Sergio Leone


(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

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If English is your first language and you could translate the Italian texts, please contact me.
Figlio d'arte, Sergio Leone esordì nel filone mitologico con Gli Ultimi Giorni di Pompei (1959) e Il Colosso di Rodi (1961), film spettacolari e avventurosi che emancipano il genere dai modelli Hollywood-iani.

Nel 1964 lanciò il "western all'italiana", dapprima genere artigianale e autarchico e poi assurto a gloria internazionale. Anche per la scarsità di mezzi a disposizione, i western di Leone si caratterizzarono per l'enfasi eroica, per la prevalenza dell'azione, per la suggestione dei paesaggi e delle musiche.

Per un Pugno di Dollari/ Fistful Of Dollars (1964) è la storia di un pistolero solitario.

A lone rider dressed in a poncho (Clint Eastwood) stops to drink at a well and witnesses two bandits harassing a family: they beat the husband while the wife is watching powerless and their child is crying. He hardly stares at the scene, and continues his journey. He arrives in a small town where people seem to be afraid of any stranger except a store owner who is eager to find customers. Eastwood is soon welcome by thugs who scare his mule. The saloon's owner Silvanito informs him that the town is held hostage by two gangs vying for power, one led by Miguel and one led by the sheriff. Eastwood is not intimidated at all. He lights his cigar and asks for a room. Silvanito describes how the town has fallen into the hands of bandits and smugglers. Instead of frightened, Eastwood sounds interested in the situation as a business opportunity. Eastwood walks into the main street and tells everybody who wants to listen that he is willing to work as a gunslinger for Miguel, the head of the first family. He is confronted again by the same gang. This time he looks straight into the eyes of the leader and tells him to apologize to his mule. They draw their guns but he is faster. The sheriff is nearby and accuses him of murder: Eastwood ignores him and calmly walks away. He has just killed four of the sheriff's men. Miguel hires him and he catches a glimpse of the beautiful Marisol. The cavalry rolls into town, escorting a mysterious stagecoach. Eastwood is intrigued by both Marisol and the stagecoach, for different reasons. The saloon owner tells him that Marisol belongs to Miguel's brother Ramon, and it's dangerous to even think about her. As for the stagecoach, Eastwood witnesses an attack by fake soldiers led by the brutal Ramon himself (Gian Maria Volonte) armed with a machine gun. He exterminates every single soldier of the cavalry. At home Ramon announces that he has decided to make peace with the sheriff and invited him for dinner. Upon hearing the news, Eastwood resigns from his job, returns the money and leaves. Ramon guesses that Eastwood has a plan of his own and doesn't trust him.
With help from the faithful saloon owner, Eastwood sets his plan in motion. They go to the cemetery at night, dig up two of the dead soldiers and plant them next to a tombstone as if they were just sleeping. Then Eastwood visits the sheriff's home, where the sheriff's wife is already wary of Ramon's invitation to dinner. Eastwood tells them how Ramon ambushed the stagecoach and that two soldiers are still alive and could be used as witnesses against thim. The sheriff immediately gathers his men and heads for the cemetery. Minutes later Eastwood tells the Ramon and Miguel the same story. He gets money from both camps, and in the process he has just created a new confrontation. While the two gangs shoot at each other at the cemetery, he enters the compound of the brothers. In the basement he finds the loot of the stagecoach attack as well as... Marisol. He takes her to the sheriff's home. But it turns out that the brothers, at the end of the shootout, before "killing" the two dead soldiers, have taken the sheriff's son as hostage. The two families agree to exchange Marisol for the young man. Eastwod does not object: he simply pockets more money from the sheriff's wife. In the morning Eastwood is sitting in front of the saloon, observing the two gangs who meet in the main street to exchange the hostages. It turns out that Marisol is the woman of the first scene: she was kidnapped by Ramon's men. Her husband and child are in the saloon, powerless to intervene. When she hears her child cry, she runs to him. After having released his hostage, Ramon orders his men to seize her. But the saloon owner pulls out a gun. Everybody freezes for a few seconds, then Eastwood tells the husband to take the child home and lets Ramon take Marisol away. Eastwood seems indifferent to the woman's tragedy. The brothers reward him by inviting him to celebrate with them. He pretends to get drunk and pass out, but at night he frees Mirasol and delivers her to her family, gives them money and tells them to cross the border.
Ramon learns that Eastwood is involved. His men torture him for hours, but he does not talk. He manages to escape, crawling because he cannot even stand up, and set fire to the compound of the brothers. After torturing the saloon owner, the brothers assume that Eastwood must have found shelter at the sheriff's house. Ramon and Miguel set fire to it. When the sheriff's men come out to surrender, they are killed one by one. The sheriff, his son and his wife are the last ones to come out and be coldly executed. Eastwood watches the scene hiding inside a coffin: the coffin maker has accepted to help him get out of town alive.
Eastwood spends days recovering from the wounds and relearning how to shoot. When he is ready, he marches back into town. The saloon owner is being tortured by Ramon in the middle of the street. Eastwood advances in his poncho, indifferent to the gun that Ramon is aiming at him. Ramon, who never misses, starts shooting. Every time Eastwood falls to the ground, as if dead, but then gets back on his feet and keeps advancing. Finally, he drops the armor that he was hiding under the poncho. When he draws, it's fatal: all of Ramon's men are killed and Ramon is disarmed. Ramon tries to get his gun back but Eastwood is faster. The saloon owner saves his life spotting Ramon's younger brother who is about to shoot Eastwood from a window. The town is clean. The saloon owner tells Eastwood to get out of town because the army is on its way.
The main differences with Hollywood's western films were the moral ambiguity of the characters (there is not clearcut difference between the good and the bad), the Spanish colonial architecture of the border (as opposed to forts and pioneer villages), the slow majestic pace, the inscrutable psychology of the hero (who remains nameless throughout the film), and a generally sloppy attitude (no noble cavalry officers or elegant gentlemen). Ennio Morricone's atmospheric soundtracks added an oneiric dimension.

