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Messages - Noodles_SlowStir

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It's obvious Max and Noodles loved each other as brothers would.  The act of Max searching for Noodles to bring him back so Noodles could murder Max. No small feat there. 35 years later. No idea what his name was, not to mention that it's hard to believe someone would go to all that trouble to give justice to someone they'd didn't actually love as family. Then he spends an obviously large amount of money to place his old friends in the private exclusive and super-rich mausoleum..and places a gold plaque on the wall honoring David "Noodles" Aaronson as having paid for it all.

I'm not so sure about this.  I'm more in agreement with Dave.  I think there's no doubt that Noodles loved Max.  But does Max really love Noodles?  I don't think so.  I think he admires qualities in Noodles in sort of a cold objective way.  Perhaps he has respect for Noodles as well.  But I don't think that he loves him.  His actions don't speak of love....for a friend or a brother...or at all.  Max 's motivation for bringing Noodles back, honoring his childhood friends in an extravagant mausoleum are all for very selfish reasons.  To bring Noodles back from oblivion to kill him because he knows it's over for him now.  The mob will kill him to silence him.  He could care less about honoring his childhood friends that he practically murdered himself.  Also Max doesn't go to great lengths to bring Noodles back for Noodles' sake, or to give Noodles closure or satisfaction in evening the score.  It's all about Max.  He's arranging his own death...his own acceptable means of dying.   When Noodles questions Bailey/Max about the invitation....Max tells him it's not about the invitation and you know it.   It's about what's in the suitcase.  How he wants things done.   As far as the keeping of the pocketwatch,  I think that it could be poetic license by Sergio Leone.  The time piece symbolizes the passage of time and lost years for these two characters.  Also Max chose to keep and value the watch, a material and physical manifestation of their friendship....rather than valuing the actual friend and friendship.  That's why his naming of his son is extremely sad and rather pathetic.  The camera pulls away from an aged Max in his wealthy surroundings....and he has nothing.  While Noodles chooses not to be manipulated by Max...not to respond to the betrayal with violence.  He never acknowledges Max as Max, and what's more... wishes him well with the investigation because it would be a shame for a lifetime of achievement to go to waste.  But we already know by the choices Max has made.... it is a waste.     

The new posts on this thread are very interesting.  I find that I've been thinking a lot about Max and his motivations.
In my first post on the OUATIA board on the "My Problem With Eve's Death" thread, I pretty much said that my take was that Max tried to spare Noodles.  I think I still hold to that opinion..... for the time being anyway.  I do think that in the opening scene the mob is seeking to eliminate Noodles..... doing this independently  and above Max.  Tying up all loose ends associated with the old gang in preparation for their greater aspirations with the teamsters and politics.  There are some things that I've noticed by watching some scenes over.  Thought I would throw them out to get further discussion.

I was looking at certain chapters in the film and I came to the "end of prohibition celebration" scene in the speakeasy.  This "celebration scene" precedes the scenes in which Noodles makes the call to the police, and of course his last meeting with Max in 1933 before the shootout when the gang is killed.   I was struck by the scene in which they make a toast and Leone concentrates on Max, Patsy and Cockeye.  I have to say that James Woods is really amazing in that scene.  Max makes a toast ....marking the end of an era for the gang and honoring their 10 years together.....and the looks and glances on Wood's face as he looks at Patsy and can just see the inner thought process of Max as he looks at them.... knowing he will betray them that very night.  In this scene, Noodles talks to Eve, and we learn that Noodles is going to follow through and call the police, but his intention is to be with the gang and share in the consequences of his decision.

Noodles makes the call to the police captain.  Max knocks on the door afterward.  He taunts Noodles from the get go.  He says twice...."Maybe you'd better stay home tonight".  In the discussion,  Noodles tells Max, "Hey. Maxie, everywhere you go, I go too,  Remember that."  This isn't what Max wants to hear.  Maybe on two levels.  He definitely doesn't want Noodles with the gang that night.  He knows everyone will be killed.  And he definitely doesn't want Noodles to go where he's going.....similar to his own top with the gang's money and a deeper involvement with the mob.  It's all about Max.

