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Ian
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« on: June 05, 2003, 03:54:55 AM »

Just like to share a few thoughts about OATIA.

I have loved this film ever since I saw it in the mid-eighties on video. I live in the UK so I was fortunate to have known the 'longer' version of the film from the start, although I always regret not being able to have seen it in a cinema. If ever a film deserved cinematic presentation it's this one!

I don't think I have ever thought of OATIA as a 'gangster' film. It's always been more than that. Indeed as a gangster film its probably lacking (compared, to, say the Godfather films or Goodfellas etc.). I think the gangster elements are just background noise in a way. Leone would never make a televison-style drama about loss, regret and time. He loved cinema that was larger-than-life, OTT and fantastic. Just as OATIW was a fairy tale to a West that never existed, so OATIA is a fairy tale about regret and loss set in a 20s and 30s America that never really existed.  OATIA is really a study of melancholy and regret with the gangster tale as a background setting, and is one of the saddest films I have ever known.

Its a shame that most negative reviews dwell on the jewish gangster background, and the violence, and how the gangster stuff never really gells. To me those reviews are missing the point on what is a profoundly moving cinematic tale.

Consider this - I wonder what would peoples opinion be if, in one beautiful jarring moment, when we see Noodles frozen smile at the end of the film, his face dissolved at the end of the credits to the beaming, cigar-chomping face of Leone, his gaze directed at the audience? His face the final shot of this his final film, his final gift to cinema and cinema lovers? Because I think thats what OATIA inadvertantly became, a final summation of the thoughts, skills, ruminations of a great artist.

OATIA is really about loss, regret, and the melancholy of old age. Its the thoughts of someone at the end of his life looking back, dwelling on good times, bad times, successes and mistakes. It's an art movie in Hollywood clothing, something contradictory and confusing, and light-years away from modern Hollywood product, no matter how 'adult' Spielberg thinks his films are now.

Of course Leone never expected OATIA to be his last film, but I suspect he knew it would be one of his last and perhaps a final opportunity to record on film some of his thoughts. Nostalgia appears in all his films, a longing not just for what was (as in his westerns) but also for what might have been (again, the West that never was). OATIA began as a simple gangster tale, but I think as the many years of pre-production wore on and Leone found himself getting older and grayer, it became something else, something more. It became what we all now know and love.

Thanks for your time reading this. Please feel free to comment/disagree with my thoughts. And I hope we all enjoy the DVD release soon.


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« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2003, 04:31:00 AM »

I fully subscribe to your point of view, especially when you say that OUATIA should not be perceived as a gangster movie.
Some people wonder how -speaking of gangster movies- I can prefer OUATIA rather than the first two Godfather chapters, and I'm always on the minority part when trying to convince them they are two entirely different kind of movies.
Incredibly as it may seem there are still some people, not to mention some critics, here in Italy at least, who underestimate Sergio's capability to convey that sense of melancholy and endless regret for what-could-have-been-but-never-was-and-never-will. But this is an entirely different matter, and I don't want to go off-topic... suffice to say OUATIA is many people's favorite movie ever, irrespective of what a bunch of blind critics say

 

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Jon
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« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2003, 10:33:23 AM »

Ian,your thoughts on this movie are almost the same as mine.You've obviously read my post on "why do we love..........".

I too find it difficult to think of it as a gangster movie.I don't mean this as a bad thing,I love many gangster movies such as Godfather,Scarface,Goodfellas and particularly Carlito's Way.But OUATIA almost relegates much of the usual gangster business to the background.whilst with Sergio's Westerns much time is spent on the 'action',often drawing it out,with OUATIA
the action bits are mostly short.Leone seems far more interested in the character's minds,especially Noodles.Much of the film consists of close-ups of Noodles or shots of Noodles looking at things.This is probably why some people who love gangster movies don't really 'get' OUATIA.I remember my wife saying to me "it's all so drawn out".I said " yeah,isn't it great"!

Many people dislike the way the film gradually slows down i n the last hour,but I don't think the film should be any other way.Don't forget,the film is seen mostly from the point of view and the mind of an old man.And it's only right that the childhood scenes should be full of vitality and energy and the old age scenes should be slow and reflective.

When the film ends,you really feel that you lived a life.I feel saddened,moved,and than can't wait to delve into that life again.Yes,there are unpleasant scenes{my wife refused to watch the rape scene],but life is always full of as much pain as happiness.

I was going to start a new topic onthis,but it seems appropriate here.Do you know what my two  favourite scenes are??One is near the beginning when old Noodles wanders around fat Moe's bar as Deborah's theme plays.All you see is a man slowly wandering around a room,but the mood is all-encompassing.It is so sad but this mood draws me into the mood of the film and the character,I can't resist it.

