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Author Topic: Vincent Canby- "it is quite bad"  (Read 5429 times)
boardwalk_angel
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« on: November 17, 2006, 05:40:40 AM »

"Once Upon the Time in the West," which opened yesterday at Loew's State 2 and at Loew's Orpheum, is the biggest, longest, most expensive Leone Western to date, and, in many ways, the most absurd."

Once Upon the Time in West'( Running Time- 165 minutes)
 By VINCENT CANBY (New York Times)
Published: May 29, 1969


ONCE upon the time in Italy, there lived a little boy named Sergio Leone who, like all little boys, went to the movies quite a lot, particularly to see Hollywood Westerns. In Italy, people like John Wayne and Gary Cooper spoke Italian slang, which never quite corresponded to their lip movements. As a result, there was always something of a distance between the sound and the image of the movies that enchanted Sergio.

When he grew up, Sergio became a movie director. Because Hollywood had more or less abandoned the Western, he went to Spain where he made his own Westerns with a star cast off from American television. "A Fistful of Dollars." "For a Few Dollars More" and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" made Leone a fortune, Clint Eastwood a first-class movie star, and created what was, in effect, a new movie genre.

The world of a Leone Western is just as enchanted as it was in the films the director saw as a child, but the values have become confused. Heroes as well as villains are apt to be motivated by greed and revenge, and the environments in which they operate are desolate and godless, though very beautiful. The Leone Westerns are twice removed from reality, being based on myths that were originally conceived in Hollywood studios in the nineteen-thirties. And, because Leone films are usually shot in Italian and later dubbed into English, there is that same distance between sound and image that existed in the John Wayne movies that Leone watched in his youth. One result of this is that the Leone Western may seem even more arbitrarily violent and brutal than it really is.

"Once Upon the Time in the West," which opened yesterday at Loew's State 2 and at Loew's Orpheum, is the biggest, longest, most expensive Leone Western to date, and, in many ways, the most absurd.

It is also the first Leone movie to be shot on American locations (Arizona and Utah), although most of it apparently was photographed in Leone's beloved Spain. Granting the fact that it is quite bad, "Once Upon the Time in the West" is almost always interesting, wobbling, as it does, between being an epic lampoon and a serious hommage to the men who created the dreams of Leone's childhood.

The movie is eclectic in dramatic detail—it contains the plots of at least a half-dozen movies you've already seen—as well as in origin. Among those who are credited with the story and screenplay are Leone himself and Bernardo Bertolucci, one of the most original of the new crop of Italian moviemakers ("Before The Revolution," "Partner"). Credited with having contributed to the English dialogue is none other than Mickey Knox, best known here as a member of Norman Mailer's rat pack.

The movie's narrative outline, which has to do with efforts to grab some land important to the building of a railroad to the West, is simply an elaborate excuse for a series of classic confrontations between classic Western types. Those include Henry Fonda, the kind of killer who will shoot a child at point-blank range; Claudia Cardinale, the hooker from New Orleans (which explains her accent, as it often did when Marlene Dietrich turned up on the frontier); Jason Robards, a gunman with a fondness for widows who look like Miss Cardinale, and Charles Bronson, who plays Leone's favorite Western character, the enigmatic Man With No Name, en route from nowhere to nowhere, a kind of Flying Dutchman of the plains.

Although "Once Upon the Time in the West" has moments of genuine impact, such as an early shoot-out between Bronson and three hired killers at a lonely way station, it is mostly fun for the way it cherishes movie styles and attitudes from the past.

It's no accident that people like Lionel Stander, Jack Elam and Keenan Wynn turn up in supporting roles, or that when Miss Cardinale, newly arrived in the West, takes the carriage to her husband's farm, the route takes her through John Ford's Monument Valley. I also like the kind of pure movie exchange that takes place when Henry Fonda confronts one of his men for having betrayed a confidence.

"You can trust me," says the man. Replies Fonda:

"How can I trust a man who wears both a belt and suspenders? He don't even trust his own pants."

"Once Upon the Time in the West" thus is a movie either for the undiscriminating patron or for the buff. If you fall somewhere in between those categories, you had better stay home or go see "If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium."










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« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2006, 02:01:28 PM »

I don't get it. First he says it's quite bad, then he almost praises the film, then he goes back to it being bad.

This critic is like all the other American critics at the time. They liked Leone's westerns deep down inside, but because they weren't American films he had to rate it bad.

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« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2006, 04:03:07 PM »

Quote
I don't get it. First he says it's quite bad, then he almost praises the film, then he goes back to it being bad.

