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Author Topic: Conversation(s) avec Sergio Leone - Noel Simsolo  (Read 56668 times)
cigar joe
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« Reply #30 on: June 24, 2009, 06:39:14 AM »

Again good stuff  Afro

I think what Leone is referring to about Gare Du Nord in Paris are the shots of Noodles on the platform when Debora leaves for Hollywood we see the train and him looking at her through the window. We know the waiting room was shot in Hoboken. So it looks as if there are quite a few international touchstones for this film in Montreal, New York, Paris, Rome.

Anyway here are some time markers if we want to place the film in a time bracket:

The first Grand Central Terminal was built in 1871 by shipping and railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt. However, it soon became obsolete when steam locomotives were banned after a catastrophic train collision in 1902 that killed 17 and injured 38. Within months, plans were underway to demolish the existing station and build a new terminal for electric trains.

The new Grand Central Terminal officially opened on February 2, 1913.

Incidentally I mentioned this to dj when we did our tour, the fact that the station that Noodles and Max hid the gangs suitcase full of cash couldn't have been Grand Central because it was already converted to electric trains by the time the story took place Brooklyn had a terminal for the Long Island RR that would still have had steam but later when Noodles leaves for Buffalo he buys a direct ticket no train on the Long Island RR would have went there, only the New Jersey terminals would have provided direct access to Buffalo Its probably the Lackawanna RR that is inferred. So there would be no steam or steam whistles in Grand Central Terminal

Brooklyn Bridge 1883

Manhattan Bridge December 31, 1909,

Williamsburg Bridge opened on December 19, 1903 to horse-drawn carriages, bicycles and pedestrians. However, due to complications between Greater New York and the privately owned railway companies, elevated trains did not run on the bridge until 1908.

Volstead Act (Prohibition) Oct 18, 1919

So this would give us between 1909 to the 1960’s with the bootlegging sequence after 1919.

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« Reply #31 on: June 24, 2009, 07:31:24 AM »

Thanks for the comments cigar joe.

As you say the Gare Du Nord in Paris was used for the scene where Deborah leaves for Hollywood by steam train.  There is unreleased footage filmed at the Brasserie Julien in Paris where Deborah waits for the train and the locker scenes were filmed at Hoboken.  I think steam trains and railway lockers gave the feelings that Leone was trying to convey in the movie.  It may be a case of style and vision taking precedence over practicality and historically correct facts. Harry Grey mentions Grand Central in his book but steam trains and lockers for the gang's cash were a Leone invention.

The 322 page shooting script gives lots of details and dates, including a 14 year old Noodles watching a 13 year old Deborah.

In the movie, the dates of birth of the gang members have been altered slightly.

Inscriptions inside the mausoleum:

Maximilian Bercovicz "Max" 1905 - 1933

Patrick Goldberg "Patsy" 1907 - 1933

Philip Stein "Cockeye" 1907 - 1933

Mausoleum erected by their friend and brother David Aaronson "Noodles" 1967

Noodles watching TV in Fat Moe's - Nov 10 1968

Noodles' year of birth 1907

Deborah's year of birth 1908


1921-23 - First time period

The kids growing up.  The death of Dominic.  Noodles taken to a reformatory.


1931-1933 - Second time period

Noodles comes out of prison - the adult gang - Max fakes his death


1968 - Third time period

Noodles goes back to New York after being away for 35 years - Secretary Bailey


Other dates

Deborah leaves for Hollywood 1932 (but newspaper at railway station is a copy of New York Times Wednesday Dec 6 1933)

The newspaper at the beach - Friday Morning Nov 20 1933 (ficticious date)

The Volstead Act prohibiting the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors - February 1 1920 (effective date) to December 5 1933


« Last Edit: September 03, 2010, 02:16:39 AM by HG » Logged
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« Reply #32 on: June 24, 2009, 12:33:41 PM »

Bit of trivia.

The train they used in the scene at the Gare Du Nord in Paris was the Orient Express, also if you look closely you can see the sign Voie 13 and a very 80's French locomotive Shocked

Think all the smoke was probably meant to hide these gaffes!

Pity they didn't have CGI in those days Grin

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« Reply #33 on: June 25, 2009, 04:02:06 AM »

Do you have a fond liking for Noodles?
I wrote a text on it.  I will read it to you.  It will explain my relationship with him ...  Listen: I saw Noodles as a child in the Lower East Side of New York.  I saw him as a little boy in the service of racketeers.  Then I saw him kill Christians with passion and calculation.  After that, I watched him expose himself all alone to carry out a war without success against the gods of organized crime.  But Noodles was not Dutch Schultz or Peter Lorre, Alan Ladd or Lucky Luciano, Al Capone or Humphrey Bogart.  Nobody paid attention to him: the view of the world had passed by him as if he was the window of a bar.  He was Noodles.  And that's all.  A small Jew from the ghetto.  A Mr. Nobody who had tried his luck with a Thompson submachine gun in his hand during a period when alcohol was banned and the game of urban violence was still young. 

