Movie Rob’s Genre Grandeur: Once Upon a Time in the West (Western)

For this month’s first review for Genre Grandeur – Westerns, here’s a review of Once Upon A Time in the West (1968) by Catherine of Thoughts All Sorts Thanks again to Catherine of Thoughts All Sorts for choosing this month’s genre. In case you missed any of this month’s reviews, here’s a recap: Broken Trail – […]

via Genre Grandeur January Finale – Once Upon A Time in the West (1968) – Thoughts All Sorts

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Absolutely Superb. Simply put…a work of art.

Sergio Leone‘s Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). To me, the masterpiece of the Western Genre. It takes its time (but is never boring) to tell the story of just married Mrs McBain (Claudia Cardinale) who arrives at her new home to find husband and his children murdered. Harmonica (Charles Bronson) and Cheyenne (Jason Robards) loosely work together to protect widow McBain and stop ruthless Frank (Henry Fonda) from achieving his goals. I don’t want to explain too much as I think watching the coming together of the characters and the gradual motivations make this movie so special.

The opening sets the scene like no other movie has managed to do (in my opinion). With practically no dialogue, tension is built through various angles and shots alone. All heightened by sound effects from people and objects moving. Adding to this: the irritating fly and the dripping water. The close-ups. The surroundings. The pace. The visual textures. Never have I been engaged to such a degree that I experience the on-screen frustrations so vividly. Leone definitely knows how to get to the audience. But he also knows how to release that build-up.

That’s not all. To this perfectly crafted movie Ennio Morricone brings the perfect score. Yes, who doesn’t know the “notorious” harmonica tune? There’s another recurring motif that sticks in the mind though. But not only that, in general, the music, together with the sound-effects make for one amazing experience. No other soundtrack would have worked.

Ah…the dialogue…clever, brilliant and delivered by a stellar cast. What more can I say? Other than, if I go on I won’t do it any justice. Rather watch and savour it. You’ll have 2.5 hours to do it. Don’t be put off by the length…it is worth every second.

If you still aren’t convinced…IMDB gives it a rating of 8.6/10 and lists it (as at January 2017) as number 31 in Top Rated Movies. Rotten Tomatoes has an audience score of “95% like it”.

For those of you not familiar with the iconic harmonica melody, here it is:

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7 comments

  1. I read Rob’s review of Ride With the Devil the other day, he wasn’t impressed was he?
    For what it’s worth I love the film, I’ve even splashed out for the Criterion Collection release. Sure everyone has different taste, for me Ride With the Devil is a superb film.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah thanks Paul. I really needed that – thank you so much. I likewise have it in my collection (normal release though). I also recommended The Private Lives of Pippa Lee – unfortunately that also didn’t go down well.
      Have a lovely evening!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Whenever I watch Once Upon a Time in the West I’m always taken by the symbolic moment when Cheyenne (Jason Robards) draws his last breath just as you hear the train entering Sweetwater. The end of the old west and the start of the new!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes…true…I’m so glad you pointed that out. I mean, I heard the train but didn’t “click” on the symbolism – now it is clear.
      Don’t you just love that opening sequence at the train station? I just want to swat that fly and stop the dripping.

      Liked by 1 person

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