This critic is like all the other American critics at the time. They liked Leone's westerns deep down inside, but because they weren't American films he had to rate it bad.

  I thought the same thing, Peacemaker.  If you took out the parts about the "absurdity" of the movie, you'd think the reviewer loved the movie.  Eh, screw him, if he can't appreciate OUATITW then it's his loss.

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« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2006, 04:14:47 PM »

You all have to remember that OUTITW and OUTIA were both cut and re-edited when they first debued here. It was missing the Monument Valley Trading Post, some of Morton's scenes, the part where Frank discovers the remains of the gunfight between his men and Cheyenne's men, and Cheyenne's death scene. it was only 144 minutes despite what the review states.  

Check Frayling's Spaghetti Westerns.

I had a high school friend that told me after he saw it that it didn't make any sence. It was something on par with re-editing OUTIA so it was in chronological order. So I don't know which film he was reviewing.

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« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2006, 04:20:45 PM »

You all have to remember that OUTITW and OUTIA were both cut and re-edited when they first debued here.

That's what I figured, too...he saw the trashed version...but it specifically said "165 minutes" in the review..that's why I included it here.
I dunno...........

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Tim
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« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2006, 04:21:26 PM »

  Even with all those scenes put back in, I was still confused much of the time the first time I saw it about what was going on just because Sergio lets the viewer piece it together.  He never just spells something out for you.

  I still pick up something new everytime I watch OUATITW so I can understand how someone who saw the heavily edited, cut down version got confused.

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« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2006, 06:26:53 PM »

Ignore the Tosser...He cant even get the title right...probably watched a different film

Once Upon  "THE"  time in the West....Doh!!!!

ICE

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« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2006, 06:33:22 PM »

Quote
That's what I figured, too...he saw the trashed version...but it specifically said "165 minutes" in the review..that's why I included it here.
I dunno...........


It was definitely trashed, my buddy went to the first showing in NYC (his dad worked for Columbia Pictures so he had an in, lol) and he couldn't make any sense of it of all.  Cool

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« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2006, 05:50:48 AM »

Yeah, the 165 minute version is the one he's referring to.  Ebert's 2.5 star review was referring to that film too, and you can tell because he says it's almost three hours.

Canby probably saw it at the NYC premiere, before it was edited.  Same with Ebert, I imagine.  Canby was an established name and Ebert was on his way up as an influential film critic, being one of the first to recognize "Bonnie and Clyde" and "The Wild Bunch" as classics, so I think it's more than likely both of them were at the premiere.

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« Reply #9 on: November 18, 2006, 08:49:59 AM »

Even with all those scenes put back in, I was still confused much of the time the first time I saw it about what was going on just because Sergio lets the viewer piece it together.  He never just spells something out for you.

Sure, one has to think about it a lot. I also didn't understand lots of scenes; some got a meaning later in the story and some questions had to be answered by someone on this board. Wink However, it's exactly what I love on this film (and other films, too.) It's one of the reasons why people like to view them again and again. But some people don't appreciate it.

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« Reply #10 on: November 18, 2006, 03:32:50 PM »

I think peacemaker got it right: this is an exercise in bad faith, regardless of the version he saw (though it's clear he saw the longer one). He throws in two quite heavy adjectives ("bad", "absurd") but doesn't mind explaining them when it would be only fair to do so. I think this is cheap criticism. You may no like a movie but the moment you say so you must absolutely justify your opinion: and he can't come up with a single element for doing so. Yeah, this "review" "it is quite bad".
And whatever happened to the movie he told us to go and see?

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« Reply #11 on: November 18, 2006, 03:42:59 PM »

And whatever happened to the movie he told us to go and see?

I certainly had never heard of it.

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« Reply #12 on: November 18, 2006, 03:54:12 PM »

Anybody did?

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« Reply #13 on: November 19, 2006, 06:09:50 AM »

Anybody did?
This is the movie he recommends to watch instead of OUTIW.....
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0064471/
No need to comment on this one.
As for his review, I got the feeling that he realized at the time that he saw something quite different and he really didn't know what to make out of it.
He simply lacked the guts to tell people to go and watch this movie. You have to remember that in 1969, you could hardly find a film critic praising openly Sergio and his movies, not even in Italy.
Having said that, I still find it irritating that the very same film critics who trashed OUTIW back in 1969, now all agree that it is an epic movie and a master piece.
Bet Mr. Canby is one of them!

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« Reply #14 on: November 19, 2006, 06:13:01 AM »

If he is still alive, that is...

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