Monday, September 19, 2011

My Name is Nobody

Il mio nome è Nessuno; western comedy, Italy/ Germany/ France, 1973; D: Tonino Valerii, Sergio Leone (uncredited) S: Terence Hill, Henry Fonda, Jean Martin

The Wild West, 19th century. The aging Jack Beauregard was once an unsurpassed shooter during a draw, but now he just wants to go to Europe and retire. On his way he meets cowboy Nobody who is his big fan and who follows him. But Jack has a lot of enemies: the Wild Bunch and the rich Sullivan who both want to eliminate him after his brother died and thus discontinued their profitable fraud of a fake goldmine. With the help of Nobody, who placed explosives on the saddles of the Wild Bunch, Jack wins by shooting at them and causing an explosion. He then fakes his own death to peacefully go to Europe while Nobody takes on his post as the new shooter.

Unusual cult western comedy "My Name is Nobody", which Terence Hill once named as his favorite film, was based on the screenplay by Sergio Leone and thus the opening, where there is almost no dialogue in the first 10 minutes, really seems as if it came directly from some Leone film: three bandits take over a barber shop, place one of their men as the barber and wait. Jack (Henry Fonda in a dignified role) enters the shop and sits on the chair while the "barber" starts shaving him "suspiciously". But Jack then aims his gun towards him so the "barber" shaves him properly. A brilliant opening, and it's not surprising to find out that Leone directed that sequence himself.

This comical, fun and sympathetic comedy drains most of its virtues by spoofing or twisting the western cliches upside down, especially in leading long or inaudible situations of expectations to the extremes of absurd (the hilarious sequence where Nobody is in a river, places a bug to float on the surface and waits, with a club in his arms, almost endlessly long for something - a fish - while people look at him in confusion). Even though "Nobody" has considerable flaws - the story seems to be roughly patched from various subplots; a couple of contrived moments; the stupid, disastrous joke where Nobody is whistling in order to 'stimulate' a railroad engineer to urinate at the toilet; the sequence where, instead of a duel, Nobody is so fast he is able to draw the gun from a bald man, slap him and return it to his belt before the guy can even move is a legend, yet it was "borrowed" from a previous Hill film, "Trinity is Still My Name" - the story as a whole is elegant and works, contains a bunch of irresistible ideas (a gang called "The Wild Bunch", Sam Peckinpah's name is on a tombstone) whereas Fonda is excellent.


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