Ten years in planning, Sergio Leone’s epic Once upon a Time in America portrays 50 years of riveting underworld history and offers rich roles to a remarkable cast. Robert De Niro and James Woods play lifelong Lower East Side pals whose wary partnership unravels in death and mystery. Strong support comes from Tuesday Weld, Joe Pesci, Jennifer Connelly, Elizabeth McGovern and the young actors playing the central characters as ghetto kids. To see this film (offered for the first time in the full version 1984 Cannes Film Festival audiences cheered) is “to be swept away by the assurance and vitality of a great director making his final statement in a medium he adored” (Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times). –Warner Bros.
Sergio Leone was virtually born into the cinema – he was the son of Roberto Roberti (aka Vincenzo Leone), one of Italy’s cinema pioneers, and actress Bice Valerian. Leone entered films in his late teens, working as an assistant director to both Italian directors and American directors working in Italy (usually making Biblical and Roman epics, much in vogue at the time). Towards the end of the 1950s he started writing screenplays, and began directing after taking over Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei (1959) in mid-shoot after its original director fell ill. His first solo feature, Il colosso di Rodi (1961), was a routine Roman epic, but his second feature, A Fistful of Dollars (1964), a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (1961), caused a revolution. Although it wasn’t the first spaghetti Western, it was far and away the most successful, and shot former TV cowboy Clint Eastwood to stardom (Leone wanted Henry Fonda or Charles Bronson but couldn’t afford them). The… read more
As sprawling and gorgeous an epic as there has ever been, but permeated with an intimacy and nostalgia such narratives are seldom afforded. It's unfortunate, however, that Leone's proud masculinity occasionally detours into nauseating misogyny.
If the "point" you speak of is Noodles' failure to understand that (according to the film) there are women it's okay to rape (such as Carol in the robbery scene, where the rape is unacceptably played for laughs) because it's a slum and they're whores anyway, and there are women you can't do that with, like Deborah, that's exactly what IS misogynistic. HE is shown to be the victim during that scene, and it's almost suggested that she was "asking for it" or "had it coming." Pretty sure he even says that earlier in the film. That's misogyny. Women are either good or bad to Leone, and that has nothing to do with them being intelligent or caring or vapid or unethical -- if they're Madonna-like virgins, they're good. Or they're whores. Not to mention, there are plenty of instances where the misogyny has no point: women are gratuitously slapped around, shot, told they're nothing, nipples are fondled, minors are sexualized... I love this film too man, know that I do. But the awful attitude towards women is there, plain and simple, and I won't excuse it.
A steady ride down a current of memories. One long visually-splendid and expensive breath after another. I probably wouldn't put up with something like this if it were directed by anyone else. But in the hands of Leone, each look becomes a conversation, every word builds a relationship and all steps connect character to environment. Overly poetic at points but doesn't pollute the violence: making the action all the more meaningful. The baby bit's brilliant. Unions!
Leone, Polanski, Varda, Spielberg, Hitchcock, Kinoshita, Rossellini and more.
For me, at least, Once Upon a Time in America is THE ultimate gangster film, and the ultimate film, it is the finest film of all time. Sergio Leone gives us one of the most complex plots to think over… read review
The 229 minute version of Sergio Leone’s epic is a masterpiece…so rich, so much character development (it’s appalling to even remotely like Noodles as he’s a degenerate/sociopath/rapist). A movie… read review
This is, for me, one of the finest examples of cinematic art. It isn’t a simple, cut-n-dried 90 minute little package that gets wrapped up with a pretty bow at the end. You get pulled in by the enigmatic… read review