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.



Ennio Morricone Once Upon a Time in the West (via Once Upon a Time in the West: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (vocals by Edda D’ell Orso)

“For me the music is fundamental, especially in a Western where the dialogue is purely aphoristic. The films could just as well be silent; one would understand all the same. The music serves to emphasize states of mind, facts and situations more than the dialogue itself does. In short, for me the music functions as dialogue.”

-Sergio Leone

For a Few Dollars More

For a Few Dollars More. I’ve finally finished the Dollars Trilogy. This one is great. I found it much better than A Fistful of Dollars and almost up there with The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. The first duel in this movie is either the first or second best in the whole trilogy. I love the way Leone builds from silence to melodramatic swells of music and back to silence and only then gives you resolution. And nice little details like in the delightful hat duel where every time Eastwood shoots the hat it lands in a pool of light. And the repeated appearance of the safe during the bank robbery scene. You know something is going to happen with/to/near/around it, but you gotta wait for the moment. Sweet, sweet suspense.