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

Discussions of specific films and franchises.
Post Reply
User avatar
The Fanciful Norwegian
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 2:24 pm
Location: Teegeeack

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

#176 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Sat Mar 18, 2017 2:35 pm

FrauBlucher wrote:This looks like something Criterion would be working on. All the different cuts, the Leone phantom page and I think the blu being OOP, makes this a possibility.
I'm not going to rule out the possibility of Criterion releasing this (since, as you note, Paramount apparently can't be bothered to keep it in print themselves), but the Leone phantom page is almost certainly a holdover from the rumored (and now aborted) Criterion release of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, as suggested by the still-extant phantom pages for Eastwood, Wallach, and Van Cleef. And from reading the quoted post on originaltrilogy.com and looking over the poster's history, I don't believe that person is involved in any "official" effort to restore the original cut but is just an enthusiastic and presumably well-heeled fan.

User avatar
Joined: Mon Jun 27, 2005 3:31 pm
Location: Indiana

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

#177 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Sat Mar 18, 2017 9:56 pm

I've always felt like that if this was released by UA instead of Paramount, Criterion would have put this out in the laserdisc days.

User avatar
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
Location: Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, UK

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

#178 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Jun 13, 2018 3:30 am

Mr Sausage wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 7:59 pm
Richard--W wrote:""spaghetti westerns" are not really westerns. They're some kind of weird perverse copycat like the pod people in Invasion of the Body Snatchers."
I rather like that. He's stumbled onto a truth of some kind entirely in spite of himself.
Coincidentally with this dismissive comment by Richard--W, I have just reached Dave Kehr’s review of Once Upon A Time In The West in his excellent collection of criticism When Movies Mattered. I know that I’m bringing out the big guns here to contradict his argument (while also agreeing with Mr Sausage that he has almost accidentally stumbled onto something!) but it is difficult to imagine how Richard W could possibly be able to dismiss this film in particular amongst all spaghetti westerns. I will post it in the official thread for Once Upon A Time In The West because Kehr's comments deserve a wider acknowledgement than just in an Infighting thread! Kehr's comments about space, time and myth also reminded me a lot about Wong Kar-Wai and The Grandmaster, especially as that film seems like its own homage to a number of Leone films:
”Dave Kehr on Once Upon A Time in the West” wrote:And it is a masterpiece, a film that springs entirely from other films – from American westerns as seen by Europeans – and yet assumes an emotional texture every bit as varied and full-bodied as a film taken from lived experience: it’s as if Leone had been able to inhabit this landscape that never existed, as if for him the movie west were a place as real as Athens or Rome. Christopher Frayling, in his excellent study Spaghetti Westerns, demonstrates how the Italian westerns of the 60s grew out of the mythological epics that had been an integral part of the Italian industry since its beginnings in the 1900s – for Leone, the idea of a western “myth” isn’t just critical construction but something with literal force, something that shares the same imaginative dimension with the myth of Hercules.

Most of the American anti-westerns that followed in the wake of The Wild Bunch were concerned with debunking the myth of the west – with demonstrating how far the movie west departed from the sordid, brutal and crushingly dull reality documented in the historical records. But all of these films – among them Soldier Blue, Dirty Little Billy, the absurdist variation of Little Big Man – seemed profoundly beside the point; myth can’t be attacked by reality, because our belief in myth is very different from our belief in reality – it’s a belief in something we already know to be untrue. Leone is the only western director to have realised that myth must be attacked from within – attacked in mythic terms. And because, as a European – an outsider – he can accept the myth untroubled by its problematic links to historical reality, he is uniquely qualified to bring it closer to reality – to restore those elements, chiefly the hard face of capitalism, that the other versions of the myth have left out. In Leone’s hands, capitalism itself becomes a mythic force, as much a part of the landscape (it’s embodied here by the building of a railroad across the desert) as the horses or mountain ranges. In criticising the myth – in filling in the economic relationships American westerns have skipped over – Leone expands and enriches it, which is what the best criticism does….

It is Morton’s itch – an inseperable blend of profit motive and pure idealism – that underlies all the action of Once Upon A Time in the West; he is the element of change introduced into the static mythological system, the element that will both animate it and bring it to its end…Leone’s style, both narrative and visual, is built on bold contrasts. Extreme long shots, often marked by an exaggerated depth of field are abruptly broken by massive close-ups. In much the same way, Leone uses trivial details (Jill making coffee) to lead into epic panoramas (Jill serving coffee to members of the construction crew that has just brought the railroad to the threshold of her house), or align lowbrow burlesque with the loftiest tragic sentiments. Space, time, scale (the dollhouse scale model of the station) and tone are all fluid elements which can be expanded or contracted at will. And yet these transformations are not arbitrary, decorative touches; they are closely tied to the central themes of change and movement…

…The aesthetic of the opening sequence is one of absolute realism – an insistence on showing everything – but as the film progresses, the action becomes more and more elliptic; by the end entire scenes are skipped over with the barest acknowledgement. It is as if time has contracted as the film has gone on, growing smaller and less commodious, and indeed it has: Morton’s train devours time, collapses space; the coordinates of the old west no longer hold, and the frozen time of myth gives way to the bustling time of machines…

…With this killing [the final duel], the central relationship is broken: the main characters are now free to move away, as if the mythic time that bound them together had been shattered, and they could now move into Morton’s time, the new time. The train begins to move, pulling up to the open ground in front of Sweetwater, which has now become a station and soon will become a town. The Panavision frame, so achingly empty at the beginning of the film, is now full to bursting with men, machinery, buildings. It is Jill’s city – Jill’s civilisation – and the camera follows her as she moves into the crowd of men, carrying a pot of coffee that first endeared her to Cheyenne. There is not any room for the survivor of a gunfight in this image of teeming domesticity, and as the camera continues to move – past the chugging locomotive and down to the end of the tracks, where the wilderness takes over again – it catches the figure of a lone rider, moving away. In the continuity of this final sequence, Leone balances a beginning and an ending, a setting and an escape, a celebration and a profound mourning. It is one of the most complex images in the history of the western, and certainly one of the most beautiful.
Last edited by colinr0380 on Wed Jun 13, 2018 11:41 am, edited 1 time in total.

Joined: Tue Dec 26, 2017 5:35 am

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

#179 Post by black&huge » Wed Jun 13, 2018 10:26 am

This film has been brought up to me in various ways recently and reminded that a) I really want to watch it again since it's been years and b) Henry Fonda's character is so damn mean and dirty I wonder why he's not considered enough as one of the greatest villains in any and all film.

Post Reply