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Author Topic: I saw the Brilliant Director's cut in Chicago-1984  (Read 2411 times)
Shambaby
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« on: January 23, 2010, 11:41:52 PM »

OUATIA is the greatest film ever made.  If not for the film company that destroyed his masterpiece, it might be recognized today as one of the best ever.  I saw this film 3 or 4 times in the movie theatre when the original cut was released.  It was astonishing.  It was epic, grand, detailed, mysterious and deeply human.  I have never felt the power of this film since.  It was nothing like movies today.  This one grabbed a hold of you and got under your skin.  Although it was a violent and tragic gangster story, it was filled with humanity, humor, and emotion.  The amazing flashback configuration was engaging and exciting, not confusing.  The score was perfectly matched to the feeling of the various periods in the film.  Not surprisingly, it is considered Morricone's best.  The music is full of mystery, romance melancholy, and regret.  How did such a gorgeous score work with a violent and dark movie of this nature?  I believe the answer is in the human experience.  Leone and Morricone gave the movie as a gift to humanity.  Gene Siskel's original review in the Chicago Tribune 1984 was titled "Time and Memory" (90% sure - I still have it somewhere).  The construction of the film is genius with all the Time periods of Noodle's life, going back and forth just like the human mind remembers different times in our lives.  The main character, Noodles is haunted by a life filled with regret, lost opportunities, and a life lived without love.  This is what Morricone captures; the longing for love.  Looking back at one’s life (they also use the song “Yesterday” in the first ten minutes of the film) with only bits and pieces of memories, it all feels nostalgic and sad as memories are just a hint of the Life experiences lived.  Each memory, a reminder that life is a finite experience.  Morricone captures this regret, this sadness perfectly.  The first time I saw it I was simply blown away by sheer greatness.  The second I saw it I was overwhelmed by the artistry of the film and the deep, complex emotion in every scene.   The third time I saw it, I knew it well enough to just sit and enjoy it, and enjoy it, I did.  OUATIA is a work of art.  It was meant to be seen and experienced several times like a great painting or sculpture.  It was also meant to be seen on a BIG canvas, surrounded with sound.  THIS is the way I saw Once Upon A Time In America in 1984.  The first time I saw it alone, then with a movie buff friend, then with two friends with limited artistic sensibilities.  It sure would be great to see the two-part, 6-hour original concept, but that will probably never be.  I will be happy if I get to see the restored 30-40 minutes as Sergio intended, after the 6-hour idea was dropped.  Although they tried to recognize him and the score last year, Morricone will never be compensated for the omission of his great score from Oscar consideration.  This movie would be in the top ten of all American movies if it had been released, unedited by the American studio.  James Woods joked that someone from the “Police Academy” movies re-edited this masterpiece.  This studio and Leone's inexperienced producer robbed this masterpiece of its greatness and rightful place in cinematic history.  

Oh, as for the smile at the end, here is my take.  This great film works on many levels and so this is just one of my explanations, taking the movie at face value.  

The movie is centered around Noodle's great betrayal of friend, Max.  Sergio book ends the movie with the scene in the opium den the day after the betrayal.  DeNiro has the newspaper at his side as he begins to get high...then, we begin the flashbacks and flash forwards and the fleshing out of his childhood, adulthood.  After this bookend of a beginning, and the summary of the betrayal incident, the story is told from the perspective of the present-day Noodles in 1968 (now about 70 years old) as he proceeds to uncover this elusive mystery.  We get to see the true story of his life and we get to experience Noodle’s redemption, knowing now that he tried to save his friends lives and when presented with the opportunity for revenge, he chooses not to.  Whatever happens to Max is not essential to the story (The sequence from the appearance of the garbage truck to the passing of the young adults partying and crashing their booze bottles is Leone’s commentary on the state of politics and corruption.  As one corrupt politician dies, the system is still in full swing as another generation carries on the torch of booze and partying (and more corruption) all to the tune of “God Bless America”).  In one direction he sees how his life could have ended and the other direction he sees how his life began.  Noodles’ last look is one of a question mark expression as the young adults’ car fades from sight.  He sees the irony of it all, the realities of the story of America.  And now, he is done with the mystery.  Now relieved of this burden, he can actually die in peace.  Leone uses the bookend technique to poetically show what Noodles’ was feeling at the beginning of the movie and what he is now feeling, having been released from the false-guilt that plagued him for decades.  Maybe not quite as strong as the drug-induced euphoria, but representative of the vindication and freedom he has attained at last.

« Last Edit: January 23, 2010, 11:56:06 PM by Shambaby » Logged
dave jenkins
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« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2010, 09:06:05 PM »

(The sequence from the appearance of the garbage truck to the passing of the young adults partying and crashing their booze bottles is Leone’s commentary on the state of politics and corruption.  As one corrupt politician dies, the system is still in full swing as another generation carries on the torch of booze and partying (and more corruption) all to the tune of “God Bless America”).  In one direction he sees how his life could have ended and the other direction he sees how his life began.  Noodles’ last look is one of a question mark expression as the young adults’ car fades from sight.  He sees the irony of it all, the realities of the story of America.  And now, he is done with the mystery.  Now relieved of this burden, he can actually die in peace.  
One of the interesting things about that scene is that, with the arrival of the merrymakers in the car, SL uses a bit of misdirection. To that point he has trained the audience to anticipate a time jump every time he uses a match cut between scenes. We think we are seeing one here: the taillights of the vanishing garbage truck become the headlights of the oncoming car. When we see that it's a vintage car approaching we naturally assume we're back in 1933. A moment later we see we've been fooled: we're still in 1968, the kids just happen to have the use of an old car. SL did that for a reason, though I've never quite worked out what it was. Your suggestion is worth pondering, and I thank you for it.

I too saw the director's cut for the first time at the Biograph, although I remember it being in the winter of 1985. But maybe it had a really long run.

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