Like thousands of other young offenders, survivors of gang warfare, then locked behind the bars of a penitentiary, he was crucified on a cross too big for him.  Even in summer, he wore a coat caricaturing the aesthetics of the gangster.  But despite its villainous appearance and form evoking the Actor's Studio, this coat floated on him.  Too big, as if it was a gift from a mischievous Good Samaritan to some drunk from the Bowery.

It really did not suit him.  And things turned out very badly for him.  Betrayed, hunted, unknown, torn, he had to flee.  But I was solidly behind him for other reasons.  The Hoods confirmed for me an old idea.  The idea that America was a world of children...  Chaplin too, in his time, had the same thought.  And today, I am sure my friend Steven Spielberg thinks it.  Noodles was one of those children.  Not a boy scout of Frank Capra, with the aim of helping Mr. Smith save the world.  He was more a child who showed his teeth and clenched his knife in his pocket.  Something like a unlucky Mickey Rooney who has never met Spencer Tracy as a priest in Boys Town, the city of kids...

The scene where Noodles violates Deborah seems crucial.
Absolutely.  At the Cannes Festival, an idiot accused me of complacency towards misogyny and antifeminine sadism because of this sequence.  She had understood nothing.  I told her I was not antifeminist but if all feminists were like her, I was going to apply myself in quickly making a film against feminists!  I was really furious because her accusation was too absurd. 

This rape scene is a cry of love!  Noodles has spent fifteen years in prison.  He never stopped thinking about this woman who was on the outside.  He was always madly in love with her.  To the point of leaving with her when he regained his freedom.  To the point of telling her everything he is...  All that he has done!  He is a professional gangster but his love is so great that he cannot hide anything from this woman.  He took her to a great place that he rented for a fortune...  Just so that she could choose a table that she liked.  And so they could be alone and happy... 

He loved her so much he behaved like a prince with her.  He transformed the evening into a fairy tale.  He confessed all his love for her.  He said she was the light which got him through fifteen years of imprisonment.  And then, she replied to him: "I am just here to say goodbye to you. Tomorrow I leave for Hollywood."  She is going there to become a Hollywood image.  And become again an image for Noodles!  He listens to this in silence.  Quietly.  He has received this terrible lesson without batting an eyelid.  And then in the car, she gives him a kiss of consolation.  As if to say to him: Poor kid.  I give you a kiss because you're a little angry at me.  Noodles can take it no more.  He wants her to leave with a memory she will not forget.  And he destroys her with maximum violence.  He could have taken her gently.  Violation without brutality.  He knows it.  He senses it.  She would let him do it.  But he prefers this brutality so that she will remember it forever.  He says to himself that she has already forgotten all the beauty that he had offered to her during the evening.  But he makes sure that she will remember the violence of this act of the moment.  And this violence is the most desperate of all. 

When I filmed this scene, I wanted Deborah to make a gesture of affection towards him.  The truth comes out during this sacrifice.  She loves Noodles.  She understands everything.  She understands above all that nobody will love her as much as Noodles can love her.  And when, afterwards, she has rejected him for Hollywood and her career, he tries to apologize for his excesses.  To better understand this sequence, it's good to know the mentality of a gangster.  This is a man who has always considered women as sex objects.  But this time, despite the rape, it is respect which drives him.  It is love.  It is love.  And it is the biggest of his dreams she comes to break when she announces her departure to him.  She was an image.  She will become an image at this instance of exasperation, Noodles may know her flesh.  But that's all. 

She wants to be an actress.  And finally, actors are only masks and robots.  They are lost.  They no longer know their original identity.  And when he found her again thirty-five years later, she is wearing this white mask.  She is just an actress!  And Noodles repeats to her the phrase from Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra: Age will never wither you...  She can no longer appear as a myth.  As a representation by an actor.  Being an actor, it's like an illness. 

During the filming of Once Upon a Time ... The Revolution, I said to Rod Steiger: What is your life?  You play Napoleon.  For a year, you are Napoleon.  During the six months that follow, you continue to be him because of the press and the promotion of the film.  And six months before shooting, you are already thinking about the role.  And then you pass by Napoleon to play merely a cop in In the Heat of the Night.  And you become this policeman for months and months.  A process that repeats itself endlessly.  And the more you believe in the Actor's Studio, the more you invest yourself in the psychology of the characters you play.  But where is the original Rod Steiger?  Remember him?  Can you tell me how he is?  Rod replied: No.  My life, it's that.  That's why actors are liars.  Their illness always takes them to other places.