Per Qualche Dollaro in Più/ For a Few Dollars More (1965) due leggendari pistoleri danno la caccia a un bandito, l'uno per vendicarsi che gli ha violentata la sorella (che durante l'amplesso si uccise), l'altro per intascare la taglia, e lo uccidono dopo aver sterminata la banda.

Il cacciatore di taglie (un ex-colonnello) arriva al paese sperduto nel deserto (un saloon e una stazione) e va subito ad affrontare il pericoloso ricercato, che se la sta facendo con una prostituta e lo uccide freddamente senza minimamente scomporsi. Incassa il premio dallo sceriffo e si mette alla caccia di un altro bandito.
Anche Eastwood è sulle tracce di un altro uomo nel saloon affollato di un altro paese dove sta giocando a poker: affronta l'uomo, uccide lui e i suoi complici. E se ne va misteriosamente.
In un carcere una banda riesce a liberare il feroce, psicotico e drogato bandito sulle cui tracce sono entrambi; questi non esita a vendicarsi di colui che l'ha denunciato incurante della sua famiglia.
Sia il cacciatore sia Eastwood pensano che tenterà di rapinare la banca di El Paso, paese battuto dal vento, e si sistemano in due hotel.
Il bandito assolda gli uomini per attaccare il paese. Eastwood e il colonnello si associano. Il colonnello ha un conto da regolare con il drogato: gli violentò la sorella, dopo averlo sparato, e lei si uccise durante l'amplesso. Eastwood accetta il piano del colonnello. Libera un vecchio amico del bandito e glielo riporta per entrare a far parte della banda. Ne sgomina tre in duello, poi segue il resto che va ad attaccare il paese, dove li aspetta il colonnello. Ma i due vengono beffati e la rapina riesce.
Eastwood si aggrega di nuovo alla banda e il colonnello si offre come esperto di casseforti. Tentano di fregarli, ma vengono smascherati e i banditi si divertono a picchiarli. Il bandito li salva soltanto perchè medita di usarli contro i suoi stessi uomini: li fa liberare dal suo fido e manda sulle loro tracce gli altri, certo che nessuno tornerà vivo. Tradimento di stampo tragedia shakespeariana (lui che recita la parte di un Otello e Re Lear). Aprendo la cassaforte, il bandito scopre però che i due avevano già trafugato il denaro e a mani vuote rimane anche il suo miglior uomo, che ha subodorata la fregatura ed è tornato a sorprenderlo. I due intanto massacrano la banda. Poi tornano ad assediare il bandito (l'"indio") e il suo compare, che si sono alleati di nuovo. E il colonnello gli rivela finalmente la sua vera identità. Il colonnello e l'assassino di sua sorella si sfidano a duello al suono del carillon che lo sposo aveva appena regalato alla sorella quella stessa sera. Alla fine del ritornello il colonnello fa giustizia. Se ne va lasciando a Eastwood tutti i morti con le loro taglie. Eastwood carica tutti sul carretto e parte, ma prima ricade anche la borsa del denaro, che lui aveva sottratto di nascosto.

