Once Upon a Time in America

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Person
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Re: Once Upon a Time in America - original intended opening

#26 Post by Person » Mon Feb 18, 2008 7:38 pm

Ah, thanks for that, Hulot! This film is pretty high on my "oddities" list of films to see. The underwater graveyard is a mesmerzing image, isn't it? It can only look better in 2.35:1 . Come on, Fox!

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Cold Bishop
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Re: Once Upon a Time in America - original intended opening

#27 Post by Cold Bishop » Mon Feb 18, 2008 8:14 pm

I always hoped I could be a filmmaker if only to rip-off that scene. I'm shocked Seijun Suzuki didn't think of it first.

Seriously, shame on Robert Dillon. Can you imagine what Leone could have done with that same scene in OUTIA?

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tubal
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#28 Post by tubal » Thu Jul 10, 2008 7:55 am

Any idea if Warners have this slated for a Blu-ray release? It would be great if they could fit it on one disc a la the upcoming Godfather Part 2 but if that's not possible then maybe they could move the disc change to the intended intermission point. If I remember correctly that's supposed to be after Noodles drives the car off the pier but I maybe wrong.

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Darth Lavender
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#29 Post by Darth Lavender » Thu Jul 10, 2008 8:21 am

tubal wrote:Any idea if Warners have this slated for a Blu-ray release? It would be great if they could fit it on one disc a la the upcoming Godfather Part 2 but if that's not possible then maybe they could move the disc change to the intended intermission point. If I remember correctly that's supposed to be after Noodles drives the car off the pier but I maybe wrong.
The intended intermission is actually half an hour later than that, just after Deborah leaves on the train (you'll notice, in the following scene, when Noodles speaks to Max et al again, several months have passed)

The car driving off the pier is were the split occured on the old VHS release (of which I have fairly fond memories)

I can imagine this movie looking incredible on bluray, just in terms of all the grain, fog, etc. (not so sure about fine detail)
Of course, the big question is wether those deleted scenes will ever make any kind of appearance. Apparently, all the material exists, but in a raw, unedited and undubbed state. So, with Leone deceased, the version we have now is the only true 'Director's Cut' we'll ever see, but I would think there'd be plenty of interest in the possibility of maybe Leone's editor or someone putting together a 6+ hour version (something like Welles' "Touch of Evil" or "Mr Arkadin," not technically a director's cut, but an educated and respectful guess)

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tubal
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#30 Post by tubal » Thu Jul 10, 2008 9:03 am

Darth Lavender wrote:The car driving off the pier is were the split occured on the old VHS release (of which I have fairly fond memories)
I had the old VHS version too so that must be why I thought the intermission occurred there. Thanks for the explanation. That VHS tape was a real rarity in the UK and very badly worn by the time I bought the DVD.

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#31 Post by Darth Lavender » Sun Aug 24, 2008 3:40 am

kieslowski_67 wrote:
Jack Phillips wrote:There are rumors that that film will be getting longer ...
That was a pure rumor denied by Leone's son years ago.
The footage exists, but it's undubbed and unedited. I do think the 229 minute version is the closest we'll ever get to a director's cut, just because it's the version Leone has most involvement in.

But, I would be very, very supportive of a 6 hour 'alternate cut' being put together by Leone's editor, etc. (or whoever is in the best position to try to make the film as Leone wanted) Sort of like what we've seen with a lot of Orson Welles' films.

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#32 Post by exte » Sun Aug 24, 2008 10:06 am

So essentially you're saying it was a six hour script? 360 pages at least? Is this really true, or due to all the coverage there's a lot of overlap?

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#33 Post by Darth Lavender » Sun Aug 24, 2008 5:33 pm

exte wrote:So essentially you're saying it was a six hour script? 360 pages at least? Is this really true, or due to all the coverage there's a lot of overlap?
Six hour script, at least. Leone originally considered a 10 hour film (but that was before the script was even finished) By the time he started filming, he wanted to do it as 2 three-hour movies but the producers refused after the commercial failure of Novecento (released in some countries as two films)

A few years ago, I wrote a lot of the Wikipedia article myself (it's a favourite movie of mine) based largely on a very in-depth (about 5 or 6 pages) summary of the original script found in "Something To Do With Death," so I can vouch for a lot of that article's accuracy (assuming it hasn't been changed too much since I wrote it)

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#34 Post by exte » Sun Aug 24, 2008 11:39 pm

And I'm guessing "Something To Do With Death" is a must read, right?

