Sergio Leone Web Board
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
October 20, 2017, 07:24:44 PM
Home Help Search Calendar Login Register
News:


+  Sergio Leone Web Board
|-+  Films of Sergio Leone
| |-+  Duck, You Sucker (Moderators: cigar joe, moviesceleton, Dust Devil)
| | |-+  The whole thing with the Irish relationship - An allegory?
0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
Pages: [1] 2 Go Down Print
Author Topic: The whole thing with the Irish relationship - An allegory?  (Read 9544 times)
Poggle
Bounty Killer
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 626


View Profile
« on: July 11, 2005, 05:19:25 PM »

EDIT: It's not relevant now!

« Last Edit: February 27, 2006, 05:49:36 PM by Poggle » Logged
Juan Miranda
Bounty Killer
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 842


Badges?!?


View Profile
« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2005, 06:51:40 PM »

I think this takes a great deal for granted, regarding who the Coburn and Warbeck characters are, and their past relationship. I belive there is a much more tortured history between them than the one which first seems evident. Yes, we clearly see Warbeck (Sean?) betray Coburn (John Mallory) to the soldiers in the Dublin pub. Coburn reacts by killing the soldiers. He pauses. Then, after Warbeck seemingly nods "yes", he kills him too.

But how did Warbeck fall into the army's hands in the first place, to be tortured and to betray others? Did Coburn give him away because, despite his smile at the threesome established in the final flashback, he was actually desturbed and displaced by it, and turned his friend in? His smile seems to be echoed by De Nero at the end of ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA as he lies in an opium haze, in the knowledge that he too has betrayed his friends to the police.

De Nero has a similar scene "at night, in the rain" as Coburn, as he witnesses the results of his "tip", all his friends lying dead beacause of him. Coburn sees the result of Villega's post-torture betrayal (the firing squad), but obviously feels guilty himself, partly for dragging Steiger (Juan) into the revolution and getting his entier family killed as a consquence, but also, maybe, because of his earlier betrayal of Warbeck to the military, and he sees it all happening yet again.

Most importantly though, how do we assess Coburn and his past friendship with Warbeck back in Ireland? I'd suggest through their class.

Class is an enormous issue here  in Europe, even today. Coburn is fairly contemptuous towards Steiger for most of the film, calling him a "fokin' chickin' thief" and laughing at his antics. Yes, he becomes his friend, but only after using him mercilessly, and even when he feels so guilty about the death of his family that he can't look him in the face, he still sniggers when a bird shits on his head.

In the flashbacks we see Coburn and Warbeck driving around in an early car through an Irish country estate. Is this Coburn's home, or Warbeck's? Are they aristocrats? Certainly only the very wealthy could afford automobiles at that time, and Coburn remains a petrol-head even in Mexico. I suggest that Warbeck and Coburn are both wealthy young men, rebelling against their upper class background's by dabbling in nationalist politics, a fairly common situation in rich families today, but even more so in the period GIU LA TESTA was made. Coburn is the older man, and the more educated (he is an explosives expert, after all, suggesting a chemisty back-ground), and perhaps it's Warbeck who lives in the country mansion (he is the car driver, after all)? This powerfully links Coburn with Villega. Both are technically educated, upper class intelligensia (Villega is a surgeon) involved in fermenting revolution, with disasterous results to all around them.

Perhaps Coburn involved Warbeck in the revolution, just as he involves Steiger with the same consequences, almost with the same name combination, John and Jaun, John and Sean? The only difference being, the first time round Coburn/John was the betraying Villega figure, and not because he was tortured physically, but tortured metally by love for the un-named woman.

(reposted and edited)

« Last Edit: July 12, 2005, 01:13:21 PM by Juan Miranda » Logged

Poggle
Bounty Killer
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 626


View Profile
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2005, 06:12:23 PM »

After reading that I kind of forget my whole theory entirely Grin

Logged
lazyranchhand
Road Apple
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 8



View Profile
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2005, 04:19:03 PM »

Brilliant post, Juan. I just watched the movie this evening, and many of your insights ring true. I would add to it the significance of the speech that Juan makes about the 'readers' encouraging revolution in the poor uneducated classes, only for them to suffer the most.

