know what to think of it. Did I like it? Yes. It was an interesting film with the best soundtrack since TGTBATU and had a lot of emotion to it. But it was just so different, I don't know if I like it better or less than TGTBATU or OUATIA. I feel like I'm missing something from it. Maybe because it was so slow I wasn't paying as much attention during certain parts?  Possibly. Also I didn't catch on to the idea of Harmonica being a supernatural character. When he got up after being shot, I thought he was just wearing body armor or something like Clint in "Fistful of Dollars."
I plan on watching it again in a few days and may have more of an opinion after I sit on it for a while.

But what was your guys' initial reaction to the film after you first watched it?


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Dust Devil on June 06, 2009, 02:21:35 PM
But what was your guys' initial reaction to the film after you first watched it?

The same reaction as every time I watch it: I feel as something great just happened.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: stanton on June 07, 2009, 01:59:21 AM
When I first saw it as a kid I was bored and disappointed, cause I had expected to see the biggest action western ever (remember the effective but wrong German title was Play Me the Song of Death and it was a huge cult hit).

I few years later I saw a scene on TV, and suddenly I thought that this was a great film. Next time it run in a local cinema I rewatched it and was fascinated.


The "supernatural" aspect of Hamonica is only a vague possibility to interpret it. Most people don't see anything supernatural in OuTW.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: cigar joe on June 07, 2009, 03:43:11 AM
Quote
The "supernatural" aspect of Hamonica is only a vague possibility to interpret it. Most people don't see anything supernatural in OuTW. 


Yea but then most people also accepted the new 3:10 to YUMA scenario of Peter Fonda's character getting shot point blank in the guts having a bullet removed that should have passed clean through his body like it was a splinter and then getting on a horse no worse for wear, lol.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: stanton on June 07, 2009, 03:59:25 AM
In films people had and have never much trouble with bullet wounds ("it's only a scratch").

In reality many (most?) people who only got wounded died in these times by blood poisoning. Not only that parts of the clothing was pressed into the wound, also most bullets were greased to be protected against dampness. At least that's what I have read in a book.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: The Firecracker on June 07, 2009, 06:14:05 AM
I just watched this film for the first time last night. And it was well...different. The "dollars" trilogy and "once upon a time in america" I just understood the first time I saw them. And I knew exactly where they stood on my ranking of Sergio Leone films. when I first saw "Duck, You Sucker," I thought it was Leone's weakest. But after a second viewing I actually liked it even more than the first two "dollars" films.
But Once Upon a Time in the West..I just simply don't know what to think of it. Did I like it? Yes. It was an interesting film with the best soundtrack since TGTBATU and had a lot of emotion to it. But it was just so different, I don't know if I like it better or less than TGTBATU or OUATIA. I feel like I'm missing something from it. Maybe because it was so slow I wasn't paying as much attention during certain parts?  Possibly. Also I didn't catch on to the idea of Harmonica being a supernatural character. When he got up after being shot, I thought he was just wearing body armor or something like Clint in "Fistful of Dollars."
I plan on watching it again in a few days and may have more of an opinion after I sit on it for a while.




perfectly normal reaction and similar to my own.
Stanton's own experience is the same as mine.
As I knew what to expect the second time around it played much better.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Groggy on June 07, 2009, 08:23:30 AM
I tried to watch it on TCM back in 2001-ish and couldn't even get through the whole thing. The opening scene bored the crap out of me, and I spent the rest of the night channel-surfing and occasionally coming back to it (I did like Cheyenne's rescue of Harmonica and the ambush of Frank). A few months later I got it on VHS and loved it.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Novecento on June 07, 2009, 08:35:06 AM
But what was your guys' initial reaction to the film after you first watched it?

I actually loved it from the get go. I remember it coming on TV once and me remarking to my Dad that it was so cool how no-one spoke and how it was filmed.  My dad simply responded that it was the Sergio Leone style.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Jill on June 07, 2009, 01:46:45 PM
I was about 16 when I first saw it, and I found it beautiful. And liked it better with every re-watching. It's like good wine.  O0

I don't mind the slowness. It's so calming. I never liked movies in which someone's shot or something explodes in every two minutes.

That "slow" opening scene is just adorable. Those faces, that fly, that dropping water...