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#35 Post by Cinephrenic » Mon Aug 25, 2008 12:03 am

My favorite movie, easily in my top 3 spots of all time. Not sure if there is evidence about a longer cut, may be just rumours.

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Darth Lavender
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#36 Post by Darth Lavender » Mon Aug 25, 2008 12:55 am

exte wrote:And I'm guessing "Something To Do With Death" is a must read, right?
To tell the truth, I only borrowed it from the library to skim through the "Once Upon a Time in America" chapter in an effort to figure out the truth of the "6 hour cut," etc. But, what I read was very thorough and informative.

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#37 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Mon Aug 25, 2008 9:23 am

exte wrote:And I'm guessing "Something To Do With Death" is a must read, right?
Yes. It is a great, great read if you're a fan of Leone's films. The chapters dedicated to his Spaghetti westerns are incredible - very detailed, exhaustively researched. Great stuff.

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exte
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#38 Post by exte » Mon Aug 25, 2008 2:52 pm

Sweet, I went ahead and bought it last night figuring as much... And I think I actually came across it once at Borders, and for the life of me I guess I decided against it!

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#39 Post by bdsweeney » Thu Aug 28, 2008 8:07 am

Try as I might, I can't get into this one. I think it's as much to do with me as a viewer as it does with Leone (or anyone else involved in the film).

I just can't handle the way Tuesday Weld's character is written in terms of her rape scene. Correct me if I'm wrong (it was a while ago that I last saw it), but doesn't her character end up enjoying being raped multiple times??

It was enough for me to turn off the film, which rarely happens. (Especially since I adore Naked, which has Katrin Cartlidge's character practically raped by Johnny but still clinging on to him after the attack. I can handle that as it makes sense in terms of her character because of her loneliness.)

Anyway, it's just my view and I keep on meaning to give it another go.

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#40 Post by HypnoHelioStaticStasis » Thu Aug 28, 2008 12:09 pm

Sweeney, I sympathize with your reaction to the film, but in subsequent viewings, its grown into an epic which I admire tremendously.

I really detested it, or at least felt incredibly disappointed, the first time I saw it for what were probably the same reasons you objected to it (although I at least finished it). One of the more fascinating aspects of Leone's filmic perspective is his approach to female characters: at once they are assertive and quick-witted and able to stand on the same plane as their male contemporaries, but they are also inexorably linked to their sexuality.

The way Tuesday Weld's (and Elizabeth McGovern's to a certain extent) scene is shot is certainly unpleasant, but not exploitative, and it is certainly not sealed with Leone's stamp of approval. Rape is an inexcusable, detestable act obviously, but I think there are certain truths (in a VERY SMALL AMOUNT OF CASES. Just want to make that clear) in the idea that the victim becomes attached to their victimizer. I think Weld's character was meant to enjoy her gang rape, not because that a number of men were involved with her sexually, but because (as we learn later in the film), she has an insecurity about not being wanted, about being utterly alone. Perhaps that's a bit crude, sociologically speaking, but I feel that's what Leone was trying to get at.

One has to look at the treatment of women in Leone's film beyond their surface value. His epics about the growth of America touch on many corners, especially the way women have been treated by such a male-centric society.

I hope I haven't said anything too incendiary. I know a lot of this can be taken the wrong way. It's a touchy, touchy subject about a touchy, touchy scene.

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#41 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Fri Aug 29, 2008 12:45 am

bdsweeney wrote:I just can't handle the way Tuesday Weld's character is written in terms of her rape scene. Correct me if I'm wrong (it was a while ago that I last saw it), but doesn't her character end up enjoying being raped multiple times??

It was enough for me to turn off the film, which rarely happens. (Especially since I adore Naked, which has Katrin Cartlidge's character practically raped by Johnny but still clinging on to him after the attack. I can handle that as it makes sense in terms of her character because of her loneliness.)
Maybe Tuesday's character had that same kind of loneliness but hid it in a way that wasn't so apparent to the viewer. I may be wrong on this since I've only seen the whole thing all the way through once (four hours, no matter how good it is, is still four hours).

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#42 Post by Darth Lavender » Fri Aug 29, 2008 5:04 am

I'm generally not bothered by things were the 'general populace' and I are in agreement. (Violence against women (heck, even just violence) the public thinks it's bad, I think it's bad, Sergio Leone thinks it's bad... Consequently, I haven't much to say on the matter)

As for this particular scene, I always took the ultra-simplistic (but, in my humble opinion, plausible) view that Weld's character was just a genuine, hard-wired masochist. People have all kinds of bizarre and non-sensical fetishes, some of which are even personally demeaning. So, I found it perfectly plausible and straight forward that Weld's character just got a pure and simple orgasmic thrill out of the whole rape thing.

