Monday, September 20, 2011— (Tonight’s “Harvest” moon will rise nearest to earth and in full phase.)
While checking what’s on Netflix, I found the 1984 film, “Once Upon a Time in America”, by Italian director Sergio Leone, with an outstanding cast. My feelings about watching were mixed, for in “those days” I rose from a theater seat and walked out on the film.
Leone could work in wonderful ways. He creatively used light and space, was fearless about timing action sequences in modes very slow or very fast. As a director, he could reveal much inside and outside to drive a character’s choices and behaviors.
Leone’s films for me have a disturbing quality. This film for example reminded me shortly after it started why I had walked out on it. It’s almost impossible for me to sit and witness ongoing sheer violence, despite a story’s potential for it. To me, great art delivers punches without visual bloodletting, without slicing and hammering.
Maybe Leone was ahead of his time, working on a curve between Old Hollywood fantasies and today’s bang-’em-up, kill ’em options. Current streaming services are filled with choices that rely on fright and violence. Perhaps they’re quickies, cheaper-to-film, and popular enough to justify existence.
By the way, this old movie introduces us to a very young and beautiful Elizabeth McGovern, then in her early twenties. Today we know her from the popular series, “Downton Abbey, in which she’s a mother of three and wife to His Lordship.
Netflix provides an Americanized version of “Once Upon a Time in America”, which prior to releasing Hollywood transformed by cutting and re-sequencing. Critics condem this version and instead applaud Leone’s original or “European Cut”. It’s true to the original film and long has been considered one of the greatest-ever gangster movies.
The original version might be available on the internet, and worth checking out.
Dear Friends: I loved Leone’s “Once Upon A Time In The West,” after many re-watchings. Diana