With a simple Google search of the film Once Upon a Time in the West thousands of results pop up detailing the Western’s magnificence. Coming in at #5 on Rotten Tomatoes’ Top Westerns List and #30 on IMDB’s Top Rated Movies list, this film has indisputably made an impact on cinema. However, along with those glowing marks comes a multitude of blogs where viewers vent their frustrations about the blatant misogyny found in the film. Despite being distinguished, as a Western, Once Upon a Time in the West inherently has some problematic connotations.
Tag: Sergio Leone
“There are two types of people: those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig.” – the Man with No Name
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly might seem like a straightforward Spaghetti Western; Within the first half hour of the three hour-long epic, the representative characters of the titular good, bad, and ugly are introduced. While director Sergio Leone presents three types of people in the West, the ugly Tuco consistently reminds the audience that “there are two types of people in this world…” giving a new opposing binary every time. Black and white oppositions of morality are constantly being made throughout the film. This clear moral dichotomy harkens back to the uniform moral lines of earlier Westerns that showed the egregiously bad antagonist overcome by the incorruptible and scrupulous protagonist. However, the ethical certainty of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (and the rest of the Dollars trilogy) is not as incontrovertible as the Westerns that preceded it. This film is not straightforward or simple, rather it is a highly complex and reflective film that changed the landscape of the western genre inspiring the likes of Quentin Tarantino and the Coen brothers.
By Kris Tronerud
Once Upon A Time In The West (C’era Una Volta il West) • 1968 • Directed by Sergio Leone
In 1966, after the commercial failure of his first two movies, (and well before the smash international success of The Conformist and Last Tango In Paris), fledgling director Bernardo Bertolucci found himself at a professional and personal dead end, and fled, as he often did, to repair to the movies and re-energize himself. He decided on a screening of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and, in one of those happy coincidences that seem to figure in the back stories of so many film classics, present in the projection room were, not only TGTBATU’s newly successful director Sergio Leone, but a young critic looking for an ‘in’ in the film industry, future horror great Dario Argento. When asked by Leone why he liked the film so much, Bertolucci blurted out that he admired the fact that Leone, like John Ford, rather than prettifying horses in profile, filmed ‘their arses from behind”. After a stunned silence, the Ford-worshipping Leone replied “We must make a film together sometime”. While this suggested partnership might have gone against the grain of the young Marxist’s usual filmic tendencies, Bertolucci was (like his entire generation of European directors) also an infatuated Hollywood film buff; and, as he later admitted, “I dreamed… of making a film that (simply) gave pleasure to everyone”. He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, as the film which grew out of this chance meeting was arguably (with the possible exception of Ford’s The Searchers) the greatest Western ever made: the epic, astonishing and mesmerizing Once Upon A Time In The West.
By Kris Tronerud
The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly – dir Sergio Leone – 1966
In 1965, as Sergio Leone’s For A Few Dollars More was enjoying a runaway success in Italy (it was the most profitable Italian Film to date), its screenwriter Luciano Vincenzoni brought his good friend Ilya Lopert of United Artists to the Supercinema Theater in Rome to see see FAFDM. Greatly impressed by the vocal enthusiasm of the packed-to-the-rafters audience, Lopert offered three times what producer Alberto Grimaldi was expecting for the rights to FAFDM, and, in true Hollywood fashion, sought to secure the rights to Leone’s ‘next film’ in advance. There was no ‘next film’, but with an assenting nod from Leone (who spoke little or no English) Vincenzoni began to riff… The story, he said, concerned three rogues in search of a treasure at the time of the Civil War. To which few words Lopert replied: “Okay, we’ll buy it.” And so, after one of the shortest pitch meetings in film history, was born one of the great westerns of all time, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.