I did a little reading on the psychology of rape years ago, and there are a minority of rapists who fit neatly into the precisely opposite category. They have no particular anger or hatred of women, they just get the most aroused by non-consentual sex (of course, they presumably also have a complete lack of compassion)

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#43 Post by bdsweeney » Sat Aug 30, 2008 9:26 am

Darth Lavender wrote:Sergio Leone thinks it's bad... Consequently, I haven't much to say on the matter)
I'm sure you're right, but I also think that Leone had a view of women that's not exactly in common with what is now held as acceptable. Just look at the way that Claudia Cardinale's character is treated in ... in the West (and here I'm biting the hand that feeds me as ... in the West is an all-time favourite film of mine).

While it is easy enough to say that the depiction of Jill (including the way that she's 'passed around' so to speak) reflects the views of the time the film is set, it does tend to reflect the whole tried-and-true Madonna/whore type thing. Yes, I know her character is a prostitute ... but that doesn't validate how she is treated my most of the male characters.

It's not a major thingie with me (like I said, its an all-time fav. of mine), but it is a flaw in what is otherwise a masterpiece.

As for the rape scene in ... in America, it is no where near the most vile/sensationalist depiction of rape I've ever seen on film. That honour belongs to the true piece of shit that is Simon West's The General's Daughter. There the poor victim is shown spread-eagled and shot with extra special editing for the delectation of the audience. Another film that I turned off in an instant.

When compared to The General's Daughter, I probably owe it to Leone's film to give it another viewing ...

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Re: Once Upon a Time in America

#44 Post by Ashirg » Sat Jun 20, 2009 11:39 pm

It's being released in Spain on June 23 with a third disc of "Movie Outakes". I wonder if it's all the cut footage that is in Italian version. Not sure about the language or if there's any plans for this release in other countries.

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Re: Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone, 1984)

#45 Post by Nakadai_77 » Fri Jan 01, 2010 12:43 am

The first sequence where Tuesday's character was raped was essential to the film. She was an accomplice of the bank robbing event. She demanded Noodles to rape her in front of her coworkers to cover up. The second time she was having fun with the four guys, that was basically a repeated theme that Noodles always lost to Max, even on women.

This is my favorite film of all time for over 15 years. Rarely are there any films that are so emotional draining yet artistically satisfying. I have recommended this film to a few dozen folks in the last decade. Everyone came back to me and raved about this film. Then they asked me why they had never heard of the film before. Maybe it has to do with the brutal mutilating of the original director's cut when it was first released in the US.

OUATIA is considered to be the Cistine Chapel of movie making by many critics in Asia. It enjoys a great reputation in Europe also.

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Re: Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone, 1984)

#46 Post by karmajuice » Fri Jan 01, 2010 5:33 pm

So I watched this a few months ago, after owning it for over a year. Four hour flicks take a while to get around to. Immediately after watching it, I was reasonably impressed and mostly enjoyed the film. It was far from being any sort of favorite, but I thought it was good. In the months following, however, my estimation of it has gone down considerably. Now it barely scratches at the door of "above average".

This has nothing to do with misogyny in the film. I never dismiss a film based on allegations of misogyny, racism, etc. First off, one has to consider the context -- is the filmmaker a misogynist, or is someone in the film a misogynist? In other words, is the film itself misogynistic or is it using this quality to convey an idea (quite frequently the idea that misogyny is wrong). Whether . . . in America fits that bill, I don't know. It doesn't seem to be saying anything compelling with these problematic scenes (another reason why I don't hold it in much regard). Secondly, I hear the word misogyny thrown around all the time when I'm reading about film (reading up on Antichrist became tiresome in that way), but not once, in years of reading about film and every other subject, have I ever heard the term misandry used. I had to look the damn word up because I had no idea what the word was. As I'm typing this, the browser is underlining it with red: it doesn't even recognize it as a word. DeNiro's character is loathsome throughout the film. I'm not sure he performs a single likable action. We can so readily complain about this film's attitude toward women, but we accept this rapist-murderer-gangster-bastard as status quo? As an accurate or at least acceptable portrayal of men? How is the portrayal of DeNiro in the film any less problematic than Tuesday Weld? Because men like that actually exist, and women like that don't? Bullshit.
So the misogyny, if it is an issue, is really just part of a larger issue which involves gender stereotypes on every level. But I don't even particularly take issue with that. I just have issues with how well the film is made.


