A Very Long Fairy Tale

Once Upon a Time in the WestIf it weren’t the beginning of another crazy week at Behavior (where we’re looking to hire freelance designers, by the way), I’d spend some time writing extensive praise for Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in the West.” I watched it for the first time this past weekend on a newly minted DVD version, and it was magnificent. Perhaps a very brief outlining of my thoughts are in order anyway because, at heart, this is a ninety minute film stretched out to a very long two hours and forty-odd minutes.

Leone needed all of this extra time to cram every frame with signifiers and meticulously placed allusions to other westerns; the entire enterprise is an attempt to essay the archetypal western movie, a statement of self-awareness from the father of the spaghetti western. Making films about films is an approach that sometimes makes for fascinating movies — and often it doesn’t — but the results are almost always clinical or sloppy or both. This isn’t the case with “Once Upon a Time;” the movie succeeds both as treatise and as fairy tale. It is remarkably alluring and warm even though it’s essentially a methodical rather than an emotional narrative. And it even manages to seem pretty well buttoned-up even as it manages to somehow completely lose its own plot towards the end of its second act; one manages to forgive the transgression fairly easily, which is a testament to Leone’s amazingly confident directorial hand.


One Comment

  1. Ahhhh. Rented the DVD the day it came out. Even the horrendous fullscreen VHS version of this movie couldn’t ruin how great this movie is.

    Finally got to see that shot of Charles Bronson’s eyes uncropped!

    It’s the little things……

    PS Also great to witness the beginning of Dario Argento’s career. Supposedly he was the second director for (and I hear entirely filmed) the opening sequence.

Thank you! Your remarks have been sent to Khoi.