Friday, November 7, 2008

A Fistful of Dollars

Per un Pugno di Dollari; Western, Italy/ Spain/ Germany, 1964; D: Sergio Leone, S: Clint Eastwood, Joseph Egger, Marianne Koch, Gian Maria Volontè, Wolfgang Lukschy

USA, 19th Century. An unknown cowboy arrives in town San Miguel and witnesses how a gang picks upon a boy. Later on, that same gang scares his mule away with their shooting, so he kills all four of them. But they belonged to the influential Baxter who has a feud against Rojo and his gang. The cowboy decides to sell himself for both sides: since Ramon Rojo killed soldiers, he placed their corpses on the graveyard so that it seems as if they have survived and sells the information that they are alive to both for 500 $. Rojo's gang storms to "kill" the soldiers and Baxter's to question them. The cowboy also has pity with Marisol, the woman who was abducted by Rojo, so he frees her. Ramon beats him up for that act and kills Baxter's gang. But the cowboy recovers and shoots Ramon.

"A Fistful of Dollars" is the first film of Sergio Leone's unofficial "Dollar" trilogy - the others are "For a Few Dollars More" and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" - and a wonderful western remake of Kurosawa's film "Yojimbo". In this film, Leone is somehow unsure and rather incoherent, whereas his camera is not so confident as in his next projects, which is the reason why "Fistful" is probably the weakest film of the trilogy, but also by far the funniest due to it's fine sense for humor: when the Cowboy (Clint Eastwood in his breakthrough role) enters the town on his mule, he spots the undertaker already making a coffin for him, whereas when the four bandits scare away his mule with their wild shooting, he just cynically tells them: "My mule doesn't want to be insulted" and shoots them all. It's also fun how he places the corpses of dead soldiers so that it seems as if they are still alive to trick both of the gangs, yet the finale is somehow unconvincing and vague. Marianne Koch also brings a refreshing dose of female touch in the story.


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