Monday, 5 July 2010

When You Have To Shoot, Shoot, Don't Talk.

So, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is the third in Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy (after A Fistful of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More), and I haven't seen the first two. I don't think that's an impediment. I mean, I understand they're a thematic trilogy. It's not like there's a story running through the three. It's not like I came in and watched Return Of The Jedi without seeing A New Hope or The Empire Strikes Back. Jeez, I'm not stupid.

I must confess, I'm not a huge Clint Eastwood fan. I generally speaking, in broad terms, don't mind the films he directs, but I'm never a fan when he puts himself in them (I still think he was the weakest part of Million Dollar Baby, for example), and I just don't really relate to him as a performer. But here, he works. Here, I got it. Here, he fits. Everything he is is perfect for the Blondie character in this epic western. Spaghetti western, I guess. It's that Italian influence...

Eastwood plays The Good, the man with no name, Blondie. Lee Van Cleef is The Bad, Angel Eyes. Eli Wallach is The Ugly, Tuco. The three are bandits, gunslingers, criminals of the American desert. Romanticised as only the desert can (and that applies in other countries - I'm looking at you, Ned Kelly), these men may be brutal and vicious, but you're rooting for them. Well, not Angel Eyes so much, but definitely for Blondie and many times for Tuco as well.

It's a long movie, and a lot goes on in it, and I don't really have any desire to get into the specifics of it right now. I'm still well behind on here, so I'm going to keep it short. Eastwood, while playing Eastwood, is perfectly suited to the role. Van Cleef is wonderfully menacing and Wallach is bumblingly endearing, somehow. Music legend Ennio Morricone's iconic score still resonates, some 45 years later, and Tonino Delli Colli's cinematography is beautiful. The film itself, written by Leone with Luciano Vincenzoni, Agenore Incrocci and Furio Scarpelli, manages to incorporate a hell of a lot into it's run time, which isn't short at around three hours. Despite this length, it is packed to the brim, especially considering you go through, what, the first ten minutes in one scene without a word spoken. To then manage to move through banditry and the civil war without any theme or story left undigested is a fair accomplishment. And for it to never feel rushed nor boring (and I don't really like westerns...) was particularly refreshing.

A definite cinematic staple for a reason - it's a damn fine take on a genre that has plenty of examples but far fewer items of critical acceptance. Leone has done very well. 5 stars.

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