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Once upon a Time in Widescreen: The Films of Sergio Leone

Sunday, October 21, 2007
5:30 p.m. Once upon a Time in the West
Sergio Leone (Italy/U.S., 1968)

(C'era una volta il West). Where the "Dollars" trilogy was about the lethal lengths to which one might go to get a fistful, this saga draws a bead on the taming of the once-wild West as an industrial enterprise. Here, the railroad cuts across the virgin landscape on the iron tracks of progress, powered not by steam but by the dark coal of capital. Cast against type, Henry Fonda, his blue eyes cooled to evil azure, does the bidding of a railway tycoon (Gabrielle Ferzetti) driven by his own loco motives. Derailing the plans of big money is Claudia Cardinale as a frontier widow fighting for her spread, aided by two high plains drifters, Cheyenne (Jason Robards), an old-school outlaw, and Harmonica (Charles Bronson), an avenging angel with a devil's quick-draw. All of Leone's punch-drunk particulars are here: the epic close-ups of weathered faces, Morricone's telegraphic score, and smokin' shoot-outs set against majestic vistas. This time, though, Leone brings his revisions right to Monument Valley, putting the whole Western genre squarely in his sights.

—Steve Seid

• Written by Leone, Sergio Donati, from treatments by Leone, Dario Argento, Bernardo Bertolucci. Photographed by Tonino Delli Colli. Music by Ennio Morricone. With Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards, Jr., Charles Bronson. (165 mins, Color, 'Scope, 35mm, From Paramount)