Once Upon a Time in the West

C’era una volta il West

Image for Once Upon a Time in the West

Dir. Sergio Leone

Italy 1968 | Colour | 165 mins | Cert 15 | Western

Cast: Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Charles Bronson, Jason Robards

Right from its virtuoso opening – an extended remodelling of the traditional Western shoot-out – Leone’s milestone movie draws on familiar genre motifs, and tests their mythical aspirations against tawdry historical reality.

Blending an elliptical vengeance drama (with Bronson as a nameless hunter), a perverse variation on the parable of civilisation brought to the wilderness (Cardinale as whoring earth mother), and a laconic commentary on the mores of a changing world (courtesy of Robards’ wry outlaw), the film nods to classics like The Iron Horse and Johnny Guitar in focusing on the building of a railroad out west – facilitated by a sadistic gunman improbably but brilliantly played by Henry Fonda. Co-scripted by Dario Argento and Bernardo Bertolucci, the film’s at once elegiac, ironic, subversive and supremely cinematic, and this restoration highlights the joy Leone took in sound (especially Morricone’s score) and image (Tonino Delli Colli laying out Monument Valley in ’Scope). Magnificent.

– Geoff Andrew

Available on: 35mm

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