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Author Topic: Conversation(s) avec Sergio Leone - Noel Simsolo  (Read 61011 times)
cigar joe
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« Reply #15 on: June 19, 2009, 01:25:08 PM »

This is cool stuff  Afro

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« Reply #16 on: June 19, 2009, 06:03:02 PM »

This bit is particularly illuminating:
Quote
Ill, at seventy years of age, he decided to leave everything to die in Israel.  To this end, he offered a hundred million dollars to the Jewish community.  He was refused.  They did not want him in Israel.  A Jew has the right to kill only during a war!... So he remained in Miami, full of anxiety, continuing to make steps to be buried in the Promised Land after his death.  This fact fascinated me because it makes credible the attitude of Max at the end of my film.  He is plagued by guilt.  He needs to be forgiven by his best friend.  This would not be possible with an Italian.  Luciano would have killed his friend.  And he would be completely screwed.  The Italian maffiosi totally mock religion.  They will use it only as a pretext.  What counts for them is family: mother and father.  Nothing to do with Jewish conscience.

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« Reply #17 on: June 19, 2009, 11:28:51 PM »

Thank you very much, this is fascinating.  Is the reason that I had problems with OUATIA because its a flawed movie or is it because I am a flawed movie viewer?  Whatever the case, I know that must see it again.   Afro

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HG
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« Reply #18 on: June 20, 2009, 03:11:32 AM »

My personal view is that some of the things which are perceived as flaws were deliberately left in the movie by Leone to add to the ambiguity.  Did this happen or did this not happen?   This reflects the world in which these gangsters lived where some remained silent, recollections of others differed widely and the real truth was very seldom discovered.  Leone and De Niro are not fools.

It's a pity that we can't yet see Leone's ideal cut of the movie - Noodles had quite a bit of fun with Eve etc that we never see. Whilst not filmed it would have been interesting to see his relationship with his family - dad mum and brother - and the circumstances which drove some of his actions.

More of Leone's thoughts to follow.


« Last Edit: June 20, 2009, 04:22:06 AM by HG » Logged
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« Reply #19 on: June 20, 2009, 04:20:00 AM »

Did you consider a quick American adaptation?
The turn of events forced me.  Grimaldi offered me Norman Mailer.  He liked very much the thought of a poster that showed both our names.  And me, I wanted to meet Mailer.  From our first interview, he warned: "I have read your idea.  I will do it willingly.  But because I am drawn to gangsters rather than to Jews.  And I think you're absolutely crazy to deal with such a subject.  The environment is Jewish.  The world of cinema is also Jewish.  They will not let you make it."

I replied that I didn't want to show any particular bias in all this.  Nobody would be sympathetic or unsympathetic.  In large cities, we know that there is a Jewish underworld.  But in small corners of the country, the mob is known only as Italian, Irish or black.  And I added that I did not intend to disclose these things because I knew that major companies would not co-operate if I did.  I did think that Norman Mailer had spoken with very great honesty.  But our relationship worsened.  Alas!  He let go to madness.  What he wrote made no sense to me.  Things are complicated.  Grimaldi was forced into a lawsuit.  And Mailer left the film...  And we turned to John Milius.

How was this placed with him?
John Milius is someone very special.  I liked Dillinger which he made with Warren Oates very much.  As soon as he saw me, he told me he had been a university student in Los Angeles.  There, along with Coppola, Scorsese and De Palma, he had dissected all my films.  He swore that he was my biggest fan and he thought of me when writing The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean for Huston and Jeremiah Johnson for Sidney Pollack.  In short, it was a true declaration of love.  I was received in a very strange way.  He came to take us to dinner at his home.  We were driven in his open-topped car.  As we neared his house, I heard the music from all my films playing in the sky.  He had placed powerful loudspeakers around his house that overlooked a hill.  This echoed everywhere.  Once we arrived at the house, he opened a large vault.  I thought it contained jewels.  But they were weapons.  Milius had a passion for guns.  He collected them.  Like a true madman...  We talked, but he could not commit to the project.  He was currently writing a story called Apocalypse Now.

Why did you separate from Grimaldi?
He was very eager to produce the film.  But there was the success of Last Tango in Paris by Bertolucci.  Then there were big failures like 1900 and Casanova by Fellini.  This last film was a financial disaster.  The coup de grace for Grimaldi.  He hoped that my film would get him out of this impasse.  He changed our plans.  He did not want to have two parts as for 1900.  He panicked too because he had lost the support of major companies.  Everything was going very badly.  I wanted to break our agreement and get back the rights to the book.  He refused.  There were lawsuits.  It was long.  More than three years during which I kept on working on the project.  Other producers were interested.  Finally, thanks to Yves Gasser, I met Arnon Milchan.  Again three years of a hesitation waltz.  When he was assured of finding thirty million dollars to finance my film that would only cost twenty million dollars, he agreed to it.  First, he put ten million dollars into the pot.  He bought the rights from Grimaldi for the tidy sum of five hundred thousand dollars.  And production began.


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« Reply #20 on: June 20, 2009, 11:15:05 PM »

Thank very much for the translation, HG. I read every word of it.

For shits and giggles Dan Curtis was the creator of the cult TV horror soap opera "Dark Shadows".

That show had the weirdest color print I've ever seen. What was up with that early 70s look for some tv shows? yuck.

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« Reply #21 on: June 21, 2009, 03:14:50 AM »

At what stage did De Niro enter the project?
I had met him during the preparation of 1900.  He was not yet a star.  He had just been noticed in Scorsese's Mean Streets.  At the time, I had talked to him about the film with the promise that he would be one of the interpreters.  When Milchan took over production, he came to work with Scorsese on The King of Comedy.  De Niro became his friend but he was committed to working on another film for eighteen months.  He broke this contract without telling me.  Just so that he could play the role of Noodles.  In recent years, he has become the biggest star in the world.

What happened with regards the role of Max?
I preferred that this be a new actor.  We did more than two hundred tests.  Until I discovered James Woods on stage.  I thought he was good.  His audition was not conclusive but I sensed a real neurosis behind his strange face.  That's what attracted me.  And I convinced De Niro that it was him that we must hire.  Bob would have preferred that I take one of his friends.  And we made many tests with his buddies.  Fortunately, he is honest.  Looking at the tests, he recognized that none of his friends could really be Max.  The case of Joe Pesci was different.  Milchan had promised him the role of Max.  I had found him great in Raging Bull but I warned him that he would not be right for this role.  I offered him another character that he could choose.  And we fully agreed.  However, De Niro did bring me one of his friends: Tuesday Weld.  I remembered her in her first films where she was as beautiful as Brigitte Bardot.  From the initial trials, it was evident that she could embody the character...

And the kids?
I did not want well known child stars.  Just spontaneous kids that I knew how to direct.  Here, Cis Corman was most useful...

How did the filming go with De Niro?
At the very beginning, we had some pretty heated discussions.  But we reached an understanding very quickly.  A rare harmony.  Not only did I understand what he wanted but I realized that I wanted the very same thing.  Luckily, I was supported by a fantastic helper: Brian Freilino.  He served as my right arm.  He spoke American and Italian equally well.  His presence really cemented the harmonious relationship between De Niro and myself.  Everyone was screaming at the miracle including Milchan who had witnessed endless exchanges between Scorsese and De Niro on King of Comedy.  With me, there were no debates.  A full understanding and an absolute trust.  Bob laughed when I mimed scenes.  And that laughter was a true sign of complicity.


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« Reply #22 on: June 21, 2009, 07:21:36 AM »

 Afro

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« Reply #23 on: June 22, 2009, 04:41:17 AM »

