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13681  General Information / General Discussion / Re: Leone's League on: February 17, 2005, 09:07:39 PM has info and lists on Cinemascope and other comparable formats.
13682  Films of Sergio Leone / The Good, The Bad and The Ugly / Re: Tuco's confessions on: February 16, 2005, 09:42:11 PM
Whenever I hear the word "confession" in a movie I always assume it has been manufactured by the authorities and may have nothing to do with what a character has actually done. But I like the idea that Tuco might be beating the bulls at their own game......
13683  Films of Sergio Leone / Once Upon A Time In The West / Re: hidden feature on dvd on: February 16, 2005, 09:37:38 PM
Largo, welcome to the board. And kudos to you and Mr. Goddard and everyone else associated with the OUATITW SE DVD. An amazing release (and at $9.99 in some outlets, the greatest value for money in DVD-dom).
13684  General Information / General Discussion / Re: Leone's League on: February 15, 2005, 09:41:47 PM
I'm kind of disappointed to see that this thread has become little more than Lists of Directors Beside Leone I Happen to Like.

In an attempt to make matters more interesting, I propose that we follow more closely Grandpa's original idea. He used the term "league" which means more than the fact that all members are of comparable abilities; it also implies that all members are playing by the same rules.  And the limiting parameter that needs to be applied to the set is, IMHO, the use of Cinemascope, or the 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

This necessarily excludes many many many good directors from consideration (including my personal fave, Hitchcock) but so be it. Rather than compare apples with oranges, let's instead speak of the relative merits of Golden Delicious, Granny Smiths, Fujis..... In other words, who are, with Leone, the Poets of 'Scope? My list includes (but may not be limited to):


13685  Films of Sergio Leone / Once Upon A Time In The West / Re: 30 Westerns in Once on: February 14, 2005, 10:29:59 PM
Just watched My Darling Clementine again and noticed a couple things that SL may have taken for use in OUATITW. First, the scene when Wyatt Earp (Fonda) first meets Doc Holiday (Victor Mature). They do a bit of verbal sparring while standing at a saloon bar, and when it looks like things are going to get deadly serious a gun is quickly slid down the bar to the unarmed Wyatt. Wyatt is able to defuse the situation without violence.

Even more significant is Ford's use of music, or lack thereof, especially when we get to the big scene at the OK Corral.   Scott Eyman, in his book _John Ford: The Searcher 1894-1973_, makes this comment: "in a particular masterstroke, the climactic gunfight is played without blaring music, but with only natural sounds--wind; boots scuffling for purchase in the sand. The silence is haunting."

Huh. Put anybody in mind of another scene in another Western?
13686  Films of Sergio Leone / Once Upon A Time In America / Re: De Niro Last Smile on: February 14, 2005, 10:01:49 PM
It works with the '33 Noodles as well. Leone is using the scene as *commentary* on the end-state of his character (he may be using the scene for other reasons as well). The fact that Noodles got buzzed in an opium den Once Upon a Time isn't exactly an important detail, and its placement at the very end of the film must therefore carry some kind of thematic resonance. The idea that an image from '33 can comment on matters in '68 is therefore a good one, consistent with the virtuoso filmmaking that SL is known for.
13687  Films of Sergio Leone / Once Upon A Time In The West / Re: Harmonica's life on: February 11, 2005, 09:05:25 PM
Some really good comments here, and CJ in particular, some great observations. But I think we have to be careful to maintain a distinction between Harmonica as a character who has "something to do with death" and the idea that he is Death personified. Harmonica does have a backstory, so we should treat him as a man who operates as death symbolically. I think we want to do this, if for no other reason than it makes the film more interesting. To be too literal (Harmonica is Death himself)closes off other possible readings. If Harmonica is only Death symbolically, however, than he can also be other things: avenger, redeemer, man of the west, etc.

It's helpful to compare OUATITW with High Plains Drifter in this regard. In HPD, Eastwood is slowly revealed to be some kind of supernatural agent (angel of vengence, demon, Death). There is no reason to have him disappear in the heat haze at the end if he is NOT supposed to be supernatural. Now, while I like HPD, and think the whole approach works, I have to say that the film has nowhere near the depth of OUATITW. And part of the reason for this is that the characters in Leone's film are invested with references to many many cultural archetypes. It is very difficult to bring this off in a movie, which is why it hasn't been done often. But when we have a movie that *has* accomplished such a thing, we should celebrate the fact, and not attempt to sell any of its characters short.

