Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Once Upon a Time in the West

Two weekends ago, I went to the Castro to see Once Upon a Time in the West.

Once Upon a Time in the West starring Henry Fonda & Charles Bronson; with Claudia Cardinale & Jason Robards; directed by Sergio Leone; (1968)

Dario Argento, Bernardo Bertolucci and Leone are credited with writing the story the screenplay is based on.

I've seen Once Upon a Time in the West (OUATITW) before and have always been partial to Leone's trilogy with Clint Eastwood (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly).  OUATITW has too many long stretches of silence for my tastes.  It wasn't until recently that I learned that OUATITW is part of a loose Leone trilogy also comprising Duck, You Sucker and Once Upon a Time in AmericaDuck, You Sucker (1971) is playing at the PFA on January 10.  I'm not sure why Leone just didn't title the 1971 film Once Upon a Time in Mexico which was the title of Robert Rodriguez's third film in his Mariachi trilogy.

OUATITW has a plot which takes the long way around the barn.  Taking more than 2.75 hours to tell a revenge story, the version of OUATITW screened at the Castro was the "complete" version which includes Robards' death at the end.  We get a lot of close-ups of Henry Fonda's eyes and weathered face (which looks all of its 63 years despite the dark hair).  It's jarring to see Fonda play the villain and that's the best part of OUATITW.  Jason Robards shows up for no apparent reason.  Frankly, other than the parts involving Fonda and Bronson's characters, I thought the plot was superfluous.  There are a lot of stare downs and pregnant pauses and some sweaty guys looking menacing but otherwise it boils down to Bronson playing his harmonica and Fonda coldly going about.  Claudia Cardinale looks beautiful as always.

Having not seen the film in years, I was hoping for a greater appreciation of the film this time around but at best, was left mild about the film.

No comments: