Sergio Leone reinvigorated the American Western with the unique vision of a brilliantly observant outsider. Unlike the well-groomed characters depicted in traditional studio Westerns, the inhabitants of Leone’s frontier are dusty, sweaty and grimy. Frame-filling closeups linger on nuances of facial expression, communicating more with a look than with pages of dialogue. In his masterpiece, Once upon a Time in the West, Leone casts icon of gallantry Henry Fonda radically against type as the darkest of villains, and brings European stylistic reinterpretations perfected in his low-budget spaghetti Westerns to the quintessential cowboy movie location—John Ford’s favorite, Monument Valley. While this film employs and references the archetypal characters and themes of the Western, it goes far beyond a reiteration of cinematic clichés; instead, it is a riveting and emotional exploration of the genre’s mythologies. Once upon a Time in the West was shot in the Techniscope format, which has not been in use since the early 1970s. A photochemical restoration has been made using the original negative so as to preserve the beauty of the photography and director Leone’s original vision, and the color was retimed to capture the rich earth tones of the original photography. The audio was restored from magnetic master tracks. –San Francisco International Film Festival
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
The true story of Patrice Lulumba, Congolese leader, is combined with the story of Christ in Valerio Zurlini’s political/religious allegory.
A kaleidoscopic sample of film music: impossible fantasies, lush atmospheres, epic operas, sophisticated seductions.
Criterion releases Kiss Me Deadly on DVD and Blu-ray today and, for the occasion, they're running an essay by J Hoberman adapted from his book
DR. LIVINGSKELETON, I PRESUME? The Living Skeleton is a lot of fun, or at least, that was my experience, or I think it was
There was always something epic about Westerns. The big sky, stark landscapes, and family sagas were familiar genre markers attractive to big-scale filmmakers like John Ford. Ironically, they were… read review
It’s perhaps the biggest salute to the Western genre. It takes everything great about earlier films and spins it on it’s heel. Henry Fonda’s incredibly evil Frank is in my opinion the greatest villain… read review