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Author Topic: Spoilers flaws and interpretations - a summary  (Read 41738 times)
dave jenkins
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« Reply #45 on: November 10, 2007, 12:38:44 AM »

Of course, the Secretary Bailey thing is nothing compared with other implausibilities in the film. I think it was Pauline Kael who first pointed out how ridiculous it was for the gang to be using a locker at the train station as their safety deposit box (train station lockers are cleared out every 24 hours).

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« Reply #46 on: November 10, 2007, 01:33:07 AM »

Of course, the Secretary Bailey thing is nothing compared with other implausibilities in the film. I think it was Pauline Kael who first pointed out how ridiculous it was for the gang to be using a locker at the train station as their safety deposit box (train station lockers are cleared out every 24 hours).

Leone never told his movies were realistic. OUATIA is about 9999999999999 times more plausible than any of his other movies, but i think some of you guys are stuck with some reality problems with that film since it is the Leone movie that is closer to reality. WHich doesn't mean it HAS to be realistic.

In a movie, the director creates a world. Things that happens have to be plausible in THAT world, not our world. It means that as long as you're not shoked while watching the movie, i think the movie works. OUATIA works for me, obvously many things don't work for some of you.

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« Reply #47 on: November 10, 2007, 01:37:40 AM »

I second that.

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« Reply #48 on: November 10, 2007, 05:39:29 AM »

Of course, the Secretary Bailey thing is nothing compared with other implausibilities in the film. I think it was Pauline Kael who first pointed out how ridiculous it was for the gang to be using a locker at the train station as their safety deposit box (train station lockers are cleared out every 24 hours).

Maybe they were checking them every 24 hours.

As for after the 35 years, when Noodles comes back; Bailey could have put it there himself, just for the occasion.

« Last Edit: November 10, 2007, 08:31:35 AM by Tuco the ugly » Logged
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« Reply #49 on: November 10, 2007, 09:09:14 AM »

Someone on another board commented that in the 1920s and 1930s it was not common practice to clear out lockers daily.  Personally I've not seen any evidence either way but in those days people may not have felt as threatened by such things as bombs and drugs as they do today.
Yeah, I've read that too.

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« Reply #50 on: November 10, 2007, 09:55:22 AM »

"It seems fairly common in films for money to be left in train station lockers and there is a certain romance associated with stream trains and railway stations.  In the book The Hoods the gang keep their cash in banks, which are not usually perceived as very romantic places."

This is the best response to this complaint.  Leone simply wanted these crucial scenes - the pact made by the boys, and Noodles' discovery of the missing money, i.e., the betrayal - to occur within the romantic milieu of a train station, with all those evocative toots and whistles in the background.  I'm sure Leone was well aware of the improbable nature of this plot device, which only shows he wasn't afraid to dispense with "realism" if it happened to interfere with the cinematic effect he wanted.   

On a purely aesthetic level, the plot device also allows for a rather lovely example of narrative symmetry, as the lockers play an important role in all three time periods.

« Last Edit: November 10, 2007, 10:27:09 AM by Vaporing » Logged
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« Reply #51 on: November 10, 2007, 11:20:56 AM »

banks, which are not usually perceived as very romantic places.

Yeah, I've read that too.

« Last Edit: November 10, 2007, 02:09:32 PM by noodles_leone » Logged


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« Reply #52 on: November 10, 2007, 11:53:18 AM »

"It seems fairly common in films for money to be left in train station lockers and there is a certain romance associated with stream trains and railway stations.  In the book The Hoods the gang keep their cash in banks, which are not usually perceived as very romantic places."

This is the best response to this complaint.  Leone simply wanted these crucial scenes - the pact made by the boys, and Noodles' discovery of the missing money, i.e., the betrayal - to occur within the romantic milieu of a train station, with all those evocative toots and whistles in the background.  I'm sure Leone was well aware of the improbable nature of this plot device, which only shows he wasn't afraid to dispense with "realism" if it happened to interfere with the cinematic effect he wanted.   

On a purely aesthetic level, the plot device also allows for a rather lovely example of narrative symmetry, as the lockers play an important role in all three time periods.