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Colonel Günther Ruiz on June 07, 2009, 02:37:59 PM
Nope, I loved OUATITW the first time I saw it.  Its OUATIA that I had problems with.  The first two hours and the last 20 minutes are beyond brilliant but the middle (from Noodles getting out of prison to Noodles finally meeting Secretary Bailey) is hit and miss.  But OUATITW is genius from beginning to end.   ;D


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Cusser on June 08, 2009, 04:44:10 AM
I saw Once-West in 1969 at a small theater, but it only played third-tier theaters here in Arizona, maybe something to do with Parmaount.  By then I had seen the three Eastwood spaghettis (GBU first), and to me the film was "OK", but my older brother loved it.  I saw it on ABC-TV about 1974, hard to watch with commercials and small screen.  1985 it was restored and released to specialty theaters, and I saw it and restored Once-America (first time) within a few months, really liked it.  By 1986 saw it again as cult films selection at Scottsdale Center for the Arts.  By late 1990s a Leone board member made me a copy of his wide-screen version from laserdisc.  Of course, finally 2-disc DVD came out.  This film gets better on each viewing, as does Once-America.  I even have been to the arch remnants in Utah, and have a Once-West poster (along with other Leone) in my family room, and of course the 2000-era European soundtrack CDs.

It took me until the mid-to-late 1970s to figure out how strong an anti-war film GBU was.  So there are many levels to these films.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Groggy on June 08, 2009, 06:06:18 AM
Nope, I loved OUATITW the first time I saw it.  Its OUATIA that I had problems with.  The first two hours and the last 20 minutes are beyond brilliant but the middle (from Noodles getting out of prison to Noodles finally meeting Secretary Bailey) is hit and miss.  But OUATITW is genius from beginning to end.   ;D

Yeah, it took me at least three viewings to fully absorb OUATIA. I love it now, but I found it damned near incomprehensible after my first viewing.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: uncknown on June 08, 2009, 03:44:25 PM
WEST is one of those rare films where the THEMES become richer and more resonant as one grows older. And thus it gets BETTER!
for me at least.

AMERICA will always be a seriously flawed film :'(


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Colonel Günther Ruiz on June 09, 2009, 04:39:10 PM
AMERICA will always be a seriously flawed film :'(

Well for one thing, I hate how Elizabeth McGovern pronounces "Noodles."  I remember that one critic said it was too bad that Leone couldn't wait for Jennifer Connelly to mature before filming the 30s and 60s scenes.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Novecento on June 09, 2009, 05:53:51 PM
AMERICA will always be a seriously flawed film :'(

Why do you say that?


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Cusser on June 09, 2009, 08:31:58 PM
Jennifer Connelly = Hot

Elizabeth McGovern = Not


I do wish the keys in the mausoleum didn't wiggle like that in the breeze, the breeze could've made Noodles look, keys moving so much didn't look realistic.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: uncknown on June 10, 2009, 03:00:53 PM
Why do you say that?

Because it isn't a very good film and time will not be kind to it like the other Leone films.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Groggy on June 11, 2009, 06:26:05 AM
Because it isn't a very good film and time will not be kind to it like the other Leone films.

I think the opposite has been proven true.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Dust Devil on June 11, 2009, 06:31:40 AM
Because it isn't a very good film and time will not be kind to it like the other Leone films.

If people still like it after 25 years I can't really think why they wouldn't after 40 or 50... ?


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Groggy on June 11, 2009, 06:35:47 AM
People like it more than they did 25 years ago, if anything.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Novecento on June 11, 2009, 07:12:56 AM
Because it isn't a very good film and time will not be kind to it like the other Leone films.

Uncknown, you've got to elaborate a little more after a comment like that on a forum like this! Personally I find it to be one of the greatest films I have ever seen that continues to age beautifully.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: The Firecracker on June 11, 2009, 06:32:45 PM
  I remember that one critic said it was too bad that Leone couldn't wait for Jennifer Connelly to mature before filming the 30s and 60s scenes.

Well that's a little over excessive. Even for Leone!
An actress that matched Connelly in likeness would have sufficed.
Incidentally, the "waiting for an actor or actress to mature in order to continue a role in a film" has been done before.
David Carradine got pretty far with a project of his concerning his daughter (the main character who would age, for real, as the movie progresses) but unfortunately, like so many of his other directorial films, it will never be finished.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Colonel Günther Ruiz on June 11, 2009, 08:16:34 PM
Yes but most sane people would agree that casting McGovern was a serious mistake.  I didn't care for James Woods as Max either.  Robert DeNiro carried a lot of OUATIA by himself, in fact Noodles is one of his best performances, right up there with his work in the Godfather Part II and Taxi Driver.  OUATIA is a great movie (and its best moments are stunning) but a flawed one.  OUATITW and DYS are Leone at the top of his game.   O0


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Groggy on June 12, 2009, 07:48:47 AM
Dude, James Woods was awesome as Max. You're out of your mind.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Groggy on June 12, 2009, 01:25:33 PM
I think the biggest flaw with OUATITW is the character of Cheyenne himself. For me he's too eloquent and verbose to be convincing as a tough-guy gunslinger and Robards' casting certainly doesn't help (Wallach would at least be convincing as the tough-guy). I mean, here's a guy who's introduced shooting his way out of a sizeable prison escort (albeit off-screen) and single-handedly rescues Harmonica from a slew of Frank's men, but in between these scenes all he does his philosophize about how rough his life is and how hot he finds Jill. He's certainly not a character with an equivalent in Leone's earlier works, where most dialogue served purely expository purposes, and I have to say he's out of place in a film with lengthy near-silent scenes like the train station opening and the final duel. Not to mention he gets many of the film's most awkward scenes and speeches (the "pat your behind" scene is cringe-inducing) and his death goes on way too long for my taste.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: uncknown on June 12, 2009, 01:57:00 PM
If people still like it after 25 years I can't really think why they wouldn't after 40 or 50... ?