Tre personaggi che sono tre miti greci, e almeno due eroi shakespeariani: Eastwood, il più cinico e il più ermetico, è anche il più moderno, quello che esce dagli stereotipi del genere per lanciarsi in nuovi spazi mitologici.

Il Buono, Il Brutto e Il Cattivo/ The Good The Bad And The Ugly (1967) sono tre avventurieri alla ricerca di un tesoro con sullo sfondo la Guerra Civile.

Il sicario a pagamento assoldato da un vecchio fa parlare un uomo per scoprire il nome sotto cui si nasconde un altro, poi liquida l'uomo e suo figlio; poi va dal vecchio; l'uomo cerca di comprare la sua vita con del denaro, ma riscuote la paga e poi lo uccide. Nell'interrogare l'uomo ha scoperto l'esistenza di un tesoro.
Il brutto sta per essere impiccato (è uno svaligiatore di banche, stupratore, truffatore, bigamo, etc. etc.) ma Eastwood, che approfittando della situazione ha derubata la banca, fa fuoco sulla folla, colpisce la corda e il brutto fugge a cavallo. La scena si ripete in un altro paese. Poi si ritrovano e spartiscono il bottino. La scena si ripete in un altro paese, dove si trova il brutto; ma questa volta Eastwood lo abbandona nel deserto e se ne va col denaro.

Il brutto però sopravvive, deruba un negozio d'armi, e raggiunge Eastwood in un paese dove stanno transitando le truppe sudiste, sconfitte. Lo sorprende nella camera dell'albergo, mentre si sentono colpi di cannone, lo costringe ad impiccarsi ma un colpo di cannone demolisce la casa e consente a Eastwood di liberarsi. Lo ritrova nel deserto e lo costringe a camminare per miglia e miglia sotto il sole cocente. Quando Eastwood crolla, il brutto sta per freddarlo, ma il brutto viene distratto da una diligenza abbandonata al galoppo: a bordo solo cadaveri, ma uno non è ancora morto e nel delirio uno parla del tesoro che ha nascosto nel cimitero di un paese (è lo stesso uomo che il cattivo sta cercando). Mentre lui va aprendere l'acqua Eastwood si avvicina al morente e sostiene che gli dice prima di morire il nome della tomba del tesoro. Il brutto deve allora rimetterlo in sesto affidandolo ai frati che stanno curando i feriti dell'esercito sudista. Uno dei frati è il fratello del brutto, che lui non vede da nove anni: gli dice che i loro genitori sono morti. Il brutto e Eastwood se ne vanno ma si imbattono nelle truppe nordiste: il brutto ha addosso un'uniforme sudista e così vengono arrestati. Dà come nome quello dell'uomo morto nella diligenza (Bill Carson), ma il cattivo è ora un sergente nordista e pensa di aver trovato il suo uomo. Il cattivo è odiato dal suo comandante, che sa dei suoi metodi paracriminali nel derubare e uccidere i prigionieri di guerra, ma il comandante è impotente perchè sta morendo di cancrena. Il cattivo e il suo complice sergente torturano il brutto finchè lo fa parlare. Poi prende Eastwood con sé (perchè sa il nome della tomba) e gli offre di spartire il bottino, mentre il brutto viene messo su un treno diretto al nord.