So, by all means, let's identify Harmonica with death, but not exclusively.
13688  Films of Sergio Leone / Once Upon A Time In America / Re: De Niro Last Smile on: February 09, 2005, 08:45:55 PM

Remember when Leone supposedly said "Well, it started out in an opium den, you see..." and then the guy said "Don't tell me!"? Well maybe it wasn't a dream and it was to symbolize that he's moving on from his life where his guilt started rather than being oppressed all these years starting from that moment?

Works for me.
13689  Films of Sergio Leone / Once Upon A Time In The West / Re: Harmonica's life on: February 09, 2005, 07:30:45 PM
IMHO, I don't think Harmonica was kicked away. It appears to me he falls out of exhaustion. Creating a state in the kid, where he hates Frank for putting him up to this and also feels guilt for not holding out longer for his brother. As inner conflicts go, this surpasses Sophies's choice.
I too always considered: Son of a bitch referred to Frank.

Yup. That's the way I read it. (Good observation regarding Sophie's Choice, too).
13690  Films of Sergio Leone / Once Upon A Time In The West / Re: 30 Westerns in Once on: February 08, 2005, 09:48:08 PM
Finally saw 3:10 to Yuma. An interesting film that starts out strong but gets stupid as it goes along. Still, from the perspective of a Leoneaste, it is fascinating, and as far as this thread is concerned, represents a motherlode of references.  There may be more quotations from it in OUATITW than from any other single film.

Before enumerating them, I should point out some general effects that Leone used not only in OUATITW but throughout his career. One is a particular shot of horses from the pov of a driver on a buckboard or coach; we see this used in GBU between the time Tuco and Blondie leave the mission and before they are captured by the blue bellies. We see  a very similar shot in OUATITW on the drive from Flagstone to the trading post. The antecedent for these is a shot in 3:10 near the very beginning of the film when a stagecoach is held up by Glenn Ford and his gang.

Ford uses cattle to impede the progress of the coach, and the steers kick up a lot of dust. This gives the director, Delmer Daves, the opportunity to present something that would later become a signature Leone shot: men emerging from clouds of dust. GBU and OUATITW both include such shots, but Daves did it earlier.

Also, Daves uses a *lot* of crane shots, maybe even more than the master himself. He even uses what we might call a reverse crane shot: intead of beginning close to the actors and moving away, he sometimes begins high above and then swoops down for a closeup.

Now for some of the references specific to OUATITW. The most obvious one is the casting-against-type of the bad guy. Long before Fonda's Frank, there was Glenn Ford as a cold-hearted killer. Even though this didn't work very well (Daves establishes Ford's ruthlessness early on, but for the rest of the picture Ford defaults to his usual on-screen persona), it is an attempt to put an actor associated exclusively with good-guy parts in the role of a baddie.

Another nod to Daves is the use of music in OATITW. Particular themes recur, sometimes under a scene (available to the audience, but not to the characters)and sometimes within the scene (the characters can hear or even create the music). Both films employ a character associated with a certain piece of music performing that very piece of music: OUATITW has The Man With the Harmonica, and 3:10 has The Man With the Puckered Lips (Ford whistles the theme while semi-reclining, his hat pulled down over his eyes).

Then there is the plan in OUATITW to ship a captive outlaw to Yuma as a safety measure, the exact situation of 3:10.

Finally, the biggest quote of 3:10 in OUATITW is Frank's dangerous walk down the streets of Flagstone. In 3:10 Van Heflin must also negotiate a street overwatched by ambushers, and there is even a moment when a spotter (Henry Jones) shouts out a warning that enables Heflin to down a gunman before he is shot (followed by the appropriate stunt work). There are differences, of course (the spotter is in the street and Heflin, at that point, is up on the second floor of a building), but you only need to watch this sequence once to know what inspired Leone's similar (but much superior) scene.

These are the quotations that leapt out at me on my first viewing of 3:10. No doubt more can be found......
13691  Films of Sergio Leone / Once Upon A Time In The West / Re: Harmonica's life on: February 08, 2005, 08:21:05 PM
When Timmy comes out of the house Frank looks at him almost loving but his expression quickly becomes remorseful at the mention of his name.  Timmy now has to be killed.  This doesn't fit with the fact that Timmy's survival would have made him heir to the property but there is just something about Franks face that suggests he is doing something that even he is not comfortable with.

I suppose that is one way to read the scene. Here is another: Although Frank had come to Sweetwater with the intention of killing all of the McBains, the possibility of sparing one now presents itself. Maybe it isn't necessary to kill Timmy as well, Frank reasons. After all, this kid isn't going to be able to get the station built on time, and even though he is now the legal heir, he'll only be inheriting a box of sand. So why waste a bullet? Mr. Morton has undoubtedly been impressing upon Frank the need to pay as little as possible for a property, and those extra bullets can really add up.

