Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968)

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flyonthewall2983
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Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968)

#1 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Tue Jul 26, 2005 2:54 am

Since I joined here, I've been thinking of writing some sort of tribute to this great film. I watched it a month ago pretty much all the way through for the first time since I bought the DVD the week it came out. I was reminded for the first time in awhile why I loved the film. The mix of restrained, but powerful emotion from the characters with a virtuostic (is there such a word?) style of framing and shooting on Leone's part. The ambiguity towards good and evil which started with Eastwood's characters in the Man With No Name films, this time with the line blurred much more with Bronson's character (case in point, his first encounter with Jill). Henry Fonda's cold-as-ice performance when he points the gun at the last remaining member of the McBain family. Also, of course, the music. Despite what people may think of his style and way of doing things is, it was a pleasant surprise to see Tarantino make many a reference to this film in particular in both Kill Bill films. I even read that Rob Zombie makes references to this and The Wild Bunch in The Devil's Rejects. Although there will probably never be as good a western as this made again, it's nice to know that there are people who recognize that this is one of the last great ones..
Last edited by flyonthewall2983 on Sun Aug 24, 2008 9:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#2 Post by lord_clyde » Tue Jul 26, 2005 5:30 am

This is my favorite Leone film. And in response to Bronsons first encounter with Cardinale, I believe the commentary points out that it is a show he puts on for Fondas lookouts.
A great film through and through, I only wish I could think of something to say that hasn't been said before. I guess I should recommend you check out the rest of the dvd, it's a good one.

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#3 Post by kieslowski_67 » Tue Jul 26, 2005 12:29 pm

There is a reason why this is Henry Fonda's personal favorite film (he is in) although he has starred in lots of remarkale movies in his career.

I think that Ennio Morricone's breathtaking score deserves as much credit as Leone's directing.

This is my personal favorite Western of all time, Leone's masterpiece along with OUATIA, with the latter being my favorite movie of all time.

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#4 Post by exte » Tue Jul 26, 2005 1:57 pm

I got this film quite eagerly when it first came out on dvd, and even then it was dirt cheap. I'm pretty sure it's a two disc release, too. It made me always wonder why Paramount would want to loose so much money, especially after they got done restoring it. The transfer is spotless. Just a great buy if you ask me.

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#5 Post by skuhn8 » Tue Jul 26, 2005 2:01 pm

exte wrote:I got this film quite eagerly when it first came out on dvd, and even then it was dirt cheap. I'm pretty sure it's a two disc release, too. It made me always wonder why Paramount would want to loose so much money, especially after they got done restoring it. The transfer is spotless. Just a great buy if you ask me.
And god bless for not utilizing Richard Schickel on the commentary. Very pleasant listen, particularly from the English scholar who dominates the track. Of course it will certainly piss of those member of this forum who dislike directors who "steal shots" or reference other films--or does that criticism only apply to living directors?

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#6 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Tue Jul 26, 2005 2:10 pm

skuhn8 wrote:Very pleasant listen, particularly from the English scholar who dominates the track.
Wasn't that Christopher Frayling? His Leone book, Something to Do with Death is fantastic! A definite must-read for any Leone fan.

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#7 Post by skuhn8 » Tue Jul 26, 2005 2:34 pm

Fletch F. Fletch wrote:
skuhn8 wrote:Very pleasant listen, particularly from the English scholar who dominates the track.
Wasn't that Christopher Frayling? His Leone book, Something to Do with Death is fantastic! A definite must-read for any Leone fan.
That's the one. He mentions that book a couple times I remember. Very good stuff. The commentary falters with John Carpenter and a couple other directors stumbling about.

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#8 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Tue Jul 26, 2005 2:41 pm

The best feature on that disc for me was the before and after sequence.

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#9 Post by kieslowski_67 » Tue Jul 26, 2005 3:05 pm

flyonthewall2983 wrote:The best feature on that disc for me was the before and after sequence.
The three documentaries on the film were also nice. My wife and I visited Monument Valley about 2 years ago and it was great to see the site where Leone shot that famous sequence with Cardinale 30+ years ago.