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« Reply #34 on: June 25, 2009, 09:10:19 PM »

this is terrific. thanks for translating. I think this is the first time I get to read leone's actual words

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« Reply #35 on: June 26, 2009, 02:41:41 AM »

De Niro is a chameleon.  We do not notice him on the street.  Isn't he a bit like Noodles?
De Niro is a Mr. Nobody.  To be the old Noodles, he had to really transform himself externally and internally.  This is something that few actors know how to do.  And I wanted this realism vis-a-vis Max.  The aging of Woods is deliberately theatrical.  The difference is crucial.  Max is aged like a nightmare.  This is theater!  Only Noodles is in reality.

Why think morbid thoughts?  With this film, you do it.  Do not you agree?
I admit to being well aware of it.  And it goes further.  Doing these projects are difficult.  After Once Upon a Time in the West, I asked myself this many times.  I wondered if I should abandon the profession.  Here it's a little different because it's primarily a film about cinema.  It's not just nostalgia and pessimism.  I have written something about it.  I will read it to you: In my eyes, The Hoods was one of those glass balls for tourists, with inside a small Eiffel Tower, a small Coliseum, perhaps a small Statue of Liberty.  If you turn the ball upside down, you can see large snowflakes falling down on the scene.  That was the America of Noodles.  And mine.  Tiny, fabulous, lost forever.

I must add that this film is also a painful vengeance.  Yes, I retaliated for everything that America and cinema have put in my head.  And I am aware that this film is different from my previous works.  This time I worked in total clarity as to the correctness of what I was doing.  No question.  Not the slightest concern.  I have no doubt.  I was transported on a journey during which I was certain of a good result.  I'm speaking of the making of the movie.  I'm really happy to have waited fifteen years to do it.  All this time was important.  I reflected on this when I saw the finished film.  And I realized that if I had done the film earlier, it would have just been one more movie.  Now, Once Upon A Time In America, it is the film by Sergio Leone.  And it's me, this film.  We can only succeed with such a film with maturity, white hair and a lot of wrinkles around the eyes.  I could never have made the film until I was at least forty years old...


End of chapter

« Last Edit: June 26, 2009, 02:50:07 AM by HG » Logged
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« Reply #36 on: June 26, 2009, 10:43:05 AM »

Thanks so much HG - these translations offer such a great insight into Leone's thought process.

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« Reply #37 on: June 26, 2009, 01:19:09 PM »

Thanks so much HG - these translations offer such a great insight into Leone's thought process.

Agreed!  Thanks, HG!   Afro

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« Reply #38 on: June 26, 2009, 06:33:51 PM »

HG for all scholars & enthusiasts of OUATIA this interview with Leone is absolutely invaluable - thank you my friend. 



The scene where Noodles violates Deborah seems crucial.  IMHO This is probably the most controversial & most difficult scene to watch in the film - it was interesting to read Leone's thinking.

After the controversy at Cannes De Niro refused to do any further promotional work on the film!  A year or so later when De Niro was promoting another film he was asked about the rape scene " It made its point - but then it went on"!

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« Reply #39 on: June 28, 2009, 11:31:52 AM »

The first rape of Deborah is perhaps excusable, but the second is a bit over the top. I assume this is what De Niro is referring to here.

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« Reply #40 on: June 28, 2009, 12:20:46 PM »

The first rape of Deborah is perhaps excusable, but the second is a bit over the top. I assume this is what De Niro is referring to here.

Groggy the first rape scene in OUATIA is Carol (Tuesday Weld) at the diamond robbery - also no rape is excusable Shocked

The second Rape Deborah (Elizabeth McGovern) is what we were discussing & what De Niro was referring to.

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« Reply #41 on: June 28, 2009, 12:30:50 PM »

I wouldn't call the first one a rape. Carol's a crazy nympho.

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« Reply #42 on: June 28, 2009, 02:54:13 PM »

Groggy the first rape scene in OUATIA is Carol (Tuesday Weld) at the diamond robbery - also no rape is excusable Shocked

The second Rape Deborah (Elizabeth McGovern) is what we were discussing & what De Niro was referring to.

You seem to be missing the point.

A) Noodles rapes Deborah twice. Watch the scene again. I'm not talking about Carol and the diamond robbery, and I'm not saying he raped Deborah on two different occasions.

B) Excusable in the context of the story/dramatic development. No reason to be Mr. Morality here.

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« Reply #43 on: June 28, 2009, 06:51:35 PM »

You seem to be missing the point.

A) Noodles rapes Deborah twice. Watch the scene again. I'm not talking about Carol and the diamond robbery, and I'm not saying he raped Deborah on two different occasions.

B) Excusable in the context of the story/dramatic development. No reason to be Mr. Morality here.

Sorry I had always thought of it (infamously) as the two rape scenes in the film (Carol & Deborah) but I see where your coming from.

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« Reply #44 on: June 28, 2009, 07:03:35 PM »

Well that's what I would assume De Niro is saying. Noodles rapes Deborah for the sake of getting his frustrations/feelings out at first - fair enough for dramatic purposes. Then he rapes her again (or at least tries, he may not achieve climax a second time before he's interrupted). I can certainly see one taking issue with that.

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