For you, is Once Upon A Time In America the most Italian of American films or the most American of Italian films?
One can say that it is the most American of Italian films.  Above all, I'm Roman.  And also, a little Neapolitan.  I put my life and all my experience in the balance.  This passes into the film.  Ultimately, it is a biography on two levels: my personal life and my life as a spectator of American cinema.  After the war, I was never satisfied with films.  Cinema became my drug.  So, with Once Upon A Time In America, there are homages that I had to render.  Like the scene of the charlotte russe in the stairwells.  It is an homage to Charles Chaplin.  This is not an imitation of one of his films.  It is not a plagiarism from a sequence that he has made.  It is simple evidence of a love for him.  And I think he would have filmed the situation in this way...  But before speaking specifically of this movie, I want to say how much the truncated version took the soul out of my work.  A version of one hundred and thirty-five minutes was done for television.  Everything was flatly chronological: childhood, youth and old age.  Time is no longer a theme.  There is no more mystery, journey, and opium smoking.  It is an aberration.  I cannot accept that the original version is too long.  It has the exact duration it should have.  After the screening at the Cannes Film Festival, Dino De Laurentiis told me it was wonderful but it was necessary to cut a good half-hour.  I told him he was in no position to tell me that.  Because he makes films of two hours which seem to last four hours, while I make films of four hours which seem to last two.  Dino cannot understand this.  I added that this was the reason we never worked together.


In Once Upon A Time In The West, it was the end of one world and the beginning of another world. In Once Upon A Time... The Revolution it is the beginning of an illness. I get the impression that for you, Once Upon A Time In America, it will be the end of the world...
The end of the world.  The end of a genre.  The end of cinema.  For me, it's just that.  All one hopes it that it's not truly the end.  I prefer to think that this is the prelude to agony.  However, there is some hope in the face of De Niro at the end of the film.  Like I said: If you have realized that films like this can save cinema, you should love movies and go and see them.  Yes, it's the end of a genre.  Yes, it's the end of security.  Yes, it's the end of a world.  But this is not the end of a dream.  And since the movie came out, I have understood.  I discovered how much all this was true.  I am very aware now, in the autumn of 1986.  I am fifty-six years of age.  When I made the film, I was fifty-two.  And I thought I was making something for people of my age, with memories of a certain experience and of a certain cinema.  I was not wrong because this generation has liked the film.  But those who have loved the movie to the point of delirium, to the point of seeing it twenty-five times, are people twenty years old.  People who do not know cinema and are ignorant of the names of Griffith, Stroheim, Ford and even Chaplin.  People who were not ten years old when Once Upon A Time... The Revolution was released.  And this proves to me that there is a natural desire to see a certain cinema.  And that's the hope!


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« Reply #24 on: June 23, 2009, 03:15:16 AM »

The next part is unavoidably contentious.

From time to time Leone changes his views and contradicts himself.  When asked about the opium dream theory, he is quoted as saying:
"The film offers a double reading" and "I say it here and I deny it here".

Viewers need to make their own mind up and there's nothing wrong with a composite view such as Leone filmed it realistically but had in the back of his mind that the post 1933 sequences may have been a dream or imagined.

Few supporters of the dream theory had the idea that part of the movie was a dream whilst they were seeing the movie for the first time.  Some found events which were a bit puzzling, learned of the dream theory and supported it because it seemed to provide an explanation.  There's nothing in the script which indicates that part or all of the movie may be a dream and the other writers have not given a unified opinion.  There are also many things which contradict the dream theory - how could Noodles, in 1930, dream of television sets, outside broadcasts, cars of the 1960s, plastic frisbees and famous names of the 60s such as Jimi Hendrix?

Of course how could Leone portray the 1960s other than by using real examples?  During the 15 years that he was thinking about the movie he formulated some very complicated and esoteric ideas.  At the time of the conversation with Simsolo he was definitely in favour of the dream theory but it may be out of context - at other times Leone refused to be pinned down.

- - -

Isn't the film also the history of America linked to an opium dream?
The peculiarity of opium is a drug that makes you imagine the future as the past.  Opium creates visions of the future.  Other drugs only make you see the past.  Thus whilst Noodles dreams how his life could have been and whilst he imagines his future, it gives me, as a European director, the possibility of dreaming inside American myth.  And that's it, the ideal combination.  We walk together.  Noodles with his dream.  And me with mine.  These are two poems that fuse together.  Because, as far as the matters which concern me, Noodles never leaves 1930.  He dreams everything.  All the film is the opium dream of Noodles through which I dream of the phantoms of cinema and American myths.


