Cinematic Cliffs Notes - For A Few Dollars MoreMy apologies for the month or so during which Cinematic Cliffs Notes wasn't razing your brain like a conquistador lays waste to a farm. Perhaps the maize angered him, who knows. Regardless, I'm sorry about the delay in more installments, but this week, we're looking at something fairly turgid. And by turgid, I do of course mean unbelievably wonderful.
Last week, the trailer for the newest Tarantino opus dropped.
There was a time during my tenure as a film student wherein it was deemed hip to bash Tarantino. Pastiche, it was said, could suck it, and suck it hard. Long and hard, in fact. I, however, always loved Tarantino. There's something invigorating about the raw, sutured together love-letters to the crash-zooms, staccato jump-cuts and violently unsubtle music cues borne from the grindhouse genre. Spaghetti westerns, rape revenge thrillers, Italian suspense thrillers, badly dubbed war movies and Shaw Brothers jiang hu; these are all in the palette from which Tarantino paints his films in big, crude, gorgeous strokes. Heh. I said 'strokes'. Gross.
Anyway, his new film appears to be a fantastically promising and loose reboot of the Django films, which were spaghetti westerns in which the hero, Django, rescues people from bandits whilst lugging around a machine gun in a coffin. As if that weren't appealing enough, the genre itself usually manages to baffle every one of your senses with enough scattershot energy and fervour that the novelty alone will make the experience an enjoyable one. It's a lot like spices used to disguise the inherent rancidity of turgid hot venison, in that respect.
Incidentally, a spaghetti western is a western shot for cheap in Italy, and then overdubbed clumsily by English actors of middling talent. This sub-genre of cinema, however, proved to be a hotbed for talented directors, writers, actors and composers who couldn't get a break anywhere else, meaning occasionally, you'd land a spaghetti western that truly was, and is, art. This is where Sergio Leone comes in. Leone cut his teeth as an assistant under Vittorio de Sica during production of the most self-explanatory Italian film of all time, Ladri de Biciclette, which as we all know is Italian for 'The Large Biscuit'.
Leone, of course, went on to direct a western adaptation of Kurosawas Yojimbo, in which he cast a young and largely unknown Clint Eastwood as the hero. The two of them ended up crafting probably the most recognisable Western hero; The Man With No Name, Manco, or Blondie became the focal point for the Dollars trilogy. Seriously, if you've never bothered with Westerns, or revisionist Westerns, watch these three films. A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly all follow Eastwoods hero as he wanders around the old west being unbelievably badass and, occasionally, heroic.
Which is probably as tangential as I'm allowed to be right now. Today we're looking at the second film in the trilogy, For A Few Dollars More, for a few reasons. Firstly, it has the best Ennio Morricone score of any Leone film. Shut up, it does. Morricone composed all of Leones scores, and his brazen use of leitmotifs in this particular film is so, so profoundly well-employed. Every character has a theme, every theme has complex emotional cues, and often, themes will intertwine whilst characters are eyeing each other off. Leone and Morricone function much like The Man With No Name (Eastwood) and Douglas Mortimer (Lee Van Cleef) do in this film; simultaneously aiding and jousting with one another.
The plot is too good and, indeed, too sparse to analyse for you without robbing you of the satisfaction of experiencing it in as pure a form as you possibly can. What you'll get if you watch it, however, is my single favourite Western ever. It has everything; short, sharp bursts of incredible violence, bucketloads of pathos, shots that look like yawning, leathery paintings, and surprisingly touching, dense performances, and not just from the non-Italian actors, either. Gian Maria Volonté, in particular, gives life to the superb villain of the piece, El Indio.
Seriously. Watch the whole trilogy if you can, but if for some reason three blazing little meteors of piping hot cinema don't succeed in clearing your schedule, watch For A Few Dollars More. It's artful action done right.
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