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#10 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Wed Jul 27, 2005 5:42 pm

Personally, another great point to this film (and all of Leone's Westerns, really) is that it doesn't suffer from any of the conservatism that stigmatized most American Westerns (Unforgiven can be looked at as a grave exception to this) and it didn't romanticize the Western mythology as most of those other films have done. I think that time in our history is no different than any other, in that good and evil weren't as easy to separate as some people would have you believe.

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#11 Post by skuhn8 » Thu Jul 28, 2005 5:49 am

flyonthewall2983 wrote:Personally, another great point to this film (and all of Leone's Westerns, really) is that it doesn't suffer from any of the conservatism that stigmatized most American Westerns (Unforgiven can be looked at as a grave exception to this) and it didn't romanticize the Western mythology as most of those other films have done. I think that time in our history is no different than any other, in that good and evil weren't as easy to separate as some people would have you believe.
as in black stetsons versus white stetsons. If only it were all so simple

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#12 Post by devlinnn » Thu Jul 28, 2005 7:58 am

flyonthewall2983 wrote:Personally, another great point to this film (and all of Leone's Westerns, really) is that it doesn't suffer from any of the conservatism that stigmatized most American Westerns (Unforgiven can be looked at as a grave exception to this) and it didn't romanticize the Western mythology as most of those other films have done. I think that time in our history is no different than any other, in that good and evil weren't as easy to separate as some people would have you believe.
I can understand your point, but your painting with very broad brushstrokes to call most Amercian Westerns conservative. If anything, the Western genre was used by many writers (and directors) to question the moral code of the day and explore the way history is written and believed. Leone's film is deeply romantic in that it wants to believe in the 'myth' of 'Hollywood Westerns', of an America that lived on the screen, and probably had little to do with reality. Even back in the mid-60s, Leone would have felt a certain type of filmmaking was already over, and this was his way of paying love and respect to a world that he cherished.

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#13 Post by Martha » Thu Jul 28, 2005 9:25 am

I can understand your point, but your painting with very broad brushstrokes to call most American Westerns conservative. If anything, the Western genre was used by many writers (and directors) to question the moral code of the day and explore the way history is written and believed. Leone's film is deeply romantic in that it wants to believe in the 'myth' of 'Hollywood Westerns', of an America that lived on the screen, and probably had little to do with reality. Even back in the mid-60s, Leone would have felt a certain type of filmmaking was already over, and this was his way of paying love and respect to a world that he cherished.[/quote]
Good point, devlinnn. Even some of the most obvious white hat/black hat films deserve a bit more credit, I think. Shane, for example, contains unexpected elements: few "traditional" western town are a foreboding and as dirty as the one in that film, and not a lot of "traditional" westerns feature deaths-- at least not of good guys-- as lonely and humiliating as the Swede's.

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#14 Post by zedz » Thu Jul 28, 2005 9:45 pm

Great as Leone is, he's also continuing a tradition of morally ambivalent westerns initiated in the fifties (if not before). Check out any of the Mann/Stewart westerns, for example, and if you want moral ambivalence, I don't think anything Leone did tops The Searchers in that respect. Actually, The Man from Laramie probably even outdoes Once Upon a Time in the West as an analysis of the corrupting power of Capital, and Mann's villains are as complicated as his heroes.

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#15 Post by exte » Sat Jul 30, 2005 4:16 pm

Once Upon a Time in the West will be shown at the Film Forum Friday, September 30 - Thursday, October 6. Here's what they have to say about it:

[quote](1968) Revenge-bent Charles Bronson stalks kid-blasting villain Henry Fonda (a far cry from his lovable lawman in Ford's My Darling Clementine) with the aid of good-bad man Jason Robards, as the railroad marches relentlessly westward through the land of hooker- turned-earth mother Claudia Cardinale. From the beginning sequences, it's obvious we're in the realm of the grandiose: the legendary waiting-for-the-train opening sequence under the opening credits lasts ten minutes, accompanied only by an orchestration of natural sounds — wind, creaking windmill, crunching footsteps, etc. — with the final credit, “Directed by Sergio Leone,â€

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#16 Post by Andre Jurieu » Sat Jul 30, 2005 6:39 pm

after watching three quarters of the Eastwood trilogy
:-s Did he stop watching in the middle of The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly?