And I have no problem with this. It's what we used to call poetic license. Films employ such things a lot (as, for example, when you have a running gun battle in which no one ever needs to reload). The only problem comes when the plot requires an improbable/implausible element for the story to work. That doesn't happen in the examples we've been discussing. The boys could have been putting their money in a hole in the ground and that wouldn't have changed the plot (but the train station works better aesthetically, as Vaporing notes above). Bailey could have simply been a wealthy campaign contributor or lobbyist type rather than an actual government official, with the same vague scandal taking him down (but "Secretary Bailey" sounds impressive, and it's a kind of shorthand for "Rich and Powerful Bailey"). But still, there's no reason NOT to call SL on such choices, if for no other reason than to generate a discussion such as this.

Again, the only time such things become a fightin' issue is when some dickfor tries to make the argument that none of it matters, or that all implausibilities among different films are equal. OUATIA isn't harmed by its many implausibilities (it may even be improved because of some), but that doesn't mean the same applies to all movies. A vast space separates the artistry of OUATIA from the idiocy of, say, the 2007 re-make of 3:10 to Yuma, where the implausibilities there rise so high they obscure whatever merit the work may have otherwise revealed.

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« Reply #53 on: November 14, 2007, 08:54:56 PM »

Again - he's a Commerce Secretary. Who cares? Roll Eyes

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« Reply #54 on: November 14, 2007, 11:17:16 PM »

The media, the opposition party, belt-way insiders, the law-enforcement community, lobbying groups, etc. Quite a few people, actually.

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« Reply #55 on: November 21, 2007, 02:36:40 PM »


YOUR YOUNGEST AND STRONGEST WILL FALL BY THE SWORD

Noodles is taken to prison. The prison gates close behind him and Max stares at an inscription above the prison gates. The movie then cuts to 1968 and an inscription above the entrance of a mausoleum in Riversdale Cemetery which reads:

YOUR YOUNGEST AND STRONGEST WILL FALL BY THE SWORD

It seems to be inferred that this inscription is deeply meaningful to Noodles and is the same as the inscription above the prison gates.

Whilst we never see the prison inscription clearly, it is safe to say that the length and number of words in the prison inscription do not match those in the mausoleum inscription. 

It's more like "THE NYC REFORMATORY FOR BOYS...".  In any event, thinking about it,  it would be unusual for a prison or reformatory to have as its motto:

YOUR YOUNGEST AND STRONGEST WILL FALL BY THE SWORD

In the screenplay, there is no mention of an inscription above the prison gates and the mausoleum inscription reads:

"Your men will fall by the sword, your heroes in the fight" (Isaiah, 3:25).

You're right about the reformatory/prison plaque.   I think it was shot that way intentionally so we would not be able to read it.  I'm sure something could of been done with that location shot if Sergio wanted the plaque to be read by the viewer.  Not sure if he decided then or afterward that the inscription would be one of his time segues.  Taking the viewer from the 30's to the 60's like the peephole, suitcase, station....  In some ways the inscription has more meaning for Max.  It's his point of view reading the plaque which we don't actually see.  He's the one that built the mausoleum to bring back Noodles for his own purposes.  That inscription works a little better than having "Why go on living when we can bury you for $49.50". Grin    It becomes significant to Noodles when he enters the mausoleum because he's going back to the past behind the slamming door of the crypt instead of the slamming gates of the reformatory/prison.  I think he also notices it and starts making some connections of who and why he was brought back.  I think because the viewer doesn't read or see the inscription, it does in a way impress that this inscription is meaningful to Max.  In that defining scene in which Noodles kills Bugsy, Max is prepared to rush out.  Noodles gets there before him.  Max falls back when the police arrive.  Another difference in the script.  I think in the script, Max attempts to rush out to help Noodles.  In the conclusion, if you interpret the end as Max committing suicide, in a way he died by the sword or the thrashing razors of the garbage truck.  He made decisions and had to live with the consequences.     

Not sure about the point of whether the inscription or bible reference would be realistic for the prison/reformatory or a state facility.  Sometimes we do see quotes or passages from the bible where they're modernized or rephrased for public and secular usage like this.  I see where you say the script refers to Isaiah. 

"Your men will fall by the sword, your heroes in the fight". 

I always thought it was a reference to Little Caesar which opened with the quote by Matthew 26.52
"For all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword!" 

