C’era una volta il West: Big guns

[Screenshot]A note on the title: my policy has been to canonicalize film titles the same way IMDB does, which is apparently by country of first release. So Once Upon a Time in the West (and every other Sergio Leone film) is not terribly recognizable from its subject-title. Sorry about that.

So, on to the actual material of this film. It is long and sweeping and very good within its genre. We don’t see much character development, or even really strong plotting. What there is is a lot of straightforward acting in archetypal roles. It’s somewhat one-dimensional, but it’s genre work and it does a good job in it. We have the authentic black-hat villain, the bandit with a good heart, the damsel-in-distress, and the enigmatic stranger. Charles Bronson is very good as the last; the other roles seem somewhat routine, although Henry Fonda as the black-hat works a lot better than you’d expect it to. It sounds like I’m running this down, but really, it’s a quite good film, just suffused enough with testosterone and machismo for me not to get super-excited (I’m ultimately a chick-flick fan). I do, however, admire the camerawork and scoring: the score is a magnificent work, with character themes and plenty of incidental music which works real well and has since become clichéd (which is one way to know it’s good). The camera does a lot of close-ups on craggy, stubbly faces, but also a lot of panoramic shots, of farms and plains and railroads. It’s a Western, what do you expect? But one might argue it’s not just a Western, but the Western.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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