Once Upon A Time In The West (1968)
Directed by: Sergio Leone
So I’m going to start of the retro film of the month with one of my favourites and a classic, I remember watching this film a few years back, and was looking forward to it. It was the first western film I had seen and I’m glad this was the first one. Leone is a god, a legend, and master craftsman of film, and he shows his talent in this film, which I rate as his best work ever.
"Once upon a Time in the West" is Leone's masterpiece and certainly one of the best Westerns of all time. It is beautifully shot, perfectly cast, ambitious, erotic, humorous and wonderfully scored by Leone's regular composer Ennio Morricone, whose haunting melodies are just as important as the widely separated dialog occurring on the action.
The film opens with extreme close-ups of Jack Elam, Woody Strode and Lionel Stander waiting at a station for Charles Bronson, Henry Fonda has sent them to kill him.
The railroad wants a property for its water well belonging to the newly widowed Claudia Cardinale, a fancy lady from New Orleans who just arrived in Flagstone and learns about the tragedy. We would come to understand, much later, Claudia Cardinale's role as the bearer of water, life, and continuity to the civilization of the New West.
Fonda, a despicable hired gun, kills her husband and orders, without a twinge of guilt, the slaughter of the entire family, innocent women and children.
Henry Fonda, in a chilling performance, plays the cold-blooded murderer, the most vicious villain in Westerns history to ever ride the big country... the blue ice-eyed child killer, gunning down a 9-year old boy.
Bronson as 'The Man' is like Clint Eastwood 'The Man With No Name,' with only one thing in common: they are the most ruthless heroes in Westerns history sharing the same character in their quality 'not' to say much in their need of emotions, in their fast draw, in their disinterest in women, in their air of mystery and in their macabre sense of humor.
Their differences are also very clear: 'The Man With No Name' has no past whatsoever, and 'The Man' is motivated by revenge to settle an old personal score.
Claudia Cardinale plays Jill, the well-proportioned, husky-voiced beauty, the lady, the businesswoman, the maker of coffee involved with Fonda in an incredible perverse erotic sequence.
The blood, the violence, the humor, the several gunfights and the final showdown have been constants in Leone's Westerns since "A Fistful of Dollars."
The highlights of his movie are so many: Leone's overwhelming shot when he raises his camera over the Flagstone train station office revealing the sprawling town; when he replaces a shot of a smoking gun with a shot of a smoking train; when he uses close-ups instead of dialog to reveal what a character is thinking; and the striking use of his extreme close-up in the final shootout. Leone builds up tension by slowly circling his two characters, focusing with his camera on their eyes, hands and guns while the level of the music is raised to evoke the action.
Leone's film is a brave epic Western, extremely violent, immensely powerful. It's above all fable and fantasy, as the desire for revenge is childish and fruitless. It is the essence of a great filmmaker.
My verdict on this film, well if you’re a fan of cinema then you will enjoy this three hour epic, a must see for anyone and everyone with a great shots, cast and storylines.