Once upon a time in the West
(C'era una volta il West)
Dir: Sergio Leone Scrs: Sergio Leone, Sergio Donati
Pho: Tonino Delli Colli Ed: Nino Baragli
Music: Ennio Morricone
Cast: Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Charles Bronson
Italy / USA / 1968 / Colour / 35mm / English Chi & Eng Subtitles / 165min
After completing his "The Man With No Name Trilogy", Leone intended to stop making Westerns. However, when Paramount gifted him a large budget and access to his favourite actor, Henry Fonda, Leone accepted. Together with Bernardo Bertolucci and Dario Argento, he developed a story that borrowed generously from many greats of the genre and would serve as Leone's final word on the subject.
Set during the final years of the Old West, Once Upon A Time in the West focuses on a bloody land battle for a small homestead, soon to skyrocket in price when the railroad arrives. Owned by Claudia Cardinale's reformed prostitute, newly widowed by the evil Frank (Henry Fonda playing shockingly against type), this remote outcrop proves the unlikely stage for a tale of vengeance, when the mysterious gunman known only as Harmonica (Charles Bronson) arrives in town.
More sombre and elegiac than his previous westerns, the film retains Leone's epic scope and operatic style, but finds his characters wrestling with the realization that their days of vigilantism are numbered in a country that has outgrown them. In Cardinale's Jill, the film also boasts Leone's strongest female character - a Southern
belle with a dubious past more than capable of holding her own around dangerous men, despite being left to fend for herself.
The film has been rightly recognised not only as one of Leone's best, but as one of the greatest films ever made, in the Western, or any other genre.
Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive
||Cinema, Hong Kong Film Archive
*Post-screening talk with Ka Ming, in Cantonese
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