I’ve really given it a fair shot. Over the past couple of months my wife and I have seen four of the most highly regarded Leone westerns: A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and Once Upon a Time in the West. And it’s not because I was prejudiced against them; in fact the contrary was true. I wanted and expected to like them. But I found them tiresome. I actually had to force myself to finish The Good; after falling asleep during my first attempt, I let the disk sit around for several days and seriously considered sending it back to Netflix without finishing it.
I think I get what Leone was trying to do: the ritualizing, the mythologizing, the darkening of the Western. But for me it just didn’t work, for the most part; it seemed too self-conscious. There were some visual things I really liked, mainly because I love the western scenery and atmosphere. But the stories and characters simply weren’t compelling enough for me to make the slow pace work. The long stylized confrontations just seemed overblown and unconvincing. I didn’t care for a lot of the acting: Clint Eastwood’s tight-lipped squint-eyed silence does not wear well at all; it quickly begins to seem like schtick. The grim and greasy villains too often seemed like caricatures, especially the Mexican bad guys, with their stereotypical Mexican bad guy arh har har my friend laughter. By the end of The Good I was wincing every time Tuco opened his mouth.
I didn’t even like Morricone’s famous scores as much as I expected to, though they all had some great moments.
I came closest to liking Once Upon a Time. Of the four, I thought it had the most interesting plot and characters. I actually cared about what was going to happen, and didn’t find myself thinking how much longer...? (I just realized: it wasn’t planned, but we actually ate spaghetti while watching the first half of it. Maybe that helped.)
According to Wikipedia, Once Upon a Time is full of references to classic Westerns like High Noon and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. I don’t care at all about that sort of thing, but I’ve never seen most of those, and I think I will. I’ll probably like them better.Pre-TypePad