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« Reply #25 on: June 23, 2009, 07:45:16 AM »

This is very interesting to contemplate. I will note that the director, once he finishes making the film, really has little or no control over how others perceive it. Leone may have intended OUATIA in one way but it's still more than possible to have multiple readings of it. I'm still not buying the Dream Theory, even if it has SL's stamp of approval.

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« Reply #26 on: June 23, 2009, 12:06:53 PM »

This bit is particularly illuminating:


This TV movie from HBO is a good source re Mayer Lansky/Israel.

www.imdb.com/title/tt0173974/

www.amazon.co.uk/Lansky-DVD-Region-US-NTSC/dp/B00000JGHJ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1245780379&sr=8-1

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« Reply #27 on: June 23, 2009, 05:35:47 PM »

This is very interesting to contemplate. I will note that the director, once he finishes making the film, really has little or no control over how others perceive it. Leone may have intended OUATIA in one way but it's still more than possible to have multiple readings of it. I'm still not buying the Dream Theory, even if it has SL's stamp of approval.
I'm with Groggy on this. A director is often not a good interpreter of his own work. He can be very good at explaining the "why" and "how" of a film (intentions and techniques), but explaining the "what" of a film is another proposition altogether. His interpretation is just one of many, and may be skewed simply because in his mind he cannot divorce his original intentions from the final results. He can speak with authority about what he wanted the film to say, but not necessarily what it actually does say. If this were not the case, film criticism would be entirely superfluous.

In this particular case I keep asking the question, Does the Dream Theory make OUATIA a better film or not? Is the film made more interesting through the adoption of this theory, or are we better off without it? The answers are obvious. The Dream Theory confers nothing of value on the film. In fact, dream theories abound for a number of stories/films, so that such an approach actually robs the film of much that makes it a unique. Generally speaking, such "explanations" are reductive anyway, making films less complex than they would be otherwise. What's the point of having a 4-hour film if at the end a neat little "explanation" is going to render it as insignificant as a 30-minute Twilight Zone episode?

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« Reply #28 on: June 24, 2009, 04:07:40 AM »

... the director, once he finishes making the film, really has little or no control over how others perceive it. Leone may have intended OUATIA in one way but it's still more than possible to have multiple readings of it. I'm still not buying the Dream Theory, even if it has SL's stamp of approval.

I'm with Groggy on this. A director is often not a good interpreter of his own work. He can be very good at explaining the "why" and "how" of a film (intentions and techniques), but explaining the "what" of a film is another proposition altogether. His interpretation is just one of many, and may be skewed simply because in his mind he cannot divorce his original intentions from the final results. He can speak with authority about what he wanted the film to say, but not necessarily what it actually does say. If this were not the case, film criticism would be entirely superfluous.

In this particular case I keep asking the question, Does the Dream Theory make OUATIA a better film or not? Is the film made more interesting through the adoption of this theory, or are we better off without it? The answers are obvious. The Dream Theory confers nothing of value on the film. In fact, dream theories abound for a number of stories/films, so that such an approach actually robs the film of much that makes it a unique. Generally speaking, such "explanations" are reductive anyway, making films less complex than they would be otherwise. What's the point of having a 4-hour film if at the end a neat little "explanation" is going to render it as insignificant as a 30-minute Twilight Zone episode?

Great comments   Afro

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« Reply #29 on: June 24, 2009, 04:11:29 AM »

This time, were women and sex more important than in your previous films?
It was necessary.  We are no longer in a Western.  We are in American cinema, in the full sense, with sex, passion, betrayal, friendship and love.  And, moreover, next to Noodles and my dream, there is another protagonist: time.  And time changes everything.  

Initially, Noodles is integrated with others.  He does small jobs for older thieves.  Until the Archangel Gabriel arrives.  This is Max.  And Max said: We can be killed and we're all alone.  No bosses.  This is Max, the anarchist!  And Noodles understands the lesson to the point of going to prison in place of all the others.  He spends fifteen years in a cell.  When he leaves prison, his ideas have not changed.  But time has transformed the situation.  And he has to go as far as betrayal for things to continue.  Because Max is integrated.  He thinks about politics.  He wants to work for the Syndicate.  Noodles remains faithful to his original ideals.  Through the opium dream, okay, but I repeat that through this opium dream I am given me the opportunity of exploiting all my love for film, myth and reason to make films.  

It is complex.  To the point of not being able to show directly the death of Max at the end of the film.  There should certainly not be a close-up of James Woods when he leaves his house.  Not at this time because the world that Max has constructed, it's just good to throw it and the America of today away with the garbage.  Individualism no longer exists.  It is the Syndicate.  And this is the end of the idea of liberty.  

Because of all these feelings, I asked for different music from Ennio Morricone.  We started with a song from the period: Amapola.  And I wanted to add specific songs: God bless America by Irving Berlin, Night and Day by Cole Porter and Gershwin's Summertime.  In addition to the original score of Morricone and mythical melodies of the time, I added something from today: Yesterday by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.  In order to touch the essential points: the nostalgia of a world, the clear images that this nostalgia puts in my head, and perhaps not in reality... It works on my imagination.  Indeed, here are the paintings of Edward Hopper, of Reginald March and of Norman Rockwell, which serve as catalyst material.  This is not Max Ernst or Giorgio de Chirico as in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.  

Even for the scenery of the ghetto, it was necessary to find a real place recovered from the past.  I was offered the streets where Coppola had directed The Godfather Part 2.  I did not find these places great.  I preferred to use views of the ghetto, with Brooklyn Bridge in the background.  It was more electrifying.  But today these places are no longer the Jewish quarter.  Puerto Ricans live there.  Because of this, I was discouraged from using these places.  I was told it was very dangerous.  I did not succumb to that pressure.  And I was right because the Puerto Ricans did not cause any trouble at all.  They were always there, but loyal.  Not even a piece of wood was stolen.  No doubt because we were Italian.  Perhaps we were protected much more than we thought.  It was the thieves who were watching for anyone who would steal anything from us!

Your film is based on a classical style of writing in a fragmented and modern structure...
This demands immense work from us.  The beginning of the film provides a wealth of information that the viewer only understands later.  As I said earlier, the entire structure of Once Upon A Time In America is based on time.  And there is a lot of camera movement that we do not take account of.  Because I did not use the camera to describe a city, a street or a place.  The camera moves only whilst following a character.  Its movement works with the movement of a man in a space which is nothing other than time.  And it is necessarily less spectacular because I use the technique to show feelings and not as a means of discovering a world, a story or a universe, as was the case for Once Upon a Time in the West. There, when the crane rises, it is to show a city which has been created.  Here, the city is already there.  We do not need to show it as well.

I am aware of the apparent static nature of my film.  In fact, it does not stop moving.  But this static nature is felt because it is that of time: everything stops in the smoking of opium.  And also any part of it.

This does not preclude realism...
Let's be fair: we need realism in this dream.  With all this mythology of the cinema, and for the fiction to work, you need to give it a factual documentary dimension.  Doing a little as if the camera was hidden.  Producing effects such as these made me really feel the cinema of yesterday.  We believe it!

And that's why all the places are real.  I found them.  Again, it was to do with searching for a lost time.  The Grand Central station in New York of that era no longer exists.  It was destroyed.  But I knew it was only a replica of the Gare du Nord in Paris.  So I shot those scenes at the Gare du Nord in Paris.  Those are the same windows, the same pillars of concrete and stone: the same materials.  It's like the scene in the Long Island hotel, where Noodles takes Deborah.  The place no longer exists but it was a copy of the Palaces of Venice.  So I filmed the movie in Venice.  It's logical.  America has never done anything other than imitate Europe in all this.  Following my intuition, I filmed the movie in the places the buildings were modelled on.  Without snobbery or chauvinism.  Only because the reality of the era no longer exists in America.  All is lost, forgotten, destroyed... And me, to make a film about memory and memories, I had to find these images of reality.  To best portray this notion of myth and dream, I had to work on more certain realities.  From there, everything came.  

Time is the protagonist of film and time is always right.  So when Noodles returns, it was with Yesterday and across a mural by Reginald March, with the red apple of the America of today.  Bus tickets are no longer being sold.  Hertz rent cars to enter hell.  That makes sense since my film is also a journey through hell.


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