They screened the recently restored print of Sergio Leone’s epic masterpiece at The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences last night. All I can say is “It was magnificent!” The crew at Triage Motion Picture Services went all out. Paul Rutan flew to Rome and got a 2 perf Techniscope Interpositive made from the original camera negative. Then they borrowed Martin Scorsece’s IB technicolor print from the original theatrical release and timed to that. I must say it looked like Technicolor! They got great saturation that comes close to IB Technicolor. It was amazing.
The sound was restored as well and the mono mix sounded great. Did you ever notice in this film, whenever somebody is shot and killed a horse whinnys immediately afterwards and really loudly. Check it out. Also this is the epic Leone Western that features a powerful female character. Claudia Cardinale is as big a character as Bronson, Robards, and Fonda.
The Eyes, Chico…
These beautiful giant faces filled the enormous screen at the Academy in Incredible Leone Close Ups and the magnificent vistas of Monument Valley never looked so good as photographed by Tonino Delli Colli on 2-perf! You can really see the attention to detail Leone and his crew put into the sets and costumes by watching this film on a big screen. The pace may be slow compared to films made today but it gives you time to look around the frame and see all the beautiful objects, textures, lighting. Leone did scrupulous research on Western costumes and props and it comes through.
One Of The Greatest Flashbacks In All Of Cinema
When you top it all off with the music of Ennio Morricone it’s an unbeatable combination. The movie is really incredible images accompanied by soaring emotional score, wonderfully arranged and performed by great musicians, interspersed with great dialogue, not many words but all carefully chosen, it was a revelation to hear how many laughs the dialogue got. The audience was right there with the film for the entire time. Thanks also in part to the masterful editing of the great Nino Baragli. If you get a chance to see the restored version of this film in a good theater, I urge you to go and see it. It will be a revelation.
Akira Kurosawa sued Sergio Leone claiming that Leone ripped off Yojimbo and based his Per Un Pugno De Dollari on it. Leone claimed that it was a common story used many times before notedly by Dashiel Hammet in his novel Red Harvest. A story about a gangster who infiltrates a gang and plays one side against the other.
Samuel Fuller, Maverick
That is exactly what happens in Sam Fuller’s excellent Underworld U.S.A. Cliff Robertson grows up on the wrong side of the tracks, as a youngster he witnesses his father’s demise at the bloody hands of a group of thugs in a back alley. The young protagonist swears to take vengeance on the men who offed his old man and when he grows up he starts tracking down the killers. They have moved up in the world becoming big time gangsters and Cliff uses everyone to set them up, the police, the gangsters themselves, even the woman he loves. This movie pulls no punches, a hit man runs down a 10 year old girl after befriending her and giving her some gum.
Richard Rust, Psycho Killer with Cliff Robertson
It seems her bookkeeper father has disappeared with some sensitive information about “Mr. Big”. Robert Emhardt the large guy with the snide attitude is great as the Big Boss, after Cliff (Tolly) sets up one goon, Richard Rust the happy hitman douses the poor slob with gas and lights him up. Emhardt is watching from the back seat of his his ‘60 Caddy , he leans forward with a cigarette, “Gimme a light.” he orders.
Last One In Is A Rotten Egg!
This film is great, it really demonstrates how to make a lot out of a little, something Fuller was a master of. It inspired many filmmakers and is chock full of great ideas executed with style and power. Check it out.
I recently watched Truffaut’s Jules And Jim on Ovation. I had seen the film many years ago and I recall being angry, almost outraged at the ending. I won’t give it away for those of you who haven’t seen it. But watching it again recently I found I liked it a hell of a lot! Sometimes this happens to me, maybe it has to do with my state of mind at the time of watching something.
Anyway on rewatching J &J I saw things in Jeanne Moreau’s performance that now made perfect sense to me since I now knew how the film would end. Watch an Ingmar Bergman film, then watch it again. Things that seem mysterious suddenly become perfectly clear, I’m speaking about the motivations of a character in the film. I recall seeing a Bergman film with Erland Josephson, maybe Scenes From A Marriage.
I was puzzled by certain aspects of Josephson’s character’s behavior, I watched the entire film, then for some reason I began to watch it again. Now that I knew what his real motivations were his actions made perfect sense to me. He was completely in character. Bergman and his actors knew their characters intimately from the first frame to the last, it was up to us the audience to catch on. It also makes rewatching a film more rewarding for us , more hidden treasures for us to mine. Of course this kind of filmmaking is very rare, especially today when the mantra is “Manipulate The Audience, Have No Respect For Their Intelligence”.
I recently listened to an interview with Pierre Lhomme, cinematographer on Melville’s L’ Armée des ombres, he says this film could never be made today because it does not manipulate the audience, it allows them to think. Check it out here: http://www.filmforum.org/podcast/mp3/ArmyOfShadowsJan102007.mp3
Just remember the old saying, ” You don’t judge Great Art, it judges you.”
I just found out about a British TV series called Eurotika. It’s about great “B” Euro Cinema, the episode I saw was called Blood And Black Lace all about Italian horror with a special emphasis towards Mario Bava.
It’s a great little foray into this genre. An eye-popping credit sequence, much in the style of those classic animation stand high color openings of Italian yesteryear, then great clips intercut with insightful interviews. There are wonderful comments by Antonio Margheriti, Erika Blanc, Luigi Cozzi, Orchedia de Santis to name just a few, but Michel Lemoine’s words about the creative process and what he learned from Bava were the most inspirational.
Beautifully made by Andy Starke and Pete Toombs, this documentary left me hungry to see the rest of the series, which I will order ASAP. Some of the other titles are:Virgins And Vampires regarding the films of Jean Rollin, Diabolical Mr. Franco, focusing on Jesus Franco, Blood And Sand looking at Spanish horror, and one I really want to see The Blood Beast, The Films Of Michael Reeves, this is the guy who made Witchfinder General with Vincent Price, a brutal indictment of the abuses of power by an evil Inquisitor. Reeves died under mysterious circumstances at the tender age of 26. He’s a favorite of Quentin Tarantino and I believe Pete Toombs wrote a book about him which I also want to check out. So fans of Euro Genre Cinema, Rejoice! And track down this incredible series, The Eurotika team is also distributing films so check out their recommendations, you won’t be disappointed!