But is that really the best move? Who knows what kind of legal complications ensue if Timmy is left alive? Maybe there's a special survivor's clause that gives the McBane estate a break for catastrophic loss. This doesn't seem to be the case given subsequent events, but then, at the moment of decision, Frank doesn't have the deed in front of him to consult. He has to make a decision based on imperfect knowledge, and it has to be the right one. The agony of indecision shows on Frank's face.

Suddenly one of the men calls Frank by name. Perfect! The decision has been made for him, and Frank can now act and put the blame on the guy who spoke unwisely. Frank wriggles out of another one, the snake.
13692  Films of Sergio Leone / The Good, The Bad and The Ugly / Re: GBU Remake on: January 31, 2005, 10:16:27 PM
it wouldn't surprise me if they remade it in a completely different time period and genre... which i have no problem with... but if you think renee zellweger is playing the part of angel eyes in a REAL remake of the good the bad and the ugly... you really need to stop listening to any old hack around.
Yeah, gramps has it sussed. As soon as you bring women in to act one or more of the principals, you are NOT doing anything remotely resembling a Leone picture.
13693  Films of Sergio Leone / Once Upon A Time In America / Re: The Godfather vs. OUATIA on: January 30, 2005, 11:07:38 PM
I think we're straying a bit off topic, and so, in an attempt to steer us back on course....

The Godfather isn't worthy to change the bed pans of OUATIA. TG is a fundamentally dishonest film. It follows the standard loss-of-innocence template, the one where the audience is supposed to feel keenly the protagonist's fall from grace.

Trouble is, this movie is about a gangster's son. His very existence is grounded in corruption, and we're supposed to believe that a gangster's son can begin life in a state of innocence? If Puzo/Coppola had given us a gangster's son modeled on the real children of such people, the movie as it exists would not have been possible. So instead, they gave us Michael, the mafia boy with a heart of gold, a creature that has never existed on this or any other planet. And then they invite us to luxuriate in a sense of loss when Michael abandons his "earlier principles" and puts on the mantel of his gangster father. Oh, the cruel irony!

OUATIA takes an entirely different approach. It assumes that people who grow up to be gangsters don't start out as altar boys (temple boys?). It also assumes that gangsters act like gangsters, even in their dealings with other gangsters. It is axiomatic that hoods betray their friends, and OUATIA uses this fact to explore themes regarding male bonding and betrayal important to Leone. In an amazing feat of narrative construction, we witness the revelation that an old act of betrayal by one character was in fact a carefully manipulated act of betrayal by another. Then we see the wronged buddy, after learning the truth, *declining* the opporturnity for revenge. Oh, Noodles, what a shame you couldn't do a Michael and have your enemies ritually murdered through a bit of bravura film editing!

One of the things that haunts OUATIA is the sense of a life wasted. Leone accomplished this in large measure through his use of fractured chronology; we get both the sense of a lifetime passing and of the fact that most of that lifetime, except for what is retained in memory, is gone for good. And memory, Noodles discovers, is unreliable. There are not many old gangsters, but we get an idea what such a character might be like when we watch OUATIA. And none of us, I'm sure, would want to trade places with Noodles.

This is not how one feels at the end of The Godfather. Rather, one feels the calculated twinge evoked by the filmmakers ("Oh, no, Michael, you've lost your soul!") immediately followed by the idea that, if you've got to be a Godfather, you might as well be the biggest, baddest Godfather you can ("I wish *I* could murder people I hate, and with as much style! Can't wait for the sequel!!")

So the difference between TG and OUATIA, I submit, is the difference between art and kitsch.

13694  Films of Sergio Leone / Once Upon A Time In America / Re: james woods comment on: January 30, 2005, 09:47:02 PM
god how i wish gilliam was blacklisted... me five minutes into every gilliam movie i've ever seen- "if i see one more diagonal shot i'm gonna puke"

just to note i haven't seen brazil... and the fischer king is pretty good... but 12 monkeys and fear and loathing are incredibly overrated movies.
Stay away--FAR away--from Brazil. It's better than FEAR AND LOATHING (but then, just about anything is) and maybe at par with 12 Monkeys. Life is too short to be wasting your viewing minutes on the films of Mr. Gilliam....
13695  Films of Sergio Leone / For a Few Dollars More / Re: Drug crazed Indio on: January 28, 2005, 08:52:00 PM
  I'm pretty sure Indio is smoking pot, grass, doobies, a fatty, whatever you want to call it.  Or at least I think so.
He is indeed smoking herb.

Pot reduces inhibitions, but it doesn't necessarily make you mellow. Under its influence I once karate chopped my brother in the neck, after which I swore off using the stuff. They don't call it loco weed for nothing.
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