well, the film in its original version has only been available to the generall public (USA at least) for a short time.
I still feel the next generation of filmmakers will be more objective about its merits.

btw i agree about the praise for Deniro's performance.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: uncknown on June 12, 2009, 01:58:41 PM
Uncknown, you've got to elaborate a little more after a comment like that on a forum like this!

I do?
i have made my case on this film before and do not wish to keep repeating myself.
Sorry.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Colonel Günther Ruiz on June 12, 2009, 03:32:21 PM
I like James Woods but not as Max.  Joe Pecsi as Max sounds like a dream come true.  As for OUATITW, characters like Cheyenne and Harmonica are iconic figures rather than real people.  Harmonica is the Spirit of Death, Cheyenne is the Soul of the Old West, Jill is the Spirit of the New America, and so on.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Groggy on June 12, 2009, 03:33:31 PM
And Cheyenne is still a stem-winding bore.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Colonel Günther Ruiz on June 12, 2009, 03:39:59 PM
And Cheyenne is still a stem-winding bore.

Cheyenne is not supposed to be as entertaining as Tuco but of course you are welcome to your opinion.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Groggy on June 12, 2009, 03:43:08 PM
Why do you think I'm judging him on a Tuco basis?


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Colonel Günther Ruiz on June 12, 2009, 03:46:55 PM
Why do you think I'm judging him on a Tuco basis?
For me he's too eloquent and verbose to be convincing as a tough-guy gunslinger and Robards' casting certainly doesn't help (Wallach would at least be convincing as the tough-guy).

I do agree that Cheyenne's death takes too long.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Groggy on June 12, 2009, 03:47:22 PM
I'm saying that because Wallach was considered for the part.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Colonel Günther Ruiz on June 12, 2009, 03:51:19 PM
I'm saying that because Wallach was considered for the part.

Oh, okay then.   :)


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Groggy on June 12, 2009, 03:55:41 PM
Oh, okay then.   :)

 O0


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Cusser on June 13, 2009, 07:36:54 AM
I just wish Leone had Noodles see the key in a less-obvious way, like see a leave blowing, look over and see the key.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Hubert on June 26, 2009, 02:07:29 AM
I first saw this film as a teenager in the cinema and was immediately blown away by the story, the characters and the music. There used to be re-reuns every summer, at least up to 1972. We had the soundtrack at home and regularly played and discussed our feelings about the music, often right after supper. We all thought Henry Fonda stole the film.


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: drinkanddestroy on April 14, 2011, 07:49:40 PM
1. First time I saw OUATITW I absolutely HATED it; I thought it moved painfully slowly andI couldn't understand it at all (I hadn't really watched any Westerns in my life besides Leone's, to that point), but then as I read up more about it and its meanings and watched it again and again while understanding the themes, I grew to absolutely love it

2. I think Elizabeth McGovern was great as Deborah

3. Joe Pesci could not have worked as Max; he totally looks Italian and could never pass for a Jew

4. I never bought the "Harmonica as supernatural" theory; he was friggin' shot in the shoulder and didn't die. I never thought people would die froma shot in the shoulder, assuming they received decent first-aid/medical care

5. I do agree that Cheyenne does not quite come off well as a bandit; I really like Robard's performance; I think the mistake is probably more in the writing for his part than in his acting. We never really see anything that would justify Cheyenne's being considered a tough bandit, (though he kills off a posse off-screen... Perhaps it would have been better if he would have killed the posse on-camera instead). Also, I don't think Cheyenne's musical theme works well for him. Sure, it is a nice tune, and I know it is meant to convey the romantic bandit; but to me, it conveys romantic but not bandit; IMO there is nothing in that theme that would convey anything that is bandit-like or menacing


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: marmota-b on April 20, 2011, 11:56:15 PM
Also, I don't think Cheyenne's musical theme works well for him. Sure, it is a nice tune, and I know it is meant to convey the romantic bandit; but to me, it conveys romantic but not bandit; IMO there is nothing in that theme that would convey anything that is bandit-like or menacing

Good point! Angel Eyes' "Sundown" works better in this respect...


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: Usaviator on July 26, 2017, 12:34:24 AM
I was about 16 when I first saw it, and I found it beautiful. And liked it better with every re-watching. It's like good wine.  O0

I don't mind the slowness. It's so calming. I never liked movies in which someone's shot or something explodes in every two minutes.

