Once Upon a Time in the West
I'll be on the lookout for East and West Mitten Buttes sightings throughout the marathon.
It's the darndest thing. I don't know if I've ever had such a strange experience viewing a movie before. I got OUaTitW
almost two weeks ago; just about the time when my house guests arrived and holiday crunch time began. I was able to watch it in a few sittings over the course of the first week, but with a lot of distractions, so I decided to take any small moment when I was alone and watch the scenes one by one. Those moments were few and far between, but kept the film always in the back of my mind throughout the holiday. Little pieces would linger, like the lantern's swing revealing Harmonica's eyes, then hiding them again under the shadow of his hat brim. Details like that bring me to my next thought.
I realized early on that it was probably not a great idea to start the marathon with this movie. I knew it as soon as the pink tickets flew at the camera in the first scene. How was I going to build on something so mind-blowing as what kept playing across the screen? I consoled myself with the idea that I now get to look for some of the building blocks that may have been influential and
if any movie was going to get me enthusiastic to watch a whole passel of other movies from the same genre, this was it.
"You wake up one morning and say, "World, I know you. From now on, there are no more surprises." And then you happen to meet a man like this."
I am surprised. I wasn't expecting so much depth. These men begin enigmatically, but slowly reveal their code of conduct scene by scene. Western code of conduct is a mysterious thing. It's there and even though some of it varies from man to man, the rules are taken very seriously. My job is to figure out what kind of man each is, by the rules he keeps. The movie tries to trip me up early on with a few head scratching scenes, but then character starts to peak out with a look or a line. Ha! What a game this becomes. I don't want to be spoilery, so I'll just say that by the end, I have two fully fleshed out characters to... shoot, can't do it. I have two fully fleshed out characters to admire.
While I'm occupied with the character game, I'm bombarded with sight and sound stimuli. So many transition shots use both, like a gun firing and smoke, followed by a train whistle and smoke. I could take a screen shot of Frank and his men at the homestead, but it would miss the movement of the dust streaming horizontally past and the men appearing choreographically and their dusters flapping. It also can't capture the electric guitar, harmonica and then the strings. How do I explain the opening train station scene where the wood planks are as important a character as the four men? Or how about the puddle/ocean? Or the lengthy shot all around the other train station platform and up over the roof that reveals the town, all timed with a crescendo that's backed by a woman's descant? This is impossible.
The only solutions is, if you haven't already, go see the movie.
I'll end with a few words about Jill McBain. I don't think I'm going to see many female characters like hers in this marathon, which is a shame. She's womanly, maternal, pragmatic, domestic, dauntless, compassionate... could learn a lot from her.