We then see Mallory throw his book on the ground:  "Patriotism", by Mikhail Bakunin - a significant gesture which relates to the politics of the movie, and Sergio's politics in general, which I would say were sceptical at least. Bakunin is an interesting figure to throw, literally, into a movie about revolution, to say the least.

It would make sense for Mallory, given what you surmised about his class position, to embrace Bakunin's notions of relative anarchy and see patriotism as a bourgeois conceit, and then find himself confronted by the realism of Juan, the "chicken theif". Mallory's view of Juan utterly changes throughout the movie, to the point where they are willing to die for each other.

An extraordinary movie, and Leone's most underrated.

Logged
Juan Miranda
Bounty Killer
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 842


Badges?!?


View Profile
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2005, 06:43:16 PM »

Thank's, Lazyranchhand. I think the Bakunin volume also links Coburn yet again with Villega, as he is the only other character in the film seen reading a book (on the train). Yes, Gunther flicks through Coburn's tome, but only because its a clue to his trail.

Logged

dave jenkins
Bounty Killer
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 13635

"One banana, two banana, three banana, four...."


View Profile
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2005, 12:12:07 AM »

I think this takes a great deal for granted, regarding who the Coburn and Warbeck characters are, and their past relationship. I belive there is a much more tortured history between them than the one which first seems evident. Yes, we clearly see Warbeck (Sean?) betray Coburn (John Mallory) to the soldiers in the Dublin pub. Coburn reacts by killing the soldiers. He pauses. Then, after Warbeck seemingly nods "yes", he kills him too.

But how did Warbeck fall into the army's hands in the first place, to be tortured and to betray others? Did Coburn give him away because, despite his smile at the threesome established in the final flashback, he was actually desturbed and displaced by it, and turned his friend in?

Coburn sees the result of Villega's post-torture betrayal (the firing squad), but obviously feels guilty himself, partly for dragging Steiger (Juan) into the revolution and getting his entier family killed as a consquence, but also, maybe, because of his earlier betrayal of Warbeck to the military, and he sees it all happening yet again.


Believe that if you want, but you are bringing material into the film that the film itself is not responsible for. Remember, just because one of the supplements on the DYS SE DVD says things like this, there is no reason to accept that understanding of the film. We certainly see Coburn's friend betray him (and Coburn's response to that betrayal), but there is *never* any hint whatsoever that Coburn betrayed the friend first. If Leone had wanted us to think that, he would not have left the matter in doubt: he always made his plot points crystal clear.


Logged


That's what you get, Drink, for getting out of bed this morning.
Juan Miranda
Bounty Killer
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 842


Badges?!?


View Profile
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2005, 04:28:48 AM »

Remember, just because one of the supplements on the DYS SE DVD says things like this, there is no reason to accept that understanding of the film.

Nothing to do with the DVD, Dave Jenkins, the ambiguities in this film are something I've been puzzling over for a long time. An ex-girlfriend of mine did her thesis on OUTIA, so we spent almost a year together talking and watching Leone. Note none of the stuff about class structure implied by the flashbacks are mentioned in the DVD (or anywhere else). These are entierly my own observations.

Coburn and Warbeck are vital to the movie, as its because of their relationship going wrong that Coburn is in Mexico in the first place, therefor I think its worth having a look at what goes on between them a bit closer. Yes, there are only a few clues to go on, but that keeps it on the fun side, I think.

Here's another why? Why does Warbeck go to the trouble of betraying Coburn at all? In the pub we see him point out a number of guys. Without exception they are clearly working class. One of them looks like an old fisherman. None of them seem particularly surprised or hostile at this betrayal.

After he has handed these folk in the soldier seems to ask "is there anyone else". Till now, Coburn, dressed in a country gent outfit has been ignored completely by the soldiers. Warbeck saves him till last. He could probabaly leave it that, as far as the military are concerned, but no. He hand's Coburn over anyway. Why?

Regarding the John/Sean thing. I see no reason what ever, beyond an assumption, that Coburn tells Steiger that his name is John instead of Juan because it'll somehow be easier for the poor illiterate Mexican peasant to understand. For an isolated peasant living in the desert, he instantly realises that Coburn is Irish just from his accent. "Leesen to me, you Eeerish pees of sheet!" Pretty remarkable observation from him. Although I've never been to Mexico myself yet, another ex-girlfriend of mine has, and she said even people in big cities she met didn't know where London or Britain was. None of them would have known what an Irish accent sounded like. Juan does, so what's so hard about him saying "Sean"?

