Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wednesday Westerns: Once Upon a Time in the West

Welcome a weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. In an effort to provide a look back at older films and a desire to highlight a specific genre, I will be spotlighting a Western film each week, combining films from a course I took while at NYU called Myth of the Last Western and other films I have seen and do see. If you have a Western you’d like to write about, please let me know and feel free to submit a guest spot for future weeks!

Once Upon a Time in the West
Directed by Sergio Leone
Released May 28, 1969

Clint Eastwood didn’t need to be the star of a Leone spaghetti western for it to be truly awesome. Take “C’era una volta il West,” Leone’s follow-up film to the Dollars trilogy, which features a colorful cast of characters and some excellent traditional Western drama. This film is exceptionally skilled at handling multiple characters whose lives intersect in different ways. The opening scene is one of the best in cinema history, and Henry Fonda makes for one mean bad guy. He’s smartly paired with Jason Robards, as good guy Cheyenne, and Charles Bronson as the incomparable Harmonica, whose allegiances and back story aren’t too clear for a good portion of the film. This film works well mostly as a celebration of its title, as if it’s some far-off tale of a time, long ago, when these people might have existed and this is how life might have been. At times, it’s gripping, and at others, it’s appropriately and discomfortingly quiet and slow. The music of the harmonica is fantastic, and gives this film that perfect Old West feel. Like “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” this film incorporates some elements of historical development which help to ground it and give it a proper background. Basically, this is one of those films that feels like a classic from its opening moments, and it’s hard to find a gang as cruel and a Western as iconic. Treat yourself to two magnificent sequences from the film below – the first and the last.

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