Il brutto riesce a fuggire dal treno e ritrova Eastwood, che è a sua volta fuggito al cattivo ma è braccato dai suoi sicari. Li fanno fuori in una sparatoria nel villaggio fantasma, ma il cattivo sfugge. Capitano però nelle mani dei nordisti e, per tirarsi fuori dai guai, si ritrovano in prima linea. I due eserciti si confrontano intorno a un punto che loro devono attraversare per arrivare al tesoro: decidono di farlo saltare, poi fanno a gara a chi arriva prima al cimitero. È una distesa sterminata di croci. Arriva prima il brutto, poi Eastwood e poi il cattivo, che li aspettava; ma Eastwood ha mentito, e la bara non è quella. Eastwood propone un duello a tre per decidere chi prenderà il tesoro: tutti sparano, ma solo Eastwood colpisce il cattivo; la pistola del brutto non spara perchè Eastwood gli aveva tolte le pallottole. I due vanno a scavare nella fossa giusta e questa volta trovano il tesoro. Ma Eastwood ha la pistola e costringe il compare a mettersi il cappio intorno al collo in equilibrio su una croce; gli lascia metà dell'oro e lo lascia ad impiccarsi appena la croce cederà; ma poi spara alla corda e lo libera; e se ne va a cavallo, mentre l'altro lo maledice.

Lento ed estenuante, scontata la trama. In questi trilogia Leone degrada progressivamente il linguaggio hollywoodiano, distillando un puro spettacolo popolare, puntando soprattutto sulla suspense e sulla pirotecnica acrobatica degli scontri a fuoco.

Once Upon A Time In The West/ C'Era Una Volta Il West (1968), scritto da Leone e Sergio Donati (soggetto di Dario Argento e Bernardo Bertolucci), è un omaggio invece agli archetipi americani, persino barocco e allucinato nella sua ricognizione del mito, prolisso e inverosimile nell'inseguire una trama che vorrebbe condensare tutto lo scibile western. Ogni singola inquadratura (protratta in maniera estenuante) diventa un gesto mitologico. Ogni singolo personaggio viene presentato come se si trattasse di Ulisse in persona. Eppure il tono malinconico dell'intero film non potrebbe essere meno "mitico". Questo film e` il triste addio di Leone alla civilta` del Far West: i "tipi" del vecchio western vengono sconfitti dai "tipi" della nuova civilta` della Frontiera, che sta aprendo strade ferrate e costruendo citta`. I tipi del vecchio western non hanno un futuro e, in un certo senso, vogliono morire. La loro battaglia contro i tipi della nuova civilta` e` in realta` solo pro forma: si limitano a ripetere la loro leggenda, senza essere particolarmente convinti, per la stessa ragione per cui respirano e mangiano. La loro fine e` ineluttabile. E proprio questa "ineluttabilita`" e` il tema centrale del film. Non sono i buoni a vincere, sono i cattivi a perdere. Perche' non hanno piu` scelta.

