Once Upon a Time in the West Reviews
On another viewing I can see why this is lauded as one of the best westerns out there. Sergio goes from the snappy Kurosawa inspired Man with No Name Trilogy that was know for snappy action and over the top (but brilliant) music to Once Upon a Time in the West.
Once Upon a Time in the West is much more dialed back and ironically similar to Kurosawa in a way of letting long framing shots dictate immersion that's eventually cut by action. Rather than letting action drive the shots. Combine this with a haunting melody and a somewhat abstract plot and you get a movie that's sort of unlike anything else.
It's long, it's slow, it's immersive, it's beautiful, and everyone takes away something different from their viewing.
What I found quite interesting was how each character evolves during the story which is something we don't really get in the Man with No Name Trilogy.
The Hero starts off being elusive, and ends as a sort of blank slate after his revenge is complete
The Villain starts as an evil killer looking to get into the railroad business, but at the end Bronson's character drives him to accept that they have a destiny (through their duel) that must be confronted even at the cost of his other ambitions.
The Outlaw slowly comes around to help Claudia Cardinale's Jill character despite no real payoff for him.
Claudia's character Jill has a dark background she's trying to get away from through her marriage and at the end she truly tries to move forward with the start of the station town she was left with.
Seeing such profound character changes happening very subtly is the mark of a good director as the dialogue is sparse and often times it relies on the camera work to show this.
I would highly recommend at least one viewing by anyone who's a fan of the Western genre just so you can make up your own mind about it.
Sergio Leone's presentation was perfect for this Wild West melodrama, starring four characters whose motives remain some degree of a mystery, well past any revelations we may have about their situations. This is in debt to both the actors -- Claudia Cardinale, Charles Bronson, Jason Robards, and Henry Fonda (the villain!) -- and the script, which together tell a story of self-interested players and shooters who try to predict the target's next move as best as they can, without revealing their tactic. Frank (Fonda) seems to play strictly for profit, gaining such by whatever means are necessary. Jill (Cardinale), after moving into her home to find her entire family dead, wants to settle into the lifestyle she had planned in the first place. Cheyenne (Robards) usually plays for profit too, though he was framed by Frank for the death of Jill's family and must shift focus towards protecting her and himself. Harmonica (Bronson) is out for blood, Frank's blood. They are all smart people, and do not dare reveal every perspective and strategy in their book. However, they also immediately pounce on the opportunities for an alliance, however long it will last. I could not say there was much of a theme, as each character's motives were so different, but a theme does not matter as much as focus. And Leone has that, packaging Once Upon a Time in the West in such a way that demands your full attention for every scene, lest you miss an important clue into a character's head. Cinema at its chunkiest and most gripping.