Dir. Sergio Leone; writ. Leone & Sergio Donati; feat. Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson, Gabriele Ferzetti, Woody Strode, Jack Elam (PG-13)
Next Tuesday marks the end of this summer's Texas Public Radio "Cinema Tuesdays" series, and it is as good a time as any to commend curator Nathan Cone for the job he has done. From classic Hollywood and foreign films to the contemporary avant-garde, TPR has given San Antonio movie lovers reason to celebrate, and a means to experience movies the way they were meant to be seen.
That "as they were meant to be seen" comment goes double for Once Upon a Time in the West, a widescreen epic that isn't even available on a proper DVD; seeing Sergio Leone's compositions in pan and scan just won't do. (Paramount will release a spiffed-up DVD later this fall.) Leone was able to travel from Italy to Monument Valley (John Ford country, which naturally was an iconic part of how Europeans imagined America) to shoot part of the film, and while Ford the director often shot the terrain in a smaller format, Leone lets it spill out across the screen. If he respects one American icon, he has a ball putting another through the wringer: Henry Fonda, one of Hollywood's straightest arrows, here plays a villain out to steal Claudia Cardinale's land.
Leone's best-respected Spaghetti Western was imagined with two other Italians: Arthouse hero Bernardo Bertolucci and gore-meister Dario Argento co-wrote the story. But Leone's biggest collaborator was composer Ennio Morricone, whose haunting cues are as well remembered as the film itself.
As we have come to expect, TPR will only show us the version we want to see: Although the studio trimmed this film in the '60s, Cone has rented a print of the original 165-minute version. Here's hoping we don't have to wait through the whole winter and spring before TPR gets the projectors rolling again. •
Once Upon a Time in the West screens Tuesday, September 30 as part of Texas Public Radio's "Cinema Tuesdays" series. 7:30pm at AMC Huebner Oaks, admission $10 members/$12 non-members, 614-8977 or tpr.org for reservations.Luces de Independencia & Formacion de Nuestra Nacionalidad screen at the Instituto de México, 500 HemisFair Park, at 4pm on Sunday, September 28. Info: 227-0130.