(ETA: And if John makes a class based assumption about the limitations of Steiger's education, why does Dr. Villega also call him John. Surely he could have coped with Sean?)

If Leone had wanted us to think that, he would not have left the matter in doubt: he always made his plot points crystal clear.

Such as why does Noodles smile at the end of OUTIA, or if Max kills himself at the end of that same movie?

« Last Edit: July 14, 2005, 05:10:50 AM by Juan Miranda » Logged

dave jenkins
Bounty Killer
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 13635

"One banana, two banana, three banana, four...."


View Profile
« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2005, 05:11:32 PM »


Here's another why? Why does Warbeck go to the trouble of betraying Coburn at all? In the pub we see him point out a number of guys. Without exception they are clearly working class. One of them looks like an old fisherman. None of them seem particularly surprised or hostile at this betrayal.

After he has handed these folk in the soldier seems to ask "is there anyone else". Till now, Coburn, dressed in a country gent outfit has been ignored completely by the soldiers. Warbeck saves him till last. He could probabaly leave it that, as far as the military are concerned, but no. He hand's Coburn over anyway. Why?

In fact he doesn't hand him over. He in effect cues Coburn to swing around and shoot. I don't know if Warbeck knows Coburn is armed, but I've always assumed (from the look they give each other) that the two friends are reading off the same sheet of music. Warbeck wants revenge on the British soldiers; he also wants expiation for his acts of betrayal. He knows that by seeking out Coburn he can achieve both, since Coburn will blow them all away. Coburn obliges, but of course comes to regret it. Nonetheless, it was Warbeck who sought his own death.

As far as plot point ambiguities go: the smile at the end of OUATIA is possibly an indicator of theme, but it doesn't really affect our understanding of the plot. The story is over at that moment. The garbage truck episode is another matter: it is certainly ambiguous and it certainly affects the plot. It is an extrememly rare exception in Leone's films, however, one undoubtedly founded on the Jimmy Hoffa mystery. Otherwise, SL is remarkably consistent in his presentation of crystal-clear plots.

Logged


That's what you get, Drink, for getting out of bed this morning.
bling
Road Apple
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 7


View Profile
« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2005, 10:02:10 PM »

I am not sure if a great deal of plot-realted material can be taken from the flashbacks - John is haunted by his past and Leone uses flashbacks to contextualise his behaviour - only someone of Leones skill can use such a dated mechinism and cheesy cheesy music
and still maintain credibility. On top of this I think that the eyebrow movements, smiles wink-wink, nudge-nudge is more commentary on film making at that time, creating super kitch context to parody rather than real insight into important storyline issues.


Some slightly wanky thoughts of mine of the relationship part of an assignment - applying Power distance (http://intermundo.net/glossary_term.pl?mid=21) to a cultural artefact - in this case OUTTR. Different take on the discussion about class.

I chose to oppose an intellectual…with a naïve peasant…from there you have the story of Pygmalian reverse…the naïve teaches the intellectual a lesson…finally the intellectual throws away his book of Bakunin’s writing -  Serge Leone[/i

John is Irish, a low PD culture (Hofstede, 1983; Jandt, 2004) and has a maverick, individualistic attitude showing disregard for authority. Juan believes that his place in society is fixed no matter who is in charge and he has little chance or inclination for social mobility. His assertion that “My Land? My land is me and my family” and criticism of former bandit hero Pancho Villa who was made a general and corrupted by power shows his attitude to revolutions. (Frayling, 1998). When people from two different PD cultures interact, misunderstanding is likely if they do not understand the other person’s PD orientation (Gudykunst, 1997). John has insight into Juan’s PD orientation - aware of the disempowered position of peasants in Mexican society he has joined the revolution. However, he takes advantage of Juan and a paternalistic relationship develops (Frayling, 1998) with Juan following John into a series of acts that inadvertently make Juan a hero of the revolution. John replicates the PD relationship that Juan faces in his own country by imposing a high PD between them, holding back key information and misleading Juan (Hofstede, 1983). The development of this relationship type between high PD and low PD counterparts is recorded in research examining American Managers (low PD) relations with their Mexican counter parts (Stephens G. K. & Greer C. R. 1995) and the director Leone is parodying the paternalistic attitude of the American film industry to the Mexican revolution in this relationship (Frayling, 1998).


