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Author Topic: my opinion on the friendship, growth of the two characters  (Read 10134 times)
Lac qui Parle
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« on: May 30, 2008, 08:53:01 AM »

It was hard to write an appropriate subject line for this. Mostly this board seems quiet. So I’ve decided to just throw out a new, robust opinion. Feel free to reply. Or not. Or spam my email address with Viagra ads.



DYS

1. I could go either way on the cinematography on this film. I hate the stupid “Mesa Verde” animation that plays when Juan meets John on the road. Why did Leone fall prey to such a cheap visual device? It’s so unlike him. Downright campy! Of course, then there are later shots that are just extraordinary. Like the eyes through the poster and an amazing 60-second pan across a pile of “dead.” Sergio Leone was clearly bi-polar.

2. I never took to the apparent friendship between Juan and John. I don’t buy it. Juan only stuck around for the money, Mallory was only using Juan because he needed someone ballsy to do his dirty work. So am I supposed to buy the heartache at the end? There was no friendship there, only a convenient partnership. If Juan felt anything, it was just from the sudden loss of his family. If Mallory felt anything, it was sympathy for an Everyman. I’m not sure that counts.

3. Not to mention that neither character does any real growing throughout the story. Juan was a cad in the beginning and a cad at the end. He is certainly not going to pick up Mallory’s torch. He’s just going to go back home and continue being a “chicken thief.” Even when he kills Don Jaime on the train, he may not have taken the money (did he?) but he certainly wanted to. The slaying just didn’t feel vengeful; it felt more like impatient frustration. Like he got spooked and fired. I have a feeling that at least Mallory learned something from Juan. But Juan was thick and, frankly, that made him boring.

4. I also have a feeling Mallory’s back story was way, WAY over my head. He was a freedom fighter in Ireland? And his friend betrayed him? And the superfluous girlfriend? That whole backstory could have been chopped in the editting room and it wouldn't even be missed. You don’t need to see his history to empathize, to understand his motivations. I suppose we kind of need it to see his response Villega. Maybe. But audiences could figure it out regardless.

Best scene: freeing the prisoners at the bank
Worst scene: Mallory’s back story
IMDb rating: 6/10
SL ranking: 4/6






« Last Edit: May 30, 2008, 08:58:35 AM by Lac qui Parle » Logged
dave jenkins
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« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2008, 09:09:05 AM »

Okay, you're a girl, so I'm gonna give you a break. Just this once.

1. The "stupid Mesa Verde animation" doesn't just play, it plays with the stupid children's choir singing along on the soundtrack. Yeah, it's a totally incongruous moment . . . which must be why I find it so funny. Think of it as SL's Monty Python moment prior to his return to normal programming. Lighten up and enjoy.

2. The Juan-John thing starts out the way you describe, but it changes over the course of the film as a result of their shared experiences. The discovery of the dead kids in the cave is a transforming event for both . . . by the time the two are in the box car and Governor Jaime walks in on them, Mallory has enough empathy for Juan to offer him a chance at revenge. And by the end of the film, the two have grown exceedingly close: Mallory's passing devastates Juan (the music tells us so).

3. We don't know what would have happened if Don Jaime hadn't made the move on the train that spooked Juan into firing. It's very possible Juan was on the point of renouncing revenge (a theme of the film that Mallory later articulates). We do know that after Jaime is killed, there is a kind of catharsis for Juan (maybe for Mallory as well) and we get to hear "The March of the Beggars" theme--so long absent from the soundtrack--again.

4. The backstory is necessary to understand Mallory's stance on revenge during his final confrontation with Villega. But the flashbacks don't simply operate to supply info; they're also there to symbolize a prelapsarian Eden, to provide images of what Mallory has lost and what he longs for. And the final flashback, coming when it does, provides a beautific vision, one that not only comforts Mallory at the point of dying but may also be an intimation of his ultimate destiny in the Final State.

I may not have persuaded you on any of these four points. I don't have to, because Leone can do the job much better than I. Watch the film 20 more times and see if you don't change your mind.

