Thursday, November 27, 2008

FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (Sergio Leone, 1964, Italy) The Man With No Name has a heart of gold sheathed with two inches of bulletproof steel. Ironically, Italian director Sergio Leone recreates the American Western genre by remaking a Japanese film: Akira Kurosawa’s YOJIMBO. Clint Eastwood channels the energy of the great Toshiro Mifune by mimicking a few physical gestures (such as the beard-scratch) but lacks the sublime grace and subtle facial expressions of the original Ronin. Though Leone imitates Kurosawa and actually lifts a few shots (and jokes) directly from YOJIMBO, there is little doubt that he makes this his own operatic western, full of sardonic humor, ludicrous caricatures, and absurd violence. The beautifully zany score by Ennio Morricone remains a favorite, often adding the bare-fisted punch line to the droll monologue, or infusing a scene with nerve-tingling suspense moments before the volcanic eruption of lead. Morricone reduces the world to a piercing live-wire screech just before two of the major gunfights: this heightens the tension as Leone cuts to extreme close-ups showing us the sweating porous landscape of nervous faces, a minute facial tick or the shifting of eyes, the nervous flexing of calloused fingers…then all Hell breaks loose! Eastwood’s character is not given a proper name though he is pejoratively called “Joe” (as in American) a few times. He is morally bound together by opposing forces (yin yang) and at once benefits from murder, playing both criminal elements against one another, and then rescues the innocent family caught in this brutal nexus: he brings balance once again to this hellish frontier town. He seeks vengeance for the wrong done to him and his friend the Innkeeper, destroying his enemy by displaying nerves of steel…or more precisely, a chest of steel. The Man With No Name proves that it’s not the man with the biggest gun who wins…but the one whose gun reloads the quickest. (B+)

No comments: