Discussion of movies and ReelThoughts topics

It is currently Sun Sep 21, 2014 2:57 am




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 8 posts ] 
73 Once Upon a Time in the West 1968 
Author Message
Post 73 Once Upon a Time in the West 1968
From Zepplin:

Hello everyone! I'd love to discuss North by Northwest with you, but I haven't seen it so instead I'll change the subject.

I'm not sure if anyone noticed or not, but I haven't posted on the forum at all for about two weeks now. I was on vacation in Florida, and the hotel I was staying at didn't have (free) internet, so I was cut off. Which means I have a lot of catching up to do. Although I didn't watch any journey related movies while on vacation, I did watch five movies immediately before I left which I have yet to post thoughts on. First off, I've got thoughts on Once Upon a Time in the West, and tomorrow I'll post thoughts on The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Au Hasard Balthazar, Metropolis, and Crimes and Misdemeanors. I'd post them now, but I've been driving all day and I need my sleep as much as your regular mortal does. Anyway, here's OUATITW.

Before watching it, Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West was one of the most anticpated stops on my journey. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly is one of my favorite movies, and, at 73, OUATITW is more than 100 places higher on the top 1000 (TGTBATU is at 187). Going into OUATITW, I expected something pretty similar to TGTBATU; a dirty, morally grey, man's man movie with astonishing cinematography and acting. The one thing I was not expecting was a stylized tribute amd slight subversion of the westerns of the 30s and 40s. That's what I got. Much like the westerns of old, OUATITW exists in a land of moral absolutes, where motivations can be traced back to honor among men and where grey is not an option; you're either good or your evil, ain't no inbetween. There's no room for a three-dimensional character like Tuco in OUATITW. Instead, you've got Frank, a completely wretched, corrupt individual who's only positive trait is his charm.

Going into a movie expecting one thing and getting something completely different isn't something that happens often to me, but it happened here. After being told by several different sources that OUATITW was a “work of art” and a “brilliant deconstruction of the old west” I was not prepared to watch a movie that, on the surface, resembles the “old west.” I spent at least half of OUATITW's running time being more baffled and angered than amazed by what was happening. Once I got over my intial confusion, I saw some of the brilliance I'd been told of. Using the stereotypes of the old westerns as a base for his characters, Leone twists them in subversive ways, such as making Fonda a sadistic villain or making the female lead a prostitute, and it works. Deconstruction, or Perversion? Probably a little of both.

I'll admit that my intial distaste of OUATITW is most likely entirely my fault. Once I got over my own personal hurdle, I had a much better time with it, and after two weeks of reflection my memories of it are mostly positive. 7/10, with the side note that I'll give it a whole nother point if someone would go back in time and kill Charles Bronson before this film was made. That man can not act.


Tue Jul 21, 2009 10:22 am
Post Re: 73 Once Upon a Time in the West 1968
“Once Upon a Time in the West” (1968)*

Atmosphere hangs heavy in this Sergio Leone Western. Several stories converge on a point and allegiances are not clear. Story one: “Harmonica” (Charles Bronson) opens the proceedings on a quest for Frank (Henry Fonda). We discover immediately, that anyone in his way will be killed. Story 2: Frank slays a father and children at their home, motives unknown. Story 3: the “mother” (Claudia Cardinale) of the family arrives from New Orleans to find her husband and his children dead. Story 4: Outlaw Cheyenne (Jason Robards) is sought for this murder. Alliances form as the stories converge. Intricate plotlines load viewers.

Awf Hand gives 3.5 out of 4 stars. This is a fantastic looking film while a bit ponderous in it’s pacing. Hailed at the “Greatest of the ‘Spaghetti Westerns’ “, it doesn’t displace “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” as my favorite Italian import. Viewing Fonda’s performance in “The Lady Eve” prior to “Once Upon” gives perspective/admiration to his versatility. Subtleties abound and the complexity of the character relations and back-stories focuses when we learn the source of Harmonica’s harmonica. Other plotlines remained a bit muddled. Those looking for Leone’s signature “eyes” close-ups won’t be disappointed. Morricone’s score is a strong -if not odd- supporting character of it’s own. Dated-looking, ham-handed zooms (just try not to groan) are among the few camera flourishes that slightly mar the otherwise fantastic and timeless cinematography.

*Time Magazine top 100 films of all time.


