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Question: Was Noodles dreaming the whole thing?
Yes
No

Author Topic: Was it a dream?  (Read 18060 times)
MatViola
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« Reply #45 on: October 19, 2009, 07:54:13 PM »

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He didn't. The idea came afterwards, and when it was suggested to him he did not deny it. He may have just been in Showman Mode at that point, however, happy to accept anything that would allow for the broadest possible acceptance/audience. But there is no proof that SL actually went into the project with the dream/reality concept in mind.

Actually, there is. Here's a quote from an article Stuart Kaminsky wrote about the film around the time of its original release:

"The first script I received from Leone indicated in a covering note that he was quite concerned with two aspects of the script: the fantasy/fairy-tale nature of the story and the importance of time as both a theme of the dialogue and an element in the presentation."

In a footnote he quotes Leone as saying in the note: "And it is this unrealistic vein that interests me the most, the vein of the fable, though a fable for our own times and told in our own terms. And, above all, the aspects of hallucination, or a dream journey, induced by the opium with which the film begins and ends, like a haven and a refuge."

Kaminsky says, "This quote is taken from the note given to the author and other members of the writing and production staff by Leone."

« Last Edit: October 19, 2009, 07:58:09 PM by MatViola » Logged
dave jenkins
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« Reply #46 on: October 19, 2009, 08:22:49 PM »

Please give me a full citation, chapter and verse.

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MatViola
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« Reply #47 on: October 19, 2009, 08:33:59 PM »

Please give me a full citation, chapter and verse.

Chapter 3 of the 1985 edition of Kaminsky's American Film Genres. The chapter is entitled 'Once Upon a Time in America as Narrative Model."

I don't own the book, but I printed this chapter from it years ago.

http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/10850494

« Last Edit: October 19, 2009, 08:46:01 PM by MatViola » Logged
cigar joe
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« Reply #48 on: October 20, 2009, 03:42:11 AM »

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In the same book, Kaminsky also comments on why, if it is supposed to be a dream, real objects from the future were used:

"Is the whole tale an opium dream by Noodles - a dream in which what he projects as a wasted life will be justified in the future, in which, in fantasy, he will discover that he did not betray his friends at all but was, himself, the tragic victim who becomes the tragic hero?

A problem with this, though it is a possibility favored by the director, Leone, is that the period information in 1968 is contextually specific. In a novel, the illusion might well carry. In the film, we see television, 1968 automobiles, 1968 clothing, a frisbee, etc. The information is not a distortion alone, but if it is an opium fantasy, then it is the fantasy of a seer. We might also argue that we are dealing with a problem of convention. The fantasy of the future will lose the context of assumed naturalism of that future (which is, in this case, 1968, our past) which deviates from our experience of that world. Simply put, we have a sense of what existed in 1968. Were that to be confounded in a projection clearly seen as fantasy from 1933, it would change the genre of perception. Note, for example, the odd sensation of examining the "future" in a film that is now past. Just Imagine, Things to Come, and The Time Machine - all three predict a future that did not come to be, but that was in the realm of science fiction.

What, as in the case of Once Upon a Time in America, do we do if we do not want to deal with the assumption of how the future will look to someone fantasizing in 1933."

But this is why the quote I recently found on IMDB is interesting, the author suggests that Noodles is not dreaming in 1933 but in the present and looking back on his life in a dream/hallucination which would explain the existance of frisbees the cars, etc., etc.

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dave jenkins
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« Reply #49 on: October 20, 2009, 06:11:36 PM »

Chapter 3 of the 1985 edition of Kaminsky's American Film Genres. The chapter is entitled 'Once Upon a Time in America as Narrative Model."

I don't own the book, but I printed this chapter from it years ago.

http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/10850494
Huh, for some reason I didn't know about that book, thanks. That link you sent was great: not only did it tell me there was a copy in a library 2 miles away (@ SUNY Purchase) it also linked me to a seller at amazon who was offering the book for 1 cent (you had to pay 3.99 for shipping, but still.) Needless to say, I've ordered a copy and will take a look as soon as it arrives.

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twood
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« Reply #50 on: November 25, 2009, 09:28:33 AM »

The problems with supporting exclusively the dream theory:

Objects and depicted events in the 1968 scenes - television sets, outside broadcasts, cars, car rentals, speakers in the mausoleum, frisbees, Jimi Hendrix, CCTV and surveillance system in Bailey's mansion etc

A viewer who watches a movie for almost 4 hours to discover that it was all just a dream may feel disappointed

Leones' statement that the film offers a double reading

Leones' statement that it is maybe the first time a film has actually finished on a flashback

Leone's written note to Stuart Kaminsky and other members of the writing and production staff in August 1981:

"Time and the years are one other essential element in the film. In the source of them, the characters have changed, some of them rejecting their past identities and even their names - and yet in spite of themselves, they have remained bound to the past and to the people they knew and were. They have gone separate ways; some have realized their dreams, for better or worse; others have failed. But growing from the same embryo, as it were, after the careless self-confidence of youth, they are united again by the force that had made them enemies and driven them apart - Time."

The problems with all the movie being reality:

The practicalities of gangsters leaving millions of dollars in a railway station locker

The complex plan of Max faking his own death

Max hitching up with Deborah, moving back to New York and rising to a prominent governmental position without Fat Moe, Noodles or Carol knowing anything about it or the authorities discovering his past.

Deborah not being withered by age

Leones' statement that the film offers a double reading

Leone's written note to Stuart Kaminsky and other members of the writing and production staff in August 1981:
"And it is this unrealistic vein that interests me most, the vein of the fable, though a fable for our own times and told in our own terms. And, above all, the aspects of hallucination, or a dream journey, induced by the opium with which the film begins and ends, like a haven and a refuge."

A director has limited input into a film's final meaning and interpretation. It's ultimately down to viewers to decide for themselves what they are are seeing on screen and how to interpret it.

In addition to Leone, there was Harry Grey, five other credited writers, one uncredited writer and the late Stuart Kaminsky. In the chapter on OUATIA in the revised edition of Kaminsky's book "American Film Genres" he summarises:

"A final point worth noting again is that the film never comes to the audience's present or an approximation of it. There is no historical present for the audience. The closest we come to the assumed "now" of the viewer is 1968. The entire film, therefore, is set in the past. There is no assumed present.

Noodles begins and ends alone, friendless, womanless, with no family - only memories and time, which, ultimately, may be all that any of us have. Once Upon A Time in America, for all of its allusion to fantasy and fairy tale, suggests that the power of the fairy tale, the myth, the fantasy, is to bring the viewer and Noodles to an ultimate reality, that the fairy-tale beginning of "Once Upon A Time" really means that what we have is a truth about all tales and conclusions and the vanity of believing that we have anything beyond our imagination and mythology."

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