The other fav.scene is bear the end when Noodles starts to leave Deberah and sees Max's[or possibly Deborah's]son.As Deborah seems to start to cry,the music cHanges from Deborah's theme to the main theme and Max's face materialises,like a ghost,behinh that window.There is no 'action',but it is exactly what cinema should be.You truly enter another world,another mindset.

Like you I could probably spend hours discussing this film,all this stuff I'm writing is making want to watch it again,but I'll wait till I get the DVD,should be soon.I can hear it now"God Bless America,Land Of The Free......."

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Ian
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« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2003, 12:55:27 PM »

Yeah, I think one of my favourite scenes is when the old  Noodles is at Moes at the start of the film, looking at the old photographs on the wall.  That's his life there, mapped out in the faces of those he knew and loved. It's one of those strange moments where, when you see the film the first time, the faces are of strangers, but then on repeated viewings you know them, know their destinies, and you are considering them in the same way as Noodles is in the film.

You know, its that melancholy and regret again...

My favourite moment though is in the transition from the old Noodles to the young Noodles in the toilet, spying on Deborah dancing. The music, and the old Noodles eyes, welling up with tears at the memory we are about to share, cutting to the young Noodles eyes, furtively spying on her... priceless. Worth the price of admission alone. Moments like that you know you are in the hands of a genius director. Moments like that are very rare.

I cannot WAIT for the DVD. I have been keen to watch the film again for months now but refuse to play my old videotape, holding on for the DVD. Only three weeks to go...

Meanwhile I'm quite happy to spend a few hours discussing this film if you guys are game...

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Jon
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« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2003, 12:54:26 PM »

Another scene I love is when Noodles returns after having been away for a while folowing his loss of Deborah,and he realises Max has taken control of the gang.The tension that Leone creates,simply by having Noodles stir his coffee,is truly masterful.

Ofcourse [this may be slightly off-topic but this is a good conversation] one cannot stop mentioning how wonderful,how sad and beautiful Morricone's music for the film is,somewhat different to his earlier scores for Leone.My favourite bit is right at the end[it only appears on the soundtrack album in a slightly different form]when Noodles is back in the opium den and the main theme plays,this time with Edda Dal Orso's voice above the melody.This use of the human voice seems to make the ending even more poignant.Maybe it's suggesting the 'unattained ideal' of Noodles' life.

I constantly find it incredible that Warners allowed themselves to cut this down by about an hour and rearrange the order of scenes.Ofcourse the film was not going to make sense.But I've always wanted to see this version,just for curiosity.

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Ian
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« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2003, 01:17:13 PM »

I absolutely agree Jon. I often hear Americans remarking on the re-cut USA version and am always curious. It's a pity both versions could not be put on the new DVD, just for comparison.

You may be aware of a USA (R1) DVD of BRAZIL, spread over 3 discs. This film suffered a similar fate on its original American release as OATIA did, but on the 3-disc set the third disc is the butchered USA version with a commentary track running through the cuts and re-edits. It's fascinating viewing, and amazing how cuts and inserts can drastically alter a film.

Perhaps one day OATIA will manage the same treatment. Although the extras on the new DVD seem fine, the film really deserves even better treatment (I'd have loved a commentary track involving some of the cast, and I'm sure there must be more archive material).

ANd yes, the music in OATIA is everything. I think it is a character in the film as much as Deniro, Woods and company. Never ceases to amaze me that it was never nominated for an Oscar.  

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« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2003, 04:15:46 PM »

I have the 3 Disc Brazil[another great movie,but that's another story]set and yes,it would be great if OUATIA one day got the same treatment.It could be possible-there are many films[e.g.Terminator 2,The Lord Of The Rings]which are released on DVD several times,each version better.

I would like to see the 45 or so mins. of deleted footage from OUATIA,it does exist.A cast and crew commentary may be difficult due to the high proportion of Italians!.....but there are a few people who would be good-James Woods,for instance,who holds the film in very high regard.He would be great listening to about the movie.

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shorty larsen
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« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2003, 02:14:28 PM »

I agree with you Ian.

Regarding what you said about Leone, I think, as it has already benn discussed in this board, that the film is also a homage to the cinema, and Leone is extremely nostalgic about "ancient" cinema.

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General Sibley
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« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2004, 04:00:55 PM »

What a great post...

I can only watch OATIA once a year or so, it's so emotionally draining.  You just want to swallow a bottle full of vicodin and say goodbye with when your done watching it.  I think this is Morricone's most moving soundtrack, it just stays with you.  The piece that haunts me is "Poverty" - the old beatup saloon piano solo with the strings in the background.  Those few bars of music define "melancholy and regret":

http://songs.allofmp3.com/mcatalog.shtml?groupname=Once%20upon%20a%20Time%20in%20America&albumname=Soundtrack%20by%20Ennio%20Morricone&albref=21

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« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2004, 01:48:24 PM »

The two themes that haunt me the most in the movie are Deborah's theme and Deborah's theme/Amapola.

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