Mon Oct 18, 2010 11:52 am
Post Re: 73 Once Upon a Time in the West 1968
BTW, Rob,

BIG second on Bronson. He seemed woefully out of place here and, in "the eyes" shots, looked as though he could be blindfolded with dental floss. I found those visuals more humorous than menacing.
The list of leading men I'd rather have seen in this role is too long to create.


Mon Oct 18, 2010 12:03 pm
Post Re: 73 Once Upon a Time in the West 1968
I think the movie is fantastic and Charles Bronson is a fine 'actor' for this role. He doesn’t really need to act at all, just to be there. Due to Morricone’s use of leitmotifves like in an opera by Richard Wagner, the soundtrack does all the acting for him.


Mon Oct 18, 2010 12:24 pm
Post Re: 73 Once Upon a Time in the West 1968
Awf Hand wrote:
“Once Upon a Time in the West” (1968)*

Dated-looking, ham-handed zooms (just try not to groan) are among the few camera flourishes that slightly mar the otherwise fantastic and timeless cinematography.

*Time Magazine top 100 films of all time.


Yep, also one of my all time fav movies. Who would have thought that the cinematography would be held in such a high esteem. After all it was filmed, like precious Leone spaghetti-westerns, on a (then) consided "Poor man's CinemaScope", the so-called Techniscope.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Techniscope

It uses regular 35mm film, but only 2 perforations high (instead of 4) which cuts film stock cost in half - BUT for theatrical release prints it has to go through a blow up process using an optical printer. Of course recently restored versions on DVD/BluRay use the original Techniscope material and it looks fantastic.
Actually it performed better than the way more expensive anamporphic 1:2.35 widescreen, exclusively used in Hollywood by then.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CinemaScope

Nowadays, due to digital intermediates and highly improved film stock, the camera film format has often changed drastically from Super 35mm down to super 16mm - if that's a way to remain filming with real film until digital is mature and has the latitude, silkiness, beauty and color depth of film, I'm all for it - but I digress once again.

Techniscope had a fantastic depth of field and so you could have a face starring into the camera and then running away revealing the vast landscape in the burning sun - all in focus.

Just to say: Please keep in mind that the Techniscope format is part of the signature spaghetti-western look!


Sat Oct 23, 2010 3:32 pm
Post Re: 73 Once Upon a Time in the West 1968
Hold on, I just read "my post" and realized that I'd cut and pasted this from Zeppelin to populate the thread. I was scratching my head at the comments as i love this movie

9/10 for me and the opening sequences some of the best ever

John Ford eat your heart out!

Rob


Sat Oct 23, 2010 5:32 pm
Post Re: 73 Once Upon a Time in the West 1968
Robert Holloway wrote:
Hold on, I just read "my post" and realized that I'd cut and pasted this from Zeppelin to populate the thread. I was scratching my head at the comments as i love this movie

9/10 for me and the opening sequences some of the best ever

John Ford eat your heart out!

Rob


John Ford eat your heart out? Explain to me how Once Upon a Time is in any way watchable and I'll let that fly. Sure, individual moments have their merits, but to sit through the whole thing is to be subjected to unworthy boredom and senselessness.


Sun Oct 24, 2010 5:26 am
Post Re: 73 Once Upon a Time in the West 1968
(-Holy smokes, my home connection is working pitifully today.)

Having recently seen "The Searchers", I've no reason to feel that Ford should eat anything of himself. His vision is fantastic, if not a bit slow in coming and perhaps prompted by imports. In my follow-up to my orig post on "True Grit", which my browser is not letting me cut and paste, I considered Wayne's (and perhaps Ford's) work to be the lumbering muscle-cars of the day, while Leone/Eastwood led the import arrival.

While I considered "Once Upon.." a bit ponderous, the pace is consistent and deliberate. It does make demands on viewers. Rob mentions the opening scene (I'd like to know who the fly-wrangler was for Jack Elam) which displays the above as well as the cinemetography that I'd mentioned.
It sounds like Threeperf35 (in name alone?) knows a helluva lot more about the technical nature of their work than I do. I was simply admiring the choices of camera angles/positions and lighting. Camera-on-ground and camera-in-sky overlooking the squeaky windmill give viewers immediate notice that this isn't their father's Western. It is those elements/choices that we see on display in many of the best westerns of the last 30 years, as opposed to the seemingly fixed-height cams of the 50's.


Sun Oct 24, 2010 2:00 pm
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 8 posts ] 


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group.
Designed by Vjacheslav Trushkin for Free Forum/DivisionCore.
Translated by Xaphos © 2007, 2008, 2009 phpBB.fr