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#17 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Fri Sep 09, 2005 10:31 am

from imdb.com:
Kubrick used to play the soundtrack's classical music during takes to get the actors in a better mood. He was reportedly influenced by Sergio Leone's method in Once Upon A Time In The West.

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#18 Post by exte » Fri Sep 09, 2005 11:20 am

Yeah, that's in the Leone biography...

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#19 Post by essrog » Sat Sep 10, 2005 4:55 pm

Just got a book in the mail today entitled The Art of Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West: A Critical Appreciation by John Fawell. Some of the chapters include "Defending Leone," "Ford and Once Upon a Time in the West," "Morton and the Politics of Once Upon a Time in the West," and "The Leone-Morricone Soundtrack," among others.

It looks good so far, though a quick glance at the endnotes reveals a heavy reliance on Frayling's Something to Do with Death, mentioned earlier in the thread. I haven't read that book, so it doesn't bother me, but for others who have, that might make this book a bit superfluous.

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#20 Post by Martha » Thu Sep 15, 2005 9:44 pm

Saw a press screening of this today @ the Film Forum in New York. When the focus wasn't screwed up (the projectionist's fault), the print looked amazing; it'll show there for a week starting Sept 23.

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#21 Post by The Elegant Dandy Fop » Fri Sep 16, 2005 12:16 am

For everyone in Los Angeles, they are going to be showing this for free at the Autry musuem as part of a Sergio Leone:A Western in Italy exhibit from 8-11 outdoors.

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#22 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Thu Oct 20, 2005 12:58 pm

A buddy of mine and I were watching The Good, The Bad and the Ugly for what might have been the millionth time and we started talking about what makes it such a great film and comparing it to Leone's other masterpiece Once Upon A Time in the West. Obviously, both films are brilliant but if you had to choose a preference, one over the other, which one would you pick and why?

While I do think that OUATITW is an incredible piece of filmmaking, I don't find it as watchable as TGTBATU. There is something so engaging and entertaining about it, that certain something that I just don't find in OUATITW. What's interesting is that some film buffs/Leone fans tend to side with OUATITW over TGTBATU because the latter film is so popular. At times it almost feels as if popular means that it is a lesser film because it has broader appeal and that maybe it is lacking in substance. I would argue that TGTBATU is a very rich film with a lot going on that one discovers upon repeated viewings.

I love the way Leone introduces the three main characters and how he does says so much about them. Blondie is only heroic in an ironic sense and Leone underlines this notion at one point when he uses an angelic musical cue by Morricone to play over a shot of Blondie “rescuingâ€

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#23 Post by analoguezombie » Thu Oct 20, 2005 1:23 pm

I prefer Once Upon a Time in the West by a country mile. Why?

- Bronson is so much cooler than Eastwood
- The opening sequence and "Looks like we're short one horse."... "You brought two too many."
- The use of exaggerated ambient noises and a more select score that works better than GBU.
- I vastly prefer the cast, Fonda, Robards, Cardinale; superb.
- It's a more wholistic, personal, and original work i.e. no direct Yojimbo/Sanjuro connections.

I don't feel like going into too much depth, but the entire dollars trilogy feels like a warm up to Once Upon a Time in the West to me. This film is the zenith of Leone's forays into the western genre.

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#24 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Fri Jun 29, 2007 5:50 pm

Mr_sausage wrote:His review of Once Upon a Time in the West, on the other hand...
What was his review of it?

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#25 Post by Mr Sausage » Fri Jun 29, 2007 6:04 pm

flyonthewall2983 wrote:
Mr_sausage wrote:His review of Once Upon a Time in the West, on the other hand...
What was his review of it?
Er...

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