That "slow" opening scene is just adorable. Those faces, that fly, that dropping water...

My take on it was most like this.  Only to elaborate a bit, I didn't full understand what was going on the first time I saw it. I was drawn by the visual style of filming, and also the script, which sounded like short snippets of eloquent speech that always hit the nail on the head.  I also love the music.  So most of my draw to this movie initially was just the experience of watching it, and not thinking too deeply into it.  It wasn't till the second and third times that I started having questions, and thus have stumbled onto this message board.   O0 

I think the biggest flaw with OUATITW is the character of Cheyenne himself. For me he's too eloquent and verbose to be convincing as a tough-guy gunslinger and Robards' casting certainly doesn't help (Wallach would at least be convincing as the tough-guy). I mean, here's a guy who's introduced shooting his way out of a sizeable prison escort (albeit off-screen) and single-handedly rescues Harmonica from a slew of Frank's men, but in between these scenes all he does his philosophize about how rough his life is and how hot he finds Jill. He's certainly not a character with an equivalent in Leone's earlier works, where most dialogue served purely expository purposes, and I have to say he's out of place in a film with lengthy near-silent scenes like the train station opening and the final duel. Not to mention he gets many of the film's most awkward scenes and speeches (the "pat your behind" scene is cringe-inducing) and his death goes on way too long for my taste.

Groggy, I kind of get what you mean by this.  I wouldn't go as far as to think this was a flaw.  But it wasn't initially obvious for me to link the type of person Cheyanne was, to an infamous bandit of that area.  While I think it's unusual that a movie focuses so much on his personable side, over being just a brutish gang leader, I think he's a likeable character.  It also reminds me that this movie leans towards a more theatrical approach over a realistic approach.  There are many situations in this movie that remind me that it's not really trying to represent reality, but rather an artistic expression of it.  I think situations like the heavy focus on a gang leader's surprisingly soft and philosophic personality is an example of this. 


Title: Re: Is my reaction to the film normal for a first timer?
Post by: drinkanddestroy on July 26, 2017, 01:09:58 AM
I think the biggest flaw with OUATITW is the character of Cheyenne himself. For me he's too eloquent and verbose to be convincing as a tough-guy gunslinger and Robards' casting certainly doesn't help (Wallach would at least be convincing as the tough-guy). I mean, here's a guy who's introduced shooting his way out of a sizeable prison escort (albeit off-screen) and single-handedly rescues Harmonica from a slew of Frank's men, but in between these scenes all he does his philosophize about how rough his life is and how hot he finds Jill. He's certainly not a character with an equivalent in Leone's earlier works, where most dialogue served purely expository purposes, and I have to say he's out of place in a film with lengthy near-silent scenes like the train station opening and the final duel. Not to mention he gets many of the film's most awkward scenes and speeches (the "pat your behind" scene is cringe-inducing) and his death goes on way too long for my taste.

As Frayling says, Leone used to put a Mediterranean/chatterbox/carnivalesque character in his movies, playing against the American character. And Leone used to say that this was the character he loved the most. Most famous example is Tuco in GBU, played by Eli Wallach-  he is the only one whose name we really know, the only one whose family/backstory is revealed. Similar type of idea with Juan Miranda played by Rod Steiger in DYS (Leone initially wanted Wallach for the part, but United Artists wanted a bigger movie star so they forced Steiger on Leone.) The lovable chicken thief. Playing against the strong/silent American characters with whom they form a "business" partnership: Blondie (Eastwood) and Sean Mallory (Coburn).

I don't recall for certain whether or not Frayling specifically mentioned Cheyenne in this context, but I think we can do so. He is the loudmouth, the likable character, even though he is a bandit. Talks a lot, unlike Leone's American characters. Harmonica here is the strong/silent character who becomes partners with Cheyenne (in taking care of things for Jill).

Cheyenne is certainly more cerebral than Tuco or Juan, so maybe you can handle the carnivalesque Mexican chicken thief talking a lot but not the more serious Cheyenne. Cheyenne has in common with Tuco and Juan that is ethnic, likable bandit, talks a lot - but he is not carnivaleque like the other two. But maybe that's because Cheyenne has to be more menacing than Tuco or Juan. Unlike Groggy, I think the movie did a decent-enough job of showing him to be menacing early on so that we don't forget he is a bandit and a killer.

So, IMO it's wrong to say that the Cheyenne character doesn't have a precedent in Leone's ouevre. He certainly has a strong precedent in Tuco and Juan, though he is not identical.

Remember also that OUATITW - intended as a homage to the AW - consciously borrows stereotypical characters from AW lore, including those which Leone previously had never used. So, if characters have no precedent in Leone's ouevre, that shouldn't be surprising. But I don't think a Cheyenne-like character is unprecedented in Leone's work.