Once Upon a Time…the Revolution also parodies the relationship typically seen in Zapata westerns, that of an outsider being persuaded to join the cause of a “primitive rebel”. In fact John is turned against the ideals of the revolution by Juan the “reverse Pygmalian” effect described by Serge Leone. We see this when Juan gives a speech about the revolution which results in John symbolically throwing his copy of Bakunin’s The Patriotism into the mud (Appendix One). The cynicism of Juan reflects his experience in a high PD culture and belief that his place is the same no matter who is in charge. The moment is symbolic in the film as the point where John looses faith in the intellectuals who are driving the revolution. In a sense John “joins” the high PD society as PD between him and the leaders’ increases. John does not think that the decision making of those in power should not be challenged but accepts the reality of suppression by a dominant ideology. Whilst Hofstede states that in a high PD society the “way to change a social system is by dethroning those in power” (Hofstede, 1983) Juan’s, and eventually John’s attitude to the revolution does not support this. His beliefs are more aligned with George Orwell’s Animal Farm than Che Guevara’s Guerrilla Warfare.

Logged
dave jenkins
Bounty Killer
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 13635

"One banana, two banana, three banana, four...."


View Profile
« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2005, 11:19:48 PM »

Once Upon a Time…the Revolution also parodies the relationship typically seen in Zapata westerns, that of an outsider being persuaded to join the cause of a “primitive rebel”. In fact John is turned against the ideals of the revolution by Juan the “reverse Pygmalian” effect described by Serge Leone. We see this when Juan gives a speech about the revolution which results in John symbolically throwing his copy of Bakunin’s The Patriotism into the mud (Appendix One). The cynicism of Juan reflects his experience in a high PD culture and belief that his place is the same no matter who is in charge. The moment is symbolic in the film as the point where John looses faith in the intellectuals who are driving the revolution.

In fact, the moment in more nuanced than that. John/Sean has already rejected revolution with a capital R once before (when he tells Juan at the beginning that "one was enough for me.") Juan's interference in his affairs drives John/Sean back into the arms of the local revolutionaries, but John/Sean remains cynical about their enterprise. In fact, his primary motive for particpating seems to be to use it to get even with Juan. When John/Sean throws away the Bakunin, it is an act of affirming what he already knows. It is also the moment when he finally views Juan as an equal.

The film is less about power relationships than it is about a developing friendship. Thank God.

Logged


That's what you get, Drink, for getting out of bed this morning.
bling
Road Apple
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 7


View Profile
« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2005, 11:45:32 PM »

In fact, the moment in more nuanced than that. John/Sean has already rejected revolution with a capital R once before (when he tells Juan at the beginning that "one was enough for me.") Juan's interference in his affairs drives John/Sean back into the arms of the local revolutionaries, but John/Sean remains cynical about their enterprise. In fact, his primary motive for particpating seems to be to use it to get even with Juan. When John/Sean throws away the Bakunin, it is an act of affirming what he already knows. It is also the moment when he finally views Juan as an equal.

The film is less about power relationships than it is about a developing friendship. Thank God.

Mmmm - not sure that John has rejected revolution really. Why when the pair eventually get to Mese Verde  and the scene under cafe where the "bank" robbery is planned when they all shout viva la revolution (I KNOW its not that but can not remember the phrase) John is noticeably vigorous in his support. He is cynical about it and is involved to “get rid of some uniforms” but clearly  also has a belief. This scene is the point when he finally gives up  that belief.

As for developing friendships - at a certain level that is  about power. A cynical analysis yes, but entirely appropriate for a very cynical film.

Even the final act of John killing himself is about him being one step ahead of Juan…

Logged
dave jenkins
Bounty Killer
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 13635

"One banana, two banana, three banana, four...."


View Profile
« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2005, 05:25:54 PM »

It is true that that there is a certain one-upmanship involved in the friendships Leone portrays. This is never the whole story, however. Whether we are considering Monco and Mortimer, Blondie and Tuco, Harmonica and Cheyenne, or John and Juan, we see moments of true affection breaking through. Men must strive with other men, however, even where such friendships exists. This is one of the great themes of Western literature, and has been attested to in the stories of David and Jonathan, Achilles and Patroklus, Palamon and Arcite, to give but a few examples. I for one am gratified that Leone saw fit to make his own worthy contribution to this great tradition.