« Last Edit: May 30, 2008, 09:38:13 AM by dave jenkins » Logged


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Lac qui Parle
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« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2008, 10:20:22 AM »

Okay, you're a girl, so I'm gonna give you a break. Just this once.

I may not have persuaded you on any of these four points. I don't have to, because Leone can do the job much better than I. Watch the film 20 more times and see if you don't change your mind.

And yet I politely disagree.


1. The actors should be able to show delight, thus making the animation ... well, silly. It’s not that I need to lighten up, dave, it just seems like two very juxtaposed ways of filmmaking.

2. Everything you’re saying about the Juan-John relationship, I see that I am supposed to get it. I see that all the cards are there, everything is laid out in front of me in perfect order. My exact words were, “I don’t buy it.” This also could be because I am a girl. (I’m not going to take offense at your comment. I’m going to use it right back for the sake of argument.) Maybe the relationship between Juan-John is the sort that men have, that I would have no knowledge of? So I can’t see it or possibly understand it, no matter how sweet and soft the soundtrack plays? Fascinating, no?

Also, I never saw Juan treat his children with any sort of respect. He was a horrible role model. His family never spoke and was never developed as individuals in any way. So the loss of these characters didn’t really tug at my heart strings. Not feeling empathy myself, how can I expect Mallory to?

Tuco and Blondie had a stronger rapport than these two. Any day.

3. Again with the soundtrack? Since when is the soundtrack needed to propel the story? Soundtrack is just there for mood. I shouldn’t have to rely on it for themes like a “kind of catharsis for Juan.” If this was a play, there would be no soundtrack at all. Would the moment on the train still work?

4. Maybe. I can see how the flashback adds to the story, but it also could be subtracted. It’s like a metaphorical X.

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« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2008, 11:52:52 AM »

3. Again with the soundtrack? Since when is the soundtrack needed to propel the story? Soundtrack is just there for mood. I shouldn’t have to rely on it for themes like a “kind of catharsis for Juan.” If this was a play, there would be no soundtrack at all. Would the moment on the train still work?
Old Jungle Saying: the music is 40% of the film (except when it's a Leone-Morricone collaboration, where it's more like 50%).

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« Reply #4 on: May 30, 2008, 03:54:45 PM »

It was hard to write an appropriate subject line for this. Mostly this board seems quiet. So I’ve decided to just throw out a new, robust opinion. Feel free to reply. Or not. Or spam my email address with Viagra ads.



DYS

1. I could go either way on the cinematography on this film. I hate the stupid “Mesa Verde” animation that plays when Juan meets John on the road. Why did Leone fall prey to such a cheap visual device? It’s so unlike him. Downright campy! Of course, then there are later shots that are just extraordinary. Like the eyes through the poster and an amazing 60-second pan across a pile of “dead.” Sergio Leone was clearly bi-polar.

2. I never took to the apparent friendship between Juan and John. I don’t buy it. Juan only stuck around for the money, Mallory was only using Juan because he needed someone ballsy to do his dirty work. So am I supposed to buy the heartache at the end? There was no friendship there, only a convenient partnership. If Juan felt anything, it was just from the sudden loss of his family. If Mallory felt anything, it was sympathy for an Everyman. I’m not sure that counts.

3. Not to mention that neither character does any real growing throughout the story. Juan was a cad in the beginning and a cad at the end. He is certainly not going to pick up Mallory’s torch. He’s just going to go back home and continue being a “chicken thief.” Even when he kills Don Jaime on the train, he may not have taken the money (did he?) but he certainly wanted to. The slaying just didn’t feel vengeful; it felt more like impatient frustration. Like he got spooked and fired. I have a feeling that at least Mallory learned something from Juan. But Juan was thick and, frankly, that made him boring.

4. I also have a feeling Mallory’s back story was way, WAY over my head. He was a freedom fighter in Ireland? And his friend betrayed him? And the superfluous girlfriend? That whole backstory could have been chopped in the editting room and it wouldn't even be missed. You don’t need to see his history to empathize, to understand his motivations. I suppose we kind of need it to see his response Villega. Maybe. But audiences could figure it out regardless.

