Wednesday, May 20, 2009

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (Sergio Leone, 1966, Italy) Parable or parody? Director Sergio Leone examines human behaviorist theory, that humanity is hardwired to act and bereft of free will, that each character is innately programmed for remorse, brutality, or sadism…or he’s just interested in subverting the humdrum Western genre! Three men share two secrets as their violent lives converge upon a bleak and desolate Sad Hill, their ultimate destination Unknown. Tuco and Blondie double-cross each other before crossing paths with the murderous bounty hunter Angel Eyes. The film begins in typical Leone fashion: the blood-red opening credits are a cartoonish whiplash fandango pulsing with Ennio Morricone’s famous score: yodeling, whistling, and irreverent bombast whose foundation supports the narrative tempo. The film begins with a gunfight that utilizes every Leone convention: long shot with quick-cut to extreme close-up, shifting eyes set in a grim sweaty visage, cut again to disparate characters in close-up as he plays with both time and space within the film’s physical frame of reference. As the three renegades enter a saloon gunshot accusations punctuate the action and Tuco (The Ugly) leaps through the window still chewing on a greasy hunk of meat! The film’s attention to period detail is terrific, as we are witness to the terrible cost of our Civil War, paid in the blood and guts of young men ordered to capture a bridge, a skeleton of wood and stone more important than their innocent lives. Here Leone burns to celluloid the most realistic Civil War battle scenes ever filmed, as mortar and cannon fire pound the Union encampment and soldiers charge into certain doom. Blondie (The Good) can only offer brief respite to the mortally wounded Commander as he and Tuco destroy the bridge thus saving hundreds of lives. But on the other side waits Angel Eyes (The Bad) and their encounter comes full circle in a cemetery where their faith is tested: true to their nature, their actions are written in stone. (A)

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