That would comment on the character of Rico and what happens to him.  Sergio referring to the line also as a statement for reform.  Yet the script obviously invokes Isaiah which is even darker.  Not only will those die that seek violence and bear the sword, but your heroes will die as well.

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Continuity error when Noodles is collected from prison?

Max collects Noodles from prison in daylight but it's nighttime when they arrive at Fat Moe's.

We never know the exact timings, the location of the prison, the distance between the two places or if Max took a detour. In any event it's not beyond imagination that Max collected Noodles at say 5.30pm and arrived at the Fat Moe's at say 7.00pm by which time night had fallen.

The two scenes according to the screenplay:

SCENE 76 - STREET IN FRONT OF A PRISON (1931) Exterior. Sunset.

SCENE 77 - STREET IN FRONT OF FAT MOE'S (1931) Exterior. Night.

I really don't make too much of this.  I think there's another thread with some discussion on the time element.  I think you're right it could be explained as late afternoon into evening.  Who knows how long Noodles boiled.  He would of had a lot of years of passion to displace.  Maybe Max had a go.  He followed Noodles more than once in this department.  Maybe Max and Noodles had a heart to heart to bring Noodles forward on the business.  Just another one of those situations where I don't think every minute or hour off camera needs to be accounted for.  Sometimes I think the editing history of the film makes that analysis worse.  In watching the outtake of the documentary, I think James Woods points out that one of the important things for Sergio in that particular scene was he wanted the rain when Noodles is free and meets Max.  Doesn't Woods say it was an overcast day but they had no idea it would actually rain?  When they filmed it started to rain.  He laughs and says Sergio expected and demanded it.  I think in this film, Sergio subverts and destroys time repeatedly, so on the small scale of that scene into the speakeasy scene....I have no problem with it.

« Last Edit: November 21, 2007, 02:48:44 PM by Noodles_SlowStir » Logged

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« Reply #56 on: November 23, 2007, 10:18:32 AM »

The media, the opposition party, belt-way insiders, the law-enforcement community, lobbying groups, etc. Quite a few people, actually.

Hey Jenkins, this is the Johnson administration we're talking about. LBJ wasn't exactly scrupulous when it came to politics. Roll Eyes

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« Reply #57 on: November 23, 2007, 11:57:37 AM »

Well, yeah, Robert Caro has made a career on just that point. But LBJ wasn't impervious to scandal, right? And his political instincts were sharp. If he'd seen Bailey coming, he would have ducked.

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« Reply #58 on: November 23, 2007, 08:05:07 PM »

The scene where Noodles is taken to prison is handled well by Leone.  The script/screenplay is a bit too dramatic and doesn't contain an obvious match cut to Noodles staring at the inscription on the mausoleum.

Youíre right about the script and film treatment of the scene where Noodles is taken away.  I noticed that as well.  He did make it less melodramatic and so much more effective in the film.

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I think that this thread was conceived as a summary of flaws and events in the movie which viewers may find puzzling.  My previous post was in no way a criticism of the film but is included merely for the sake of completeness.

A1, this is a nice thread.  There are a lot of interesting comments and discussions.  It comes through how much you like the film.  I read the first post and I guess understand the origins of the thread.  For me, I find Iíve come back to it more than a few times.  I really havenít had much to add.  Iíve been thinking about some of the points and really didnít want to post for posting.  I definitely would like to be a dickfor of the third kind and be able to offer something reasonable for the plausibility of Secretary Bailey or even Noodles/Moe not having seen Bailey in the media, but I really canít (although I suppose some would say Iím a dickfor anyway  Grin).  At one point, I pondered the corruption angle as possibly a way that Max could be confirmed under his new false identity.  As pointed out, it doesnít really hold up.  Even partisan politics of the 60's variety would of probably got him.

I think we do look at this through a lens of our times. There was a post that seemed to raise that idea with the media.  Extreme partisan politics, being real deep into a post Watergate cynicism (with Iran-Contra, Clinton impeachment, Jack Abramoff and numerous other scandals), media out of control that reports anything and everything (perhaps with less of a public service dedication as opposed to a profit motivation for the large corporations which own and operate it).  Yet, if you try to put it in historical perspective for that period (Iím definitely not an expert in that area)...it still would seem unlikely.