So...why does Max spare Noodles?  Does Max really love Noodles?  Questions definitely worthy of thought because to Leone....the relationship between Noodles and Max is at the core of his film.  He told Jean A. Gili....."There's this character who appears and who , suddenly, in twenty minutes of the film, goes into oblivion and returns without the public knowing the character's or story's background.  Then little by little there's a long flashback to his childhood, which to me is crucial, since childhood, of course, is the platform for the entire story of this great friendship between two characters..."   So what was Max thinking when he definitely did everything within his power to prevent Noodles from going that night.  Maybe one reason could be Max was fearful of Noodles, unlike the other gang members.  Before Max arrived on the scene, Noodles really was the leader of the gang.  He made the decisions on whether they should take money or get to roll a drunk.  Noodles also was the "brains" of the gang even after Max's arrival.  He seemed to be the one that arranged for the scenario to blackmail "fart face" the cop to get protection for the gang.  He was the one that came up with the salt "invention" that helped establish the gang.  Maybe Max was respectful of Noodle's intelligence and felt he might sniff out something that night.  Without a doubt both characters admired qualities in each other.  I think that Max valued Noodles' intelligence and loyalty. 

One thing I noticed in re-watching the confrontation between Max and Noodles after the call....which maybe does not fit with my view that Max attempted to spare Noodles.....and I'm still thinking about it and throwing it out that in the scene Max says to Noodles...."You know, I've been watching you all night.  And you've been drinking like a fish.  Trying to get your courage up?  We're only bringing in a shipment of booze.  It's got so you're even scared to do that.  Maybe you just better stay home tonight.  With Eve".   Hmmmmm.....where do the hitmen look for Noodles in the beginning.  Why does Max emphasize stay home ....with Eve.   In the "celebration" scene, when Noodles is trying to explain to Eve that he won't be home....and he won't be home for quite some time and basically tells her indirectly he'll be doing time.  He kisses her....Max glances across the room looking rather peculiar at Noodles with his woman.

This leads into the question....does Max love Noodles?  I don't think he truly loved him as a friend....because even if one agrees that Max attempted to spare Noodles......he still betrayed Noodles on a huge scale.....and knowing how loyal and devoted Noodles was......Max knew it would be devestating to him.  He admits this in the 1968 scene at the end.  He didn't care at all about how this would affect Noodles.....he pretty much pursued his own self interested greedy agenda.  But what if part of Max's problem was that his pope's chair didn't quite fit comfortably in the closet.  If you read the review by Dana Knowles for which has a link on  the wikipedia listing for the film....I've also seen this idea elsewhere but I don't remember where.....what about Max's latent homosexuality which would seem Noodles would be the object of  Max's frustrated affection.  There are several instances in the script which allude to this idea.  Max is always interupting Noodles when he's with Deborah.  The key scene when  young Noodles and Deborah are together after the reading of Song of Songs.....Max interupts by peeping in the storage room.  Later Deborah doesn't let Noodles back in.  When Noodles sees Deborah after his release from prison in the speakeasy....Max calls Noodles pulling him away yet again from Deborah.  It seems when Max does have relations with a's always after Noodles.  In the scene on the rooftop.....Max has sex with Peggy after Noodles....and has difficulty getting an erection.  When the gang pulls off the diamond heist, Noodles rapes Carol almost with her permission....Max takes more than a few looks at them.  Later in the film...who does Max have a relationship with.....Carol.  When Noodles returns 35 years later......he learns Max married a wealthy woman....but who is he currently having a relationship with....Deborah.  What bearing would Max's repressed homosexuality have on the film and the plot concerning the betrayal of the gang?

Just some of my thoughts and questions I'm pondering and sounding them out for further discussion......

In total agreement with you Groggy.  I thought Schickel was off track when he made that slight suggestion in the commentary.   What could be possibly missing from that scene?  Do we need to see kids walking around beforehand with a frisbee in their hands.  It has to be a sudden happening for it to be effective in the scene.  I guess because of the editing history of the film there's always that speculation and conjecture. 

I always thought the frisbee was a rather cool transition back in time.  The scene is full of tension.  Noodles has this case of money.  He's been away and the area looks more run down.  He's really concerned about walking alone with that suitcase full of cash.  Then the frisbee unexpectedly comes swirling by; the suitcase transitions us back to when Noodles is released from prison.  All the other transitions are done so seamlessly.  Lights blending into other lights, old Noodles looking into the peephole becomes young Noodles.  This was one of the few segues that was kind of abrupt.  I think also it was effective because it sort of fits in with the dream quality of the film.  The slow pace, long held shots and the very abrupt actions from time to time.... like in dreams.  The other thing i was thinking about the frisbee was that maybe it could be viewed as metaphor.  The circular structure of the film....beginning and ending in the opium den.  Perhaps the frisbee as a spinning object in the air or space.....could be representative  of the way Leone destroys time for the viewer with the structure of the film.  Maybe that's reading too much into it and it could just be Leone's wicked sense of humor..... :)

Derbent 5000 thanks for the posting.  Interesting information.  Last night I was going through a few books I had picked up and was going through a book I picked up sometime ago called Italian Filmmakers Self Portraits: A Selection Of Interviews by Jean A. Gili.  I decided to buy the book for a two part interview with Bernardo Bertolucci, but had forgotten there was a 1984 interview with Sergio Leone.  I haven't read the Frayling biography or the Adrian Martin BFI analysis yet.  I think the Gili interview is cited in both those books.  There were a couple of passages in the interview that I thought fit in with your thread so I thought I would post them.

