|Once Upon A Time: Sergio Leone
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Born into a filmmaking family, Italian director Sergio Leone (1929 -
1989) was one of the great personalities of world cinema. Leone entered the business as a
teenager, laboring as an assistant director, screenwriter and bit player. While employed
as an assistant director on THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII in 1959, Leone found himself thrust
into the directors chair halfway through production when the original director
became too ill to continue. It wasnt long afterward that Leone received his first
credited directors job on the sword-and-sandal opus COLOSSUS OF RHODES in 1961.
In 1964, inspired by Akira Kurosawas YOJIMBO and the newly burgeoning spaghetti
western craze, Leone helmed A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, which starred then virtually
unknown American TV actor Clint Eastwood. The picture proved a mega-hit in Europe and did
well enough in the States to encourage United Artists to release its sequel, FOR A FEW
DOLLARS MORE (1965), which fared even better and paved the way for the majestically
gritty masterpiece and conclusion of the trilogy, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY
(1966). These three nihilistic, ultra-violent horse operas revolutionized the genre and
forever cemented Leones trademark visual style of epic vistas punctuated by
Leone followed the Eastwood films with his operatic masterwork ONCE UPON A TIME IN
THE WEST (1968), and the tragicomic chronicle of the Mexican revolution, DUCK YOU
SUCKER (1972). It wasnt until 1984 that the movie-going public was able to view
his next directorial effort, a visually stunning magnum opus about Prohibition-era Jewish
gangsters in New York, ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, starring Robert De Niro. Sadly,
it turned out to be the maestros swan song. Sergio Leone died of a heart attack in
Thursday, July 24 7:30 PM
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (IL BUONO,
IL BRUTTO, IL CATTIVO), 1966, MGM Repertory, 161 min. Sergio Leones
surreal masterpiece of the American West during the last days of the Civil War follows a
trio of equally violent and unrepentant gunslingers (Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach
and Lee Van Cleef) who engage in a jaw-dropping series of double-and triple-crosses
to get their hands on a fortune in stolen Confederate gold.
Friday, July 25 7:30 PM
A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (PER UN PUGNO DE DOLLARI),
1964, MGM Repertory, 99 min. Director Sergio Leone remade Akira Kurosawas
YOJIMBO with Clint Eastwood as a poncho-wearing, cheroot-chewing gunman, and wound
up with the most revolutionary western of the 1960s (aided by composer Ennio
Morricones instantly memorable theme music). Co-starring the great Italian actor Gian
Maria Volonte (INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION) as Eastwoods nemesis.
FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (PER QUALCHE DOLLARO
IN PIU), 1965, MGM Repertory, 130 min. Sergio Leones sequel to FISTFUL
stars Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef as rival bounty hunters who wind up
tracking the same man (Gian Maria Volonte.) The final three-way shootout ranks with
the greatest set pieces in movie-making history. Keep your eyes peeled for Klaus Kinski
as a hot-tempered hunchback.
Saturday, July 26 7:30 PM
Fully, Newly Restored Print! ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (CERA UNA
VOLTA IL WEST), 1968, Paramount, 165 min. Charles Bronson is a soft-spoken,
harmonica-playing gunslinger bent on revenge against brutal assassin Henry Fonda.
Co-starring Claudia Cardinale as an independent-minded mail-order bride and Jason
Robards as a wry bandido with an agenda of his own. With great supporting turns by Frank
Wolff, Gabriele Ferzetti, Jack Elam, Keenan Wynn, Woody Strode and Lionel Stander.
Mind-bendingly expansive in scope and visual beauty. Co-written by Dario Argento and
Bernardo Bertolucci! Note: This is a rare print of the full-length, directors cut
version of the film.
Sunday, July 27 7:30 PM
ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, 1984, Warner
Bros., 229 min. Childhood friends Robert De Niro and James Woods rise to
power as New York gangsters during the glory years of Prohibition, only to lose their
souls in the process. Leones last, and perhaps greatest, masterpiece features a
stellar supporting cast, including Elizabeth McGovern, Treat Williams, Tuesday Weld,
Joe Pesci, Burt Young, Danny Aiello and William Forsythe, as well as the debut
of Jennifer Connelly.
Wednesday, July 30 7:30 PM
DUCK YOU SUCKER aka A FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE (GIU LA
TESTA), 1971, MGM Repertory, 138 min. The last -- and least-seen -- of Sergio
Leones epic westerns: Earthy peasant Rod Steiger and Irishman James
Coburn (hiding from the I.R.A.) find themselves tossed into the middle of the Mexican
Revolution. Widely ignored on its release, DUCK YOU SUCKER looks better and better with
each year: Leones blend of explosive action and boozy poetry is just strange enough
to work. Music by Ennio Morricone.