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Messages - MatViola

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Once Upon A Time In America / Re: NEW DIRECTORS CUT
« on: April 05, 2008, 08:58:20 PM »
In Oreste De Fornari's book on Leone there's a chapter entitled 'Leone on Leone' in which the director discusses each of his films. Writing in 1988 about the different versions of Once Upon a Time in America Leone said, "Then there is the very long one that has never been been edited and which lasts fifty minutes longer. Four and a half hours. But we rejected the idea of two parts on TV. It is so intricate that it has to be done in one evening. And besides, let's be honest: this one is my version. The other perhaps explained things more clearly and it could have been done on TV in two or three parts. But the version that I prefer is this one, that bit of reclusiveness is just what I like about it."

At one point Leone may have wanted to reinsert those missing scenes, but it sounds to me like he later changed his mind, and this could explain why his daughter has expressed reluctance about putting them back into the film.


"It seems fairly common in films for money to be left in train station lockers and there is a certain romance associated with stream trains and railway stations.  In the book The Hoods the gang keep their cash in banks, which are not usually perceived as very romantic places."

This is the best response to this complaint.  Leone simply wanted these crucial scenes - the pact made by the boys, and Noodles' discovery of the missing money, i.e., the betrayal - to occur within the romantic milieu of a train station, with all those evocative toots and whistles in the background.  I'm sure Leone was well aware of the improbable nature of this plot device, which only shows he wasn't afraid to dispense with "realism" if it happened to interfere with the cinematic effect he wanted.   

On a purely aesthetic level, the plot device also allows for a rather lovely example of narrative symmetry, as the lockers play an important role in all three time periods.

It's certainly curious why Juan doesn't seem to be bothered by his son's death at the bank, especially when you consider his heartrending reaction to the deaths of his other sons at the grotto.   

Is it possible he really isn't one of his sons?  If the gang includes extended family, I suppose it's possible that he's only a nephew or something.  After all, Juan himself says he only had six sons during the scene at the grotto.  Why would he exclude the other son just because he'd been killed earlier?  Perhaps he's featured in the montage simply because Juan considers him yet another family member who was killed during the Revolution.

I don't think it's Napoleon who's killed during the bank raid.  If you watch the scene in which Juan slaps Napoleon and tells him he has no imagination, you'll notice a guy standing directly to Juan's right.  I think he's the one who's killed during the bank raid, and that's not Napoleon.  Unless I'm mistaken, Napoleon is alive and well throughout the entire bank raid.  In fact, you can spot him (and the other sons) trailing Juan as he goes from one vault to the next.  Also, after Juan says goodbye to his sons at the bridge, one of them remains standing next to Juan in an apparent attempt to stay and fight with his father, but Juan promptly slaps him (like he did in the earlier scene) and makes him go with the rest of the sons.  Again, that's Napoleon.

Nevertheless, the nameless guy who does get shot appears to be a seventh son, as he is included in Juan's memory montage of faces.  Eight faces flash through Juan's mind at that moment - his father and presumably his seven sons.  Napoleon's is the first face we see in the montage.  I think the son who's shot in the bank is fourth.

Am I wrong?

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