Once Upon a Time in the West

Once Upon a Time in the West. Welp. It’s perfect. This was my second time seeing it all the way through (my first), and I was very lucky to catch it on the big screen. Two things that stood out for me more this time around….

One, the operatic heightening. Straight out of opera, each major character gets a leitmotif in the soundtrack, they’re all introduced in a different way to draw attention to their role, and they’re all pretty unambiguous archetypes: villain, hero, buffoon, hooker with heart of gold. And dang, that score.

Two, the recurring hints about time. The movie opens with a shot of a rail schedule, then shifts to a comically, absurdly extended introduction marked by dripping water and creaking windmills. The anxious father who wants to be ready for his beloved’s arrival. Watches checked, appointments made. A capitalist who wants to reach the Pacific coast before his death. A railroad station that must be built on a deadline. Fancy clocks in the financier’s railcar. The clockface in town during a shoot-out. And battles that the hero faces are a sort of countdown: three assassins, then two, then one.