Logged


That's what you get, Drink, for getting out of bed this morning.
Juan Miranda
Bounty Killer
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 842


Badges?!?


View Profile
« Reply #12 on: September 18, 2005, 06:28:37 PM »

I found the whole concept of this definition rather puzzling:

"Countries that score a low power distance are, for example, Israel, Sweden and Ireland." (source, http://intermundo.net/glossary_term.pl?mid=21)

Narrowing it down to the relevant country in this debate, Ireland, it seems to imply that all Irish are the same in terms of their relationship with the state and the rest of the world.

Since there has been a civil war going on in that country for most of the last century, which is only just dying down today, and the Irish can't even agree what constitutes being "Irish", I find that a pretty remarkable statement.

In GIU LA TESTA we see that Coburn is an upper middle class professional, hanging our with the local aristo, who he may even have got mixed up with the "revolution" in the first place.

Apart from the upper class Warbeck, the only other victims of these men's dabbling in power politics that we see are...? Guess what? A bunch of Irish "peasants" in the pub.

Yes, there were peasants in Ireland in this period, just as there were peasants in Mexico. Even today there is a huge class divide in Ireland and the UK. One person may feel he is living within the sort of "power distance" implied above, but to many millions of folk this whole notion would seem utterly absurd. It ignores entierly  class, economics, housing, health care and social mobility even within so called first world societies, which seems to become more restrictive year by year.

I must disagree too with the assumption that Juan sees his position in society as fixed. He is an outlaw, not a revolutionary. He is already living outside of society when we meet him, and is happiest when he can put one over on it. Once he has robbed the occupants of the stagecoach at the start of the film, he settles into his circumstances very comfortably, the only time we see him feeling this way in the whole movie. Although he makes a great friend, ultimately, meeting Coburn is the worst thing that happens to Juan, just as the the "great frendship" with Max is the worse thing that happens to Noodles in ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, and they are both from exactly the same "power distance".

« Last Edit: September 18, 2005, 06:33:08 PM by Juan Miranda » Logged

bling
Road Apple
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 7


View Profile
« Reply #13 on: September 20, 2005, 12:11:56 AM »

I found the whole concept of this definition rather puzzling:

"Countries that score a low power distance are, for example, Israel, Sweden and Ireland." (source, http://intermundo.net/glossary_term.pl?mid=21)

Narrowing it down to the relevant country in this debate, Ireland, it seems to imply that all Irish are the same in terms of their relationship with the state and the rest of the world.".

Power-Distance is one of the more bizarre "cultural indicators" used - an exercise in stereotyping if ever there was one. It was based on a questionnaire given to IBM employees the world over and a fundamentally flawed (as I argue for what its worth) yet widely used concept. Culture is clearly something that is ‘grasped’ not recorded and noted statistically. Anyway back to topic…

I used it and this made me see the relationship between Juan and John in a different light. Before I guess I had assumed that they both stumbled along and the film was a great buddy story with vague political undertones. Reading Frayling, analysing the relationship and Leone’s politics has opened this film up to me. The film does comment strongly on ideology, if not power and the relationship between Juan and John is part of that.. 

"I must disagree too with the assumption that Juan sees his position in society as fixed. He is an outlaw, not a revolutionary.".

Juan wants money but his views on life are best summed up by the Book reader’s speech. Yes he wants to get one over society, yes he has little respect for society but he does not think he can become powerful member within that society – ie he will always be dominated by an ideology. His beliefs are more Animal Farm than Che Gavaura’s Guerrilla Warfar.

Logged
Poggle
Bounty Killer
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 626


View Profile
« Reply #14 on: February 27, 2006, 05:51:18 PM »

I don't want to start another thread and since this conversation is dead... Wink

I was watching it yesterday I thought about something concerning the Irish flashback - Could it have been a fantasy of John's that they could've shared the same woman?

Logged
Pages: [1] 2 Go Up Print 
« previous next »
Jump to:  



Visit FISTFUL-OF-LEONE.COM

Powered by SMF 1.1.21 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines
Page created in 0.048 seconds with 18 queries.