Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Il Buono, il Brutto, Il Cattivo; western, Italy / Spain, 1966; D: Sergio Leone, S: Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef, Mario Brega

The Bad is a hired hitman, Setenza, who is searching for Bill Carson. Two bandits hire him to kill the other, but he kills them both. The Good is Joe while Tuco is the Ugly. Both of them work as team: Joe "hands over" the wanted Tuco in every town and gets a 1,000 $ bounty, but shoots at the rope that was supposed to hang him and helps his escape. But one day Joe gives up and leaves Tuco in the desert, so he seeks revenge and forces him to walk across the desert without water. Just then a stagecoach with Carson appears: before he dies, he tells Joe the location of the graveyard where he hid his secret treasure. Now the duo needs each other again, but they are arrested by the Union soldiers. There is also Sentenza who goes with Joe to find the treasure. But Tuco escapes and follows them: Joe joins him again and they kill Sentenza's people. The name of the grave is just "unknown". They find 200,000 $, kill Sentenza and split the money. But before he leaves, Joe ties up Tuco's hands.

With this very good western, director Sergio Leone completed his "Dollars" trilogy and achieved a great success, getting praised for managing to actually make art out of a cheap so called 'Spaghetti western': "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" went on to become a legend that is even mentioned today, Clint Eastwood is very good in his role while the direction is powerful and absorbing, though cold. The heavily ambitious "Good" lasts for almost 3 hours and it's interesting to see how Leone used a lot of neat tricks to enrich it, like the titles in the exposition placed for every of the three title protagonists: "Good" for Eastwood, "Bad" for Wallach and "Ugly" for Cleef, or the gigantic camera close ups of their faces which already started to establish themselves as the director's trademark: they can be the best appreciated in cinemas, not on small TV sets, because the viewer is in awe and feels insignificant when he or she watches a head 10 times bigger than a normal human on the big screen. The theme of greed and the construction are tight, but still some of the protagonists seem antipathetic and some torture and depiction of violence irritating. Even though not for everyone's taste, Leone's highlight is a quality film with cynical humor ("When you can shoot, shoot. Don't talk", says Tuco to a babbling rival after he just shot him).


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