I liked a lot of the things that were said in different ways in posts by moviesceleton, noodles_leone and Vapor as far as plot points being devised for dramatic purpose in the film (the gang using a locker in the railroad station, Max being a Secretary of Commerce in a presidential administration to heighten his dramatic rise and fall).  I definitely agree with these thoughts.  Iíve been thinking about the film along those lines for sometime in relation to the final act with all the implausibilities.  I think we saw this kind of thing with DYS, the english name issue and use of the phrase.  I think Sergio loved that line by Coburn so much from a dramatic standpoint (heís right, itís cool everytime) that he wouldnít listen to anyone that tried to tell him it wasnít a popular phrase of that time.  I think OUATIA, maybe sets itself up for more of these issues, because heís approaching his material with a lens that attempts to get even closer in someways than the other films (to certain characters, details of the period and events).  Yet, OUATIA, for all this greater character development and detail of an actual time and period, is a..... once upon a time story.   In his mind, these stories fuse the real with fantasy.  I really think thereís something to this when thinking about the final act.  I donít think itís a case of being unable to address plot points because the adaptation source ran out (ended in the thirties and does not include the 60's segment), or that there were so many writers involved or that the editing problems were factors.   OUATIA has plot "contrivances" much like fairy tales and fables where everything seems cyclical and interconnected (Deborah ends up with Max, Max is still alive and obtains a high position of political power almost becoming the fallen king of our fairy tale complete with throne)  How much and to what extent has Leone incorporated elements of fantasy within his story set in a realistic time and setting to complete his message and his charactersí story cycle? These seem to be the "inconsistencies" that are always talked about as the "flaws".

In an interview included in Once Upon A Time In Italy The Westerns Of Sergio Leone (pg 77), Leone states:

The films are for grown-ups, but they remain fairy tales and have the impact of fairy tales.  For me, cinema is about imagination, and the imagination is best communicated in the form of parables...meaning fairy tales.  Not in the Walt Disney sense, though.  They draw attention to themselves as fairy tales...everything is made up and cleaned up and sugary sweet, and this makes the tale less suggestive.  To me, anyway.  I think that fairy tales capture the audienceís imagination when the setting is realistic rather than fantastical.  The fusion of realistic setting and fantasy story can give film a sense of myth, of legend, Once upon a time......

Maybe Iím being subjective in my thinking.  By no means am I suggesting this approach releases Sergio or the film from scrutiny on these details, but if one is going to analyze those details so closely, shouldnít his artistic intentions also be considered?  I could be wrong, but I think thatís the gist of what Iím hearing in quite a few of the posts on this thread.

I really liked the way Dave lays it out here...

Quote
Again, the only time such things become a fightin' issue is when some dickfor tries to make the argument that none of it matters, or that all implausibilities among different films are equal. OUATIA isn't harmed by its many implausibilities (it may even be improved because of some), but that doesn't mean the same applies to all movies.

I do shake my head when someone likes to put down the worth of the film as a whole by  focussing on these points.....almost like a vocation on every possible forum.  On the other hand, differences in viewpoint and disagreement are good things when it can create more discussion and allow everyone to get closer to the material.....  I guess if it can be some kind of dialogue and exchange rather than assistance in tweaking someoneís nonsense.   

If someone really admires Leone cinema, I think they would have an appreciation of OUATIA.  Itís still my favorite Leone film.  Itís a beautiful piece of cinematic art.  A masterpiece.  He put so much of himself into that production, and itís all there for everyone to see and appreciate.

« Last Edit: November 23, 2007, 08:36:07 PM by Noodles_SlowStir » Logged

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« Reply #59 on: November 24, 2007, 08:51:38 PM »

I just wanted to say this proves that many people do love this movie (me included). Most of the people that participated in this topic tried to make logical points, actually thinking of this movie (what I find extremely rare outside of this board). That is the greatness of OUATIA; people have the need to talk about it with someone, and share opinions, even if they're different. This isn't just another ''I love it - I hate it, just because I do, fuck you if you think different'' thread. Plus, like someone said before, spotting all these 'flaws' doesn't reduce OUATIA's value.

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