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07 August 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

directed by Sergio Leone

It’s strange that a film genre as intensely American as the western has several “foreigners” to thank for elevating it to a level that us Yanks never would have achieved on our own. On behalf of all of us, I say “Grazi.” And on behalf of all of them, I’m sure Sergio Leone would say “You’re Welcome.” The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is Leone’s second best western, which makes it one of the best westerns every made by humans. Clint Eastwood’s Man avec No Name character, developed through two previous films, is given something of a back story (it’s subtle), while Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleef are truly epic as iconoclasts of the rugged underbelly of Manifest Destiny. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly also features the coalescence of soundtrack and scene that Leone developed during the first two Dollars films, the concept coming to stunning fruition in the crescendo of a climax featuring the now legendary trio. Leone asked composing wizard Ennio Morricone to create individualized scores for the characters as well as scenes in the film, around which Leone edited the scenes instead of vice verse (as is traditionally the case). The result is an operatic lust for film, for storytelling and for creating a fully formed filmic experience. The only thing missing would be machines that piped desert dust and scorched air right in your face as you watched the epic standoff. This method of sound first, scene later composition crystallized with jaw dropping perfection in Leone’s finest work, Once Upon a Time in the West, but nothing beats the punch of the first time. Leone is the Orson Welles of the western, and much respect is due to such a remarkable auteur. You are Missed, Mr. L, and your vision is still affecting the way film is made, and watched, today. 

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