Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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The Man with the Harmonica

C'era una volta il West

Okay, I haven't gotten any feedback about Gun and Sun yet, but I can at least say right now that I like it. Morricone's style just always makes me want to go wherever the music takes me. I was listening to it all day yesterday and all day today, and it certainly has put me in a Spaghetti Western mood... I've been thinking about breaking out my laserdisc of the delicious My Name Is Nobody and checking that out, as I haven't seen it in a while. I've also been prompted to check out Navajo Joe due to my current Morricone binge and a mention by Douglas E. Winter in this month's "Audio Watchdog" column in Video Watchdog as being on of the scores he most likes to inflict on his friends. I've listened to some of the samples on Amazon and will order it on Thursday.

I was, however, horrified to learn that aerolyndt - who is a huge fan of the Dollars trilogy - had never seen Once Upon A Time in the West. Now, normally I recommend things conditional to their appeal, but this is an important message to any reading this, and I think suitboyskin will concur:

If you have not already done so, it is vitally important that you see Sergio Leone's 1969 masterpiece Once Upon A Time in the West. Whether you like Westerns or not.

It is one of the few motion pictures that I will point to as being a perfect cinematic experience, and I have shown the film to many people, each one of them has been profoundly affected by it. It's all of the fun that the Dollars films are, but on such an epic scale that it dwarfs them. It is the perfect fusion of Sergio Leone's vivid style, mythic approach and subject matter. The film tells a story representative of the death of the Old West, but it is also an intense and incisive look at the characters, each one of them not only personifying some aspect of this passage, but also fully drawn and beautifully performed by the cast.

Claudia Cardinale has a difficult role, but she's quite good in it, and she's as beautiful as she ever was in color (I'm sorry, nothing can beat how she looked in Gianni di Venanzo's lucious black-and-white photography in Fellini's , which is as quintessential an image of a woman in cinema as is Grace Kelly's entrance in Rear Window). It is her screen presence that holds the film together. I have never seen better performance by Jason Robards. Never. And in my opinion, that's saying a lot. I can't stand almost any other film with Charles Bronson in it (an important exception: Red Sun another Western that co-stars Toshiro Mifune!). And Henry Fonda...
Henry Fonda originally turned down a role in the picture. Director Sergio Leone flew to the United States and met with Fonda, who asked why he was wanted for the movie. Sergio replied, "Picture this: the camera shows a gunman from the waist down pulling his gun and shooting a running child. The camera pans up to the gunman's face and... it's Henry Fonda."

Tonino Delli Colli's Techniscope photography really transcends the limitations of that medium, and stands up as one of the banner works of widescreen cinematography (and may I say Paramount's razor-sharp widescreen transfer finally does it justice and has eye-popping color and detail; one of my dreams is to see this film projected in a good 35 millimeter print). I am proud to say that I have never seen this film panned-and-scanned, and if I ever do I will probably be seriously tempted to claw my eyes out.

And the music. This is one of the greatest motion picture scores in history. If there is one I'd pick to show Ennio Morricone's artistry, it is this one. It is brilliantly constructed. Frank and Harmonica share a theme which slips in and out of the diegesis (the reality of the film), its appearances usually generated initially by the character of Harmonica. The theme for Jill is one of Morricone's most lyrical, an elegy for the romanticism of an era; it is a companion piece to the so-cliché-it's brilliant that is clippity-clop Cheyenne's theme, to the introspective music for Morgan... it's all so good, and it's prevalance in the sound mixand spot-on interaction with Leone's arresting visuals makes it an integral aspect of the film, perhaps more than any other Morricone score other than Once Upon A Time in America.

I reviewed the original soundtrack album at, but forget about that old RCA CD with the awful picture of the train on it, though, the version of the soundtrack album to get is the European import, the Spanish edition of which can be found on Amazon, the French edition on Intrada

Yes, it's Maestro Morricone, yet again

Since this film came out on DVD, I've seen it many, many times, usually because I keep coming across people who haven't seen it. Nobody that I've shown the film to ever regretted seeing it. This is the best that cinema has to offer as both entertainment and art.
Tags: cinema, film music

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