With the passing of the years had the final screenplay become very different from the first adaptation?

Yes, it had changed a lot.  For example, there  were, shall we say, historical things in the 1968 part that were clearly understandable; with the passing of the years, they became less so.  We eliminated those.  Initially the film was supposed to begin in a completely different way.  I had written the first part with an American screenwriter who afterwards made a movie with Frankenheimer; he practically stole that first part by giving it to John Frankenheimer's
99 And 44/100 Dead.  The film was released and it was a bad film; there's this sequence in the beginning that I wanted to do, a cemetery along the Hudson River.  So, we changed the original screenplay a lot.  I first started writing with Medioli and Arcalli, and then Arcalli died and I worked with Benvenuti and De Bernardi.  I gave them all the childhood part, a little because I remembered a film that they had written with Franco Rossi, Friends For Life.  Ferrini did the last part, that is, he collaborated with us on the writing of the final script, but the treatment was already finished when he joined. (p 118)

Did the long period of waiting and the screenplay's long development help the film?

I don't know.  One thing is absolutely sure: the way it was conceived, the film was more than one film, it was two.  Grimaldi, in fact, was hoping it would become two long episodes, a bit like 1900, and this, for better or for worse, was something that remained.  Even after the cuts, it was constructed like that.  This was so true that I still have an hour more to add for TV, an hour already edited but not dubbed, that would make the film four and a half hours long.  Maybe you can tell where it was cut.... nevertheless, the film is rigorously structured.  Clearly, the film might be a little  bitter  to taste, since it is born out of nothingness, that is, out of the  limbo of opium.  There's this character who appears and who,  suddenly, in twenty minutes of the film, goes into oblivion and returns without the public knowing the characters' or story's background.  Then little by little there's a  long flashback to his childhood,  which to me is crucial, since childhood, of course, is the platform  for the entire story of this great friendship between two characters.  It's a little like Once Upon A Time In The West , a dance of death with a man plunging into oblivion .  If the film had a subtitle, it could also be called, " Once Upon A Time A Certain Kind Of Cinema".
It's a homage to things that have interested me; we find here a preoccupation with death which, after fifty, comes automatically.  I see that I've started reading the obituary columns now, though I never read them before.  (pp 118-119)

How long did the shooting take?


It lasted six or seven months, with a few short breaks and one month devoted to traveling.  In fact, Once Upon A Time In America is equal to two films.  If you consider that I shot Once Upon A Time In The West in  fourteen weeks, automatically I needed thirty for this one. (pp 119-120)

Once Upon A Time In America / Re: My problem with Eve's death
« on: April 05, 2007, 10:18:11 PM »
I really enjoyed reading the two recent posts on this thread.   I decided to post on this particular thread because there had been a recent comment, and I thought it was kind of apropos for a newbie to post for the first time on a thread that concerned itself with the beginning of the film. (I guess some argue that the beginning is really the end....or the end is the  OUATIA is a complex film)

aldog, I really liked your closing observation.  OUATIA is like a fine work of literature.  It can be interpreted and read on so many different levels.  The extent to which it involves and engages the viewer in the experience is unlike many films.  That the film is crafted to be open, invites the viewer to formulate their own personal vision of what the film means and what actually happened.  It very much has a "living quality"  in that with repeated viewings it can take the viewer to a different place based upon their particular concerns and changes with time.  And yet I strongly agree with what you say.....even with all the ideas....with all the themes Sergio Leone has smuggled into his epic vision....with all the new observations from repeated viewings...OUATIA is definitely a film to feel.  It's most definitely about empathizing with the characters, feeling your own emotions, understanding the character's repressed feelings and perhaps your own.

