Once Upon A Time in the West (1968)


I am not a huge fan of Westerns. I find them to be slow and monotonous, and the closest I can come to actually finding enjoyment in one is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (which, you can argue is more about the decline of the classic Western than being a Western itself). And, of course, Blazing Saddles. Still, I found this movie to capture the exact feeling of lethargy and ruthlessness that I imagine living in 1890s cattle country evoked. Within minutes, I found myself entranced by the take-no-prisoners attitude that I normally find to be dull. In my book, therefore, this movie was a success, although I apologize if I don’t use names because honestly, I couldn’t keep track of who anyone actually was.

The use of eyes in this movie is wonderful, although I suppose that’s the stereotypical “Western” technique. The scene following the jailbreak is brilliant, building tension by only revealing what is happening through the use of eyes and exterior sounds. I love the nonchalant look on all the customers’ faces, as though they can both sense what’s happening and not be surprised.

I found myself really liking the female protagonist in the film, although it might be because most women in Westerns are portrayed as weak and inferior (think Legends of the Fall), whereas Claudia Cardinale is strong and intelligent, someone you can actually see surviving against a sea of unruly gun-slinging men. I love the scene where she is approached by the man who killed her husband.

I’m not going to go into much more detail, but I found myself pleasantly surprised by this Western gem (much, much better than when I saw The Searchers- maybe I’ll write about that experience another time).

Watch out for the man with the harmonica!

The Movie Mistress

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely love this movie. The 10-minute buildup to Harmonica's introduction is so worth it. "You brought two, too many." classic.

    Claudia Cardinale is everything you could ever want in a Western woman; strong and intelligent like you mentioned and breathtakingly beautiful.

    The xters of Once Upon a Time are so self-serving and ruthless. Such a great film.