Sunday, February 20, 2005

Once Upon a Time in America

Just finished watching Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America, the LONGEST movie (220 mins) I've ever seen, and one of the finest. It might have been long, but I didn't jerk about in my seat or look at the clock once. Every scene seemed to glow, just about every image from the movie could be blown up to wall size and you would be happy to look at it for the rest of your life. Above all, what was apparent to me was that here was a movie put together with enormous love and care by a master of his craft.

The story is epic, covering a 50-year period in the lives of some kids from the Lower East Side of NYC who grow up to be gangsters. It flips between three time periods - the first, when they are kids, set in the 1900s; the second when the kids have progressed to the fullblown gangster life during the Prohibition era (1930s) and the third, when the characters (the ones who are still alive, that is) are near the end part of their lives (late 1960s.)

The two main charcters are played by Robert De Niro (Noodles) and James Woods (Max) who are both excellent, and their performances are surely among the finest of their respective careers. De Niro has always been a favourite of mine (I seem to watch Taxi Driver once a year) while with James Woods, I find it hard to remember what I have seen him in (apart from his brilliant, seedy performance in Casino), but whenever I think of him these days, the first thing I think of is his cameo in The Simpsons working at the Kwik-e-Mart as research for some upcoming movie role. Goes to show what a massive cultural footprint The Simpsons has left, either that or how many times I have seen that particular episode of The Simpsons (it is one of my favourites)...

The only problem I had with the movie was that I got kinda confused toward the end, but maybe that's just me, a guy who can be a little slow sometimes, although I read that Leone originally had 10 hours of film that he edited down to 6 hours, and this was what he was satisfied with, so maybe it was that. Or maybe I just need to watch the movie again... I'll do that anyway, sooner or later, it was pretty damn great.

[I also learned that there was a 139-minute version released. I can only imagine how confusing/frustrating that one must have been.]

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