The film feels like a very faithful adaptation of a bad novel. I haven't read the source material, so I have no idea how good it is, but that's what I get from the film. The childhood scenes have this obnoxious, phony nostalgia which has become cliche -- growing up on the streets of New Yowerk. The gangster narrative wants to play by the rules without doing anything particularly new or interesting, yet it doesn't reach the heights of the best gangster films from the 30s and 40s, with their glory and desperation (I think the running time has a lot to do with this: early gangster films are so exciting precisely because they're so concise, compact). We have an elaborate flashback structure, but it only reveals how simplistic and stereotypical each character is. It tries to use genre staples to flesh out supposedly realistic characters, but it just doesn't work.

More than anything, though, I'm disappointed with the style of the film. I love Leone's westerns, particularly . . . in the West, and his style in those is so flamboyant (or, as everyone likes to call it, operatic). The films are visually dynamic, sometimes to the point of caricature, and they thrive on exaggeration and finely crafted excess. They are fun and exhilarating, but at the same time this style seems to serve another purpose: it aggrandizes these western tropes, these characters and their setting, and it gives them a resonance which feels, at its best moments, archetypal and mythological. The characters (with a few exceptions) are just as two-dimensional as those in . . . America, but we're never expected to believe that they're accurate depictions of people. They are forces of nature.
. . . in America, on the other hand, feels deliberately restrained, as though Leone were making a "serious" film and that his visual dynamics would somehow cheapen this seriousness. This is his first and most grievous mistake, because I absolutely believe that Leone could have applied a similarly inventive style to the gangster genre with magnificent results (working in a tradition of more stylized or excessive gangster films, like White Heat or Hawks' Scarface). But he smothers his style and films, for the most part, in very conventional ways. He makes the mistake of keeping his storytelling techniques the same, though, and they become ridiculous. Where the close-ups in the western films had an intensity and an energy behind them, the close-ups in this film are pure bathos. The Morricone score is used for totally contrived and sentimental ends.

I probably seem a little harsh toward the film, maybe too harsh. I do feel this way, though, and part of my frustration probably stems from the fact that Leone could have done so much more with this. But like I said above, I do think the film is at least decent. It's well-structured, more or less competently filmed, and it manages to keep my attention in spite of its running time. But that's all it does, mostly. If it has one saving grace, it's the few moments peppered throughout the film where it reaches above itself: the wonderfully ambiguous final shot, the shoot-out in the factory which recalls Vampyr, some of the opening moments, etc. Also, I have to wonder whether I'm just forgetting some of its better qualities, with just the bad ones sticking out, and maybe I should watch it again. But if so, why? That doesn't normally happen with me.

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Re: Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone, 1984)

#47 Post by domino harvey » Fri Jan 01, 2010 10:47 pm

Men have always been in a position of power, women have not. Sorry, but this just isn't an issue that can be explained away via so-called double standards.

The film is misogynistic because it delights in the torments inflicted on its subjects-- take just the opening sequence with the woman with her breast exposed and violated. It's filmed from a position of pleasure for the viewer, making us complicit in the act and inviting us to share in the prurient arousal of power. This is just the first of many examples of the abhorrent nature of the film and its attitudes towards women, which have already been well-documented and discussed here and elsewhere

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Re: Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone, 1984)

#48 Post by Person » Sat Jan 02, 2010 12:08 am

This movie sums up much of late 19th and early 20th century American history: a bunch of ill-educated gangsters winging it through life, exploiting, pillaging, raping their way through the larger canopy of politics and technological advancement. And all the while, a Fitz Hugh Ludlow figure may be dreaming the whole thing within an opium haze.

This is my belief, as far as beliefs go (I know they mean nought to intellectuals), and that is that history, as such, is to be likened to a dream, a persistent dream as Einstein might interject. I have studied history, reality, astro-physics, weird antique literature, cheezy movies and my own discordant mind for what seems a long time (but isn't) and I have been stumped to draw any other rational conclusion that reality, life as we experience it, is part-ordained, part conspiracy, yet part free will in terms of the individiual. And this reinforces my preternatural instinct to distrust authority and the law of man.

What this move seems to say, to me, is that the real mistake is that our human 'game', if you will, may be a folly to some degree, and that as it is a fuzzy dream, the waking may hopefully bring us to a clearer consciousness. Hopefully.

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Re: Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone, 1984)

#49 Post by karmajuice » Sat Jan 02, 2010 1:53 am

Men have always been in a position of power, women have not. Sorry, but this just isn't an issue that can be explained away via so-called double standards.
You'll excuse me if I consider that a crass over-simplification of an infinitely more complex problem. In fact, that statement seems to me like nothing more than a staunch refusal to engage with the male element in the film, with an arbitrary excuse to back it up. I've seen the responses to this film, including yours in the 80s list project, and it seems like you're only willing to discuss the misogynistic qualities of the film and nothing else. Dismissing the film as misogynistic is no better than someone dismissing an art film for being "pretentious", and like those who dismiss Birth of a Nation for its racism, you can fireproof your "argument" with the ethical justification which comes with condemning misogyny.

I am going to apologize right now, because I know I'm pissing you off. I don't want to do only that, and if I'm being provocative it's because I want to see if you have anything else to say about the film. Your opinions are consistently compelling, so I'd be interested to see if you've thought more about the film, if that's something you're at all willing to do. I understand if you'd rather not, since some parts of the film have had such an unfavorable impact on you, but after all, it is a very long film and only a small fraction of it even involves women. What about the rest of the film? Can we really just ignore it thanks to one conspicuous flaw?

Let me be absolutely clear: I agree with you. The film is misogynistic. My original post only commented on misogyny in films in general and how flawed these accusations sometimes are. It is not a defense of this film. I propose two reasons why one might more thoroughly engage with a film which seems, initially, misogynistic. I clearly state that this film
doesn't seem to be saying anything compelling with these problematic scenes [the misogynistic scenes] (another reason why I don't hold it in much regard).
My second point addresses the issue of misandry, which is not meant to dismiss the issue of misogyny but complicate it and offer a broader perspective on the gender dynamics and what the film might be trying to accomplish. Where you got the idea that I was merely dismissing the issue by way of claiming double-standards, I have no idea. My whole paragraph on misogyny (only part of my post, you'll note) was raising questions, not stating opinions. I did not address the issue of misogyny in the film because to do so would be redundant. Like you said, it's already been well-documented here. I just wanted to say, "Well yes, but the problems don't necessarily stop there." They are clearly (inevitably) part of a much larger system of values.

I am not concerned with whether the film is misogynistic. YES. Obviously. You would have to be blind not to notice these problems, and I certainly do NOT need you to explain how the film is misogynistic. I am concerned with WHY the film is misogynistic. That's the only interesting question about the matter. Is it because Leone is a misogynist? Or maybe -- and this is what makes the most sense to me -- the film is misogynistic because it sympathizes with the gaze of the male protagonists who commit these misogynist acts.* If that is the case, why does it take that stance? Is it effective? What does it accomplish, if we view it from that perspective?
Maybe not a whole lot. Like I said, I don't believe that the film uses these scenes in any useful way. But if we view it from this perspective and try to understand why it might take that perspective (the gaze of the misogynist protagonist), maybe we'll gain insights into the film -- at least into why it's misogynistic, even if there is no sound reason for it. Maybe.




*Note: This view is very persistent throughout the film; the scene where Noodles spies on Deborah is intrusive and voyeuristic and seems to establish a bond between the viewer and the unlikable protagonist. And yet it is complex, like the Tuesday Weld scene, in the sense that there might be some form of consent -- but is this "consent" imagined or created by the male protagonist/camera's gaze/audience's gaze?


(I am intensely nervous about posting this, because I don't want to seem confrontational for the hell of it, or like I'm retaliating against your post. And I certainly don't want anyone to think I'm supporting misogyny. I just want to ask questions that I think are worth asking, and I want to see if they are questions you are willing to consider.)

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Re: Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone, 1984)

#50 Post by knives » Sat Jan 02, 2010 2:19 am

Don't worry, you aren't coming off as confrontational for the sake of it. These, misandry and misogyny of film vs. director, are two very important issues that aren't looked at seriously enough. To open to a wider spectrum than Leone, look at the response to Miike. His films are often accused of misogyny, but are more often than not intended to be a satirical look at male oppression. That's a fairly obvious case where the characters are misogynistic, but the director isn't necessarily so. America is a tougher call, even though I'm willing to give Leone the benefit of the doubt. As for misandry in art, I'm far too ignorant to jump in that pool.

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