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 – […]
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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: