Majestic valleys and harsh wilderness, resilient settlers and adventurous heroes, splendid visuals and widescreen cinematography, together with the quintessential screen cowboys John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, have all made westerns a movie genre with sentimental appeal, captivating to audiences. In view of the enthusiastic response to the digitally restored classic westerns of the "Restored Treasures" April to July series organised by the Hong Kong Film Archive, additional screenings of "The Searchers" and "Rio Bravo" will be held.
The series' four restored treasures are "The Searchers" (1956), starring John Wayne, which was shown earlier this month; "Rio Bravo" (1959), also starring John Wayne; "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" (1966), starring Clint Eastwood; and "Once Upon a Time in the West" (1968), starring Henry Fonda. The latter three films will be shown at 2pm on May 5, June 2 and July 7 respectively, while additional screenings of "The Searchers" and "Rio Bravo" will be held at 7.30pm on May 17 and 25 respectively. All films will be screened in DCP (Digital Cinema Package) format, except for "Once Upon a Time in the West", which will screen in 35mm format.
The United States was a country formed by frontiersmen heading into uncharted territory, fending for themselves against indigenous tribes, other opportunistic settlers and the wilderness itself. The romanticism of the wild west provided the perfect backdrop for filmmakers to spin heroic and escapist adventures, with iconic music, involving bandits, gold panners, cowboys, killers and flawed heroes.
The collaboration of director John Ford and star John Wayne made "The Searchers" one of the most widely praised classic westerns. A disenchanted soldier returns home after the end of Civil War and discovers that his brother's family has been massacred by Indians and his niece has been abducted. In the course of his search, he is consumed by fears that his niece has "gone native"; seeking revenge, he struggles in a country that is itself struggling to rebuild. Ford juxtaposes introspective crises beautifully against the vast wilderness of Monument Valley in stunning Technicolor.
Starring John Wayne and Dean Martin and directed by the versatile Howard Hawks, "Rio Bravo" features a small-town sheriff who is forced to defend a prisoner arrested for murder from an onslaught by the rest of his gang. The film's tight screenplay is peppered with sharp dialogue and the nail-biting tension, especially in the final 30-minute scene, setting an example for many later films. Wayne's sheriff is not only heroic but flirts humorously with the leggy, sharp-tongued Angie Dickinson.
"The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" is the third and most ambitious film in the "Dollars Trilogy". Through his direction of this Italian "spaghetti western", Sergio Leone set out to create a surreal bloody canvas with incredible cinematography and iconic music from Ennio Morricone. The story features three mercenary gunslingers searching for and fighting over a stash of hidden gold, with gunfights in a cemetery. Leone's fascination with his actors extends way beyond his three leads as he explores the steely gazes and craggy contours of his minor characters using huge, probing close-ups.
Also directed by Leone, "Once Upon a Time in the West" is recognised not only as one of Leone's best but as one of the greatest westerns ever made. The film focuses on a bloody battle for a small homestead soon to skyrocket in price. The land is owned by a woman, played by Claudia Cardinale, who is newly widowed by an evil bandit played by Henry Fonda. More sombre and elegiac than his previous westerns, the film retains Leone's epic scope and operatic style as his characters wrestle with the realisation that their days are numbered. Unlike other male-dominated gunslinger movies, the film also boasts a strong female character capable of holding her own around dangerous men. Ennio Morricone's compelling music, the use of the harmonica and the fascinating images marked a milestone for westerns. The film print is courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.
Film critics Sam Ho, Matthew Cheng and Ka Ming will share their views with the audience at the post-screening talks of "Rio Bravo" (on May 5), "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" and "Once Upon a Time in the West" respectively. The talks will be in Cantonese.
"Rio Bravo" has English subtitles while "The Searchers", "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" and "Once Upon a Time in the West" have Chinese and English subtitles.
Tickets for "The Searchers" and "Rio Bravo" are now available at URBTIX outlets while tickets for "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" and "Once Upon a Time in the West" will be available one month before the screening dates. Tickets are priced at $50. Half-price concessionary tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities and their minders, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. Credit card bookings can be made on 2111 5999, or on the Internet at www.urbtix.hk.
Detailed programme information can be found in "ProFolio 67", which is distributed at all performing venues of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. For enquiries, please call 2739 2139 or 2734 2900, or browse the webpage: www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/CulturalService/filmprog/english/2011rt3/2011rt3_film.html.
Ends/Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Issued at HKT 12:00
Film still of "The Searchers" (1956).
Film still of "Rio Bravo" (1959).
Film still of "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" (1966).
Film still of "Once Upon a Time in the West" (1968).