Best scene: freeing the prisoners at the bank
Worst scene: Mallory’s back story
IMDb rating: 6/10
SL ranking: 4/6




Oh my! I agreed with hardly any of that Cry


I agreed fully with Jenkins' assesment (is this a first?).


Parle, I would take Jenkins' advice and watch the film a second time.
I recall not liking it too much upon first viewing but it weasled its way up into my favorites list when viewing it a second and third (and fourth anf fifth, sixth...) time.
It seems that a lot of things go over a viewers head (at least it did for me) upon initial viewing.

When you watch it again let us know what you think.
If you still dislike it then there is no talking to you. Angry

« Last Edit: May 30, 2008, 03:57:12 PM by The Firecracker » Logged



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Lac qui Parle
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« Reply #5 on: May 30, 2008, 04:01:13 PM »


If you still dislike it then there is no talking to you. Angry

I don't remember saying I didn't like the film. Hmm. Are you referring to my 6 rating?

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« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2008, 04:05:43 PM »

I don't remember saying I didn't like the film.


Perhaps not, but your comments were more than enough for me to discern that you weren't a big fan.
Not that there is anything wrong with that. If we all agreed Leone could do no wrong this board would get boring pretty fast.
And it already has in some cases.

Consider yourself a b(reast)reath of fresh air!

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Tuco the ugly
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« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2008, 04:09:40 PM »

Who likes this movie anyway?!

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dave jenkins
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« Reply #8 on: May 30, 2008, 06:04:21 PM »

People who have seen it a dozen or so times AND/OR have had all their testosterone injections.

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« Reply #9 on: May 30, 2008, 06:06:42 PM »

People who have seen it a dozen or so times AND/OR have had all their testosterone injections.

 Grin


Classic.



I suppose we kind of need it to see his response Villega. Maybe. But audiences could figure it out regardless.


I'm not so sure about that. Some people I've watched the movie with don't get his motivations even with the flashbacks.


I'm sorry, but I don't agree at all with your assessment; especially with points 2 and 3. You'd have to be blind to miss the character development.

You're entitled to your own opinion and I respect that, but I can't see any valid arguments in your analysis. That's my opinion.

« Last Edit: May 30, 2008, 06:14:49 PM by The Peacemaker » Logged

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« Reply #10 on: May 30, 2008, 06:19:16 PM »

Good one. (BTW; I was joking.)

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« Reply #11 on: May 30, 2008, 09:21:34 PM »

(I know you were) Grin

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« Reply #12 on: May 30, 2008, 09:54:41 PM »

It was hard to write an appropriate subject line for this. Mostly this board seems quiet. So I’ve decided to just throw out a new, robust opinion. Feel free to reply. Or not. Or spam my email address with Viagra ads.



DYS

1. I could go either way on the cinematography on this film. I hate the stupid “Mesa Verde” animation that plays when Juan meets John on the road. Why did Leone fall prey to such a cheap visual device? It’s so unlike him. Downright campy! Of course, then there are later shots that are just extraordinary. Like the eyes through the poster and an amazing 60-second pan across a pile of “dead.” Sergio Leone was clearly bi-polar.

2. I never took to the apparent friendship between Juan and John. I don’t buy it. Juan only stuck around for the money, Mallory was only using Juan because he needed someone ballsy to do his dirty work. So am I supposed to buy the heartache at the end? There was no friendship there, only a convenient partnership. If Juan felt anything, it was just from the sudden loss of his family. If Mallory felt anything, it was sympathy for an Everyman. I’m not sure that counts.

3. Not to mention that neither character does any real growing throughout the story. Juan was a cad in the beginning and a cad at the end. He is certainly not going to pick up Mallory’s torch. He’s just going to go back home and continue being a “chicken thief.” Even when he kills Don Jaime on the train, he may not have taken the money (did he?) but he certainly wanted to. The slaying just didn’t feel vengeful; it felt more like impatient frustration. Like he got spooked and fired. I have a feeling that at least Mallory learned something from Juan. But Juan was thick and, frankly, that made him boring.

4. I also have a feeling Mallory’s back story was way, WAY over my head. He was a freedom fighter in Ireland? And his friend betrayed him? And the superfluous girlfriend? That whole backstory could have been chopped in the editting room and it wouldn't even be missed. You don’t need to see his history to empathize, to understand his motivations. I suppose we kind of need it to see his response Villega. Maybe. But audiences could figure it out regardless.

Best scene: freeing the prisoners at the bank
Worst scene: Mallory’s back story
IMDb rating: 6/10
SL ranking: 4/6

Just out of curiosity... did you see the uncut version or the 138 minute (or less) one? I never cared for that one much, but when I saw the 155 minute version in my film class I fell in love with it. I'll concede it has some flaws - I think the second half is a bit weak (the character of Gunter Ruiz is perhaps the lamest villain in cinema history, for a start) - but it's still a great film, just not up to snuff with Leone's masterpiece trio. It's definitely better than FOD or FAFDM, in my opinion.

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« Reply #13 on: May 30, 2008, 10:24:44 PM »

Groggy makes a good point. You need to see the fullest version possible, and the final flashback should be in its complete form (it should run about 3 minutes).

I agree that DYS is better than AFOD and FAFDM. I would go even further than Groggy and say that all 4 of Leone's final films are of equal merit. In addition, the Once Upon a Time trio has to be taken as a unit to fully appreciate the vision of friendship and betrayal SL develops over the course of the three films. It is a stunning achievement.

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« Reply #14 on: June 02, 2008, 07:09:02 AM »

But Juan was thick and, frankly, that made him boring.


Or like an animal? "Because that's all they are... animals."

Some of the points brought up have been addressed already so I'll try and add something new. This is arguably Leone's first film with any sort of character development. Prior to GIU LA TESTA only two passions ruled, greed and revenge. Here both characters ultimately transcend these base motivations and the film becomes about friendship and even love. Mallory does not save Juan from the firing squad for any other motive other than that he cares about him.

Coupled with this is Leone's preoccupation with violence and it's relationship to childishness and an inability to grow up, something he would develop to a greater extent in his final picture. Looking back at Juan's "visions" of Mallory and Mesa Verde, yes the animations are cheesy, however as seen as point of view shots they are perfectly apt. Juan is a peasant with no formal teaching. As a child much of his imagination would have been formed by the Church. From a Catholic country with a Fascist past, Leone and his collaborators would have been perfectly aware of the way Church and state can conspire to keep a population in a never ending state of immaturity (the theme of Fellini's AMACORD which came out two years after Leone's film). As such a character like Juan would have though in the Gothic imagery we see here, with the Eucharist appearing in the bank at Mesa Verde and the holy scroll hanging over Malloy's head (Leone is cheating though, we see a text, but Juan is illiterate and he wouldn't be able to read it). As such he is remains as much as an impulsive child as his extended family. One of the most moving moments of the film is when the Mirandas blissfully arrive at the beautifully tiled station of Mesa Verde to Morricone's haunting tune of the same name. And anyway, is a violent spaghetti western really the place we expect to see a bandit as a role model to his children??

Leone is never really known for his dialogue. Yes we can all rattle off some classic, pithy one liners but not whole blocks of oratory. His illiteracy aside, Juan gives the best speech of any character in any Leone picture when he delivers his opinion on revolutions, a fantastic slab of cynicism to which Mallory has no reply ("They're DEAD! That's your revolution"). He is not as thick as either the coach passengers nor Mallory originally think he is. As the whole "present" of the narrative is revolutionary based and reflected Leone's own disillusioned world view at the time, Mallory's backstory is essential not only for establishing his immensely complex feelings of guilt, but also to bring that classic Marxist preoccupation, class into the mix.

Some more debate on this subject was here:

http://www.fistful-of-leone.com/forums/index.php?topic=2093.msg18548#msg18548

 Anyway, great to be talking Leone again, and obviously I'm a little bit partial to this character myself. Viva Miranda!

« Last Edit: June 02, 2008, 07:12:20 AM by Juan Miranda » Logged

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