10 October 2014

Once Upon a Time in the West

First of all, this is just a regular blog post – it’s not a film review. I love READING film reviews but I hate WRITING them, so I’m not going to write one now. Today I saw Sergio Leone’s western-to-end-all-westerns ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ and I needed to jot down some quick reactions to it. That is the reason for this posting. Please forgive it for cluttering up your environment.

My favorite movie of the moment is Quentin Dupiuex’s WRONG COPS, and I was telling my friend that I’ve watched it every day since I purchased my disc of the film; and it’s been about a month, so I’ve seen WRONG COPS roughly 30 times now. So this proves that I have issues, yes. Anyway, the friend to whom I was relaying this news is a German Supercomputer. I say this because I’m obsessed with the movie ‘2001’ and my friend’s name is Thomas and he lives in Germany so I call him TOM 9000 after the supercomputer HAL.

So I was telling my German Supercomputer how much I love the movie WRONG COPS, and he got so very curious (or annoyed?) that he actually sought out the film and watched it, and we conversed about it for a long time, and I wish that I would have written a blog post about WRONG COPS because I said many things in praise of that film that deserve to be said in public thrice monthly forever. So maybe I’ll write a blog post about WRONG COPS in the future.

The German Supercomputer reacted to the news of my multiple viewings of WRONG COPS by replying that he has only encountered one movie in his life that he has watched so many times, and that is the film called ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’.

Now, since he spoke this comment in a robotic voice with a distinctly German accent, I thought to myself that it would be good for me to watch this movie that he mentioned. So I ordered a copy of it from my local library. (Actually it was an interlibrary loan.)

I just finished watching the film today. What was my reaction? I have rarely loved a film more on a first viewing. I feel like I could ramble for days about how good the movie is; but right now I only have time simply to list a few things that I loved about ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’. So that's what I'll do. Please pardon the hasty bad writing of all this – I’m scrambling to get these thoughts down quickly before bedtime:

  1. I love the way that the movie playfully references so many earlier western films.
  2. I love the way that it starts with simple but exaggerated ‘natural’ sounds instead of music – it’s almost a symphony of natural sounds in that opening part – and then it ends with an obvious musical score that works perfectly.
  3. I love the way that the typical conventions of the western film genre are turned on their head – the movie reminded me of North by Northwest, in this respect. Storytelling conventions are either straightforwardly employed to brilliant effect or they’re flipped upside down to brilliant effect – but everything worked out brilliantly. Bronson as the good guy; Fonda as the villain, etc...
  4. I love the way the film is unabashedly stylistic – or you could say operatic, or poetic, or artificial – I love this very much.
  5. I love the way so many of the characters spend so much time staring at each other.
  6. I love Claudia Cardinale, and I think that everyone should be jealous of her for not only having a major role in THIS but also in Fellini’s “8 1/2” and Visconti’s “The Leopard”. (How does an actor become associated with so many masterpieces!?!?)
  7. I love that the character who uses the fancy crutches – the extremely wealthy man whose name is Morton – reminds me of Darth Vader.
  8. I love that ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST shows the end of the age of the old western hero in the U.S., and that this demise had to be realized by an Italian director, while my own treasured movie, WRONG COPS, shows where authority and heroism ended up in the U.S., and that this dead-end farce had to be realized by a French director. (It’s as if only Europeans can see the problems of the States clearly enough to articulate them – I love that.)
  9. I love that so much of Leone’s film reminded me of Quentin Tarantino – I’m just saying this after a first viewing, but, often, while watching Once Upon a time in the West, I felt like I was watching a distinguished new cut of Kill Bill, as well as other titles from QT – in a good way, though: there's a rich influence & dialogue between the two filmmakers that brings out the best in each director’s work and that makes each of their careers even more interesting.
  10. I love the prominent wind noise that is so often heard... and the huffing, puffing of the locomotive on the soundtrack – these things made me think of the films of my longtime favorite David Lynch. Also the fact that Henry Fonda’s sadistic villain character is named Frank – I imagine that his last name is Booth, so that he might be the grandfather or great-grandfather of BLUE VELVET’s Frank Booth.
  11. I love the scene where the nondescript gunslinger gets shot and falls from the top of the building, all the way THRU THE LOWER ROOF and down smashing into the floor! (Plus I really feel for that stuntman.)

Now here is a self shot of me holding my library copy of the disc while making an unflattering face and gesturing as if my hand is a lethal weapon:

By the way, I wish I were the owner of a deluxe version of the movie that was packaged in a suede bag and came equipped with a harmonica. (I am making a reference to the copy of the film that is proudly owned by the aforementioned supercomputer.)


Here are the audio recordings that I uploaded today: first, a casual reading of Walt Whitman's poem 'To the Garden the World'; and, second, Furniture Beat 000016 is ready to be ignored.


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