I think this links with Dave's point of view as well.  Dave I agree with what you're saying about the gangster-youth segment of the film.  The segment is also important as a depiction of Noodle's personal memories and is significant in understanding his state of mind.  I think in my post I may of been kinda analytical about some of the concerns in the thread about the opening of the film.  I  found myself defending the film, particularly from a structure and director viewpoint.   I guess I do subscribe to the auteur  theory and  I'm always fascinated with a director's vision and his recurring themes.  Particularly themes of the passage of time, stream of consciousness, dreams and the experience of watching a film.  I definitely agree with you that OUATIA is more than a film about film.   I think a film has to be able to stand up alone based upon the quality of the story and script; it's ability to engage the actors and viewers.  Although the director is an important guide, cinema is a collaborative effort.  OUATIA  is infused with so much humanity.  It's well acted throughout by everyone in the cast.   I'm always blown away by De Niro's understated performance.  Just the look on his face at certain times in the film evokes emotion and thought.  The contributions of masterful editing and cinematography....particularly in making the time transitions so seamless.   The absolutely beautiful score from Ennio Morricone, which certainly enhances OUATIA's ability to emotionally engage the viewer.  And I definitely agree  that the writing and script having been based and drawn from actual experiences,  enriches the film very deeply, providing a story that involves the actors and viewers.

Guys, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Once Upon A Time In America / Re: My problem with Eve's death
« on: April 04, 2007, 09:10:51 PM »
I don't have a problem with the beginning of OUATIA.  OUATIA is a film that sometimes doesn't lend itself to literal translation or linear thought.  That's one of the things I love about the film.  I think the intricate bullet holes in the sheets is just a reference by Sergio Leone to other films in the gangster genre such as The Godfather with the horse head, and the sending of dead fish and rabbits and so on.  I think you can spend a lot of time analyzing these kind of details but they're just part of the mythology of the genre.  The thing that makes OUATIA a great film in my opinion are the greater artistic aspirations of Sergio Leone.  The film transcends the gangster genre and talks about time, mortality, death, dreams, psychology and the art of cinema itself.  I remember the first time I saw the film in the mid eighties on VHS.  I was fortunate to see a full version.  I really liked the film.  But I remember that I had a problem with the scene in which Noodles sees Deborah some thirty five years later.  I was critical  that  Deborah hadn't been aged enough despite having the stage make up on.  I even considered that Elizabeth McGovern was miscast in the role.
But now with subsequent viewings, and time, I understand and appreciate Leone's intention with the scene.  Deborah appears as Noodles sees her.  The film at times cannot be read literally.

I don't think you can compare the death of Eve with the slaughter scene in OUTITW.  I think OUTITW is structured differently than OUATIA.  I agree that the slaughter scene in OUTITW is designed to very early define the dark evil of the Henry Fonda character.  OUTITW is by no means a simplistic film.  Other characters identified as good have their "grayness".  With OUATIA, I think Leone takes this character grayness much further.  The task of the director in OUATIA is to make the viewer care for a group of sometimes violent, amoral and murderous gangsters.  I think Sergio Leone succeeds.  The segment of the film which shows the gang as boys I think enables the viewer to care for the characters.  There is not one pivotal scene like in OUTITW.  I think the entire segment depicting the gang when they were boys is really comparable to the function of the slaughter scene.

As far as the Frankie Minaldi character, I would call him a shadow character rather than a minor character.  I read somewhere that Sergio Leone decided to find a role for Joe Pesci almost as a favor to De Niro.  Although I think Pesci wanted another part he accepted the role.   I think the importance of the character is that he represents Max's ascent outside of the gang establishing contacts with the larger Mob or syndicate.   Besides the first meeting with the gang to discuss the diamond heist, Minaldi does appear at the hospital.  He enters the hospital when Noodles and Max are leaving after Jimmy is taken away for surgery.  I think the Minaldi character is important because he also foreshadows
Max's downfall.  Max is mixing it up with the big boys now and he'll never be able to prevail over them in the end.  Minaldi, the larger Mob, corrupt police and politicians all pull the strings....including Max's strings.  Also I always thought that Noodles was being pursued in the beginning by the larger Mob (Minaldi) and possibly the corrupt police.   It's inferred that Max has already established an alliance with the larger Mob through or with Minaldi.  I always believed that Max tried to spare Noodles, but the Mob and possibly police, were operating above Max and tying up all loose ends.  Also I don't see a script problem with the sparing of Moe in the beginning.  I believe that if Noodles hadn't saved Moe, he would of been executed after his brutal beating. 

This was my first posting.  Thank you for letting me participate on the board.  OUATIA has become one of my favorite films.  Hope I can chime in from time to time with something good.

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