Three bandits enter the office of a station-master (wind, silence, the deserto in the background), lock him up, chase the wife and wait. A feather of smoke in the distance announces that the train is coming. A man gets off from the other side of the train and starts playing the harmonica. When the train leaves, the duel erupts: the three bandits are killed, the traveler is only wounded.
A man shoots at the birds, helped by his little son. They return to the farmhouse, where the man's daughter has been preparing a big meal. The man is a widow, he is sure of getting rich and is getting re-married. The bride is traveling on the same train, and his elder son is about to go and meet her at the station. Suddenly, someone starts shooting at the family and kills all of them, except the child. Five men, led by Frank (Henry Fonda), come out of the bushes and face the child. Frank pulls out the gun and shoots the child in cold blood.
The bride, Jill, does not find anyone waiting for her at the station and wanders through a picturesque crowd of former black slaves and Indians. She walks to the dusty pioneer town and gets a ride on a carriage from an old man. They ride through the camp of the railway workers, who are laying the railway tracks in the desert, and stop at a saloon. Outside people die in a shoot out. A convict, still handcuffed, enters the saloon, and sees the man with the harmonica. He uses the harmonica-man's gun to break his handcuffs. His friends (his name is Cheyenne) come to meet him (they are late for the shoot-out) and the harmonica-man seems interested in their long coats (the same ones that his attackers were wearing). The bride resumes her journey in the old man's carriage and they finally reach the farm, where a funeral service is already being held for the slain family. Nobody knows why they were killed, but everybody knows who did it: the men with the long coats, the men of Cheyenne. The bride refuses to go back to the village and decides to stay at the farm.
In the middle of the night, the harmonica-man tortures a man to find out the truth. He thinks that Cheyenne is innocent of that crime and that Frank did it: that's why Frank was not at the station to meet him in person.
Jill, alone in the farm, is not afraid, even if she knows that someone is still around and she has to wait for sunrise with a gun in her hand. In the morning Cheyenne and his men show up
Frank meets the crippled railway tycoon who lives in a luxury train and dreams of reaching the Pacific. Frank works for him, but the tycoon did not order him to kill the family, only to scare them.
Cheyenne does not want to harm Jill, in fact he admires her. Jill is a former prostitute from New Orleans, and Cheyenne is is the son of a whore. Jill has not found any money in the house and is ready to leave, but the harmonica-man shows up in the barn and tells her to stay. They are spied by two groups of men: Frank's men, who attack and are killed by the harmonica-man, and Cheyenne's men, who were ready to intervene but are shocked to see the harmonica-man take care of it himself.
Jill sends Frank a message: she knows he's the killer and wants to "negotiate" with him. By following the messenger, the harmonica-man finds out where Frank hides: the tycoon's train. The harmonica-man climbs on the train of the tycoon, but Frank sees him and captures him. Frank does not know the harmonica-man, but the harmonica-man names people who have been murdered by Frank, like someone who has been sent to avenge their deaths. Frank doesn't see that Cheyenne is hiding under the train and leaves to find the woman. It doesn't take long before Cheyenne kills all of Frank's men, frees the harmonica-man and faces the tycoon.
In the meantime, Jill found out what her dead husband did with his money: he had ordered lumber and other construction material for some major project. Nobody knows what he wanted to build, but Jill can guess: a whole town, built around a station. He had the vision for a whole new town, and spent all his money to build it. That is the very reason he had bought that land in the first place: there was no other way for the railway to go. He had guess right. He knew he would be rich. The harmonica-man guesses the same, and explains it to Cheyenne.
The tycoon is now ready to pay for the land: he knows that his health does not give him much time and he is obsessed with reaching the ocean before he dies. But nothing can stop Frank.
Frank kidnaps Jill. Jill knows that Frank killed her husband but lets him make love to her and enjoys it. She seems crazier about him than he about her. In fact, she looks like a nymphomaniac. Frank is seduced into marrying her and taking over her property. A whore is a whore.
At the auction of Jill's property Frank's men keep people from bidding, but the harmonica-man shows up with a gun and... Cheyenne. Cheyenne is a wanted man and the harmonica-man is paying for Jill's property with the reward. But Cheyenne is freed right away by his pals.
Frank confronts the harmonica-man in the saloon, but he still refuses to tell him his name: he keeps listing names of people murdered by Frank (his consciousness?). Frank offers him one dollar for Jill's property. His men have surrounded the saloon, but they are not after the harmonica-man: they have been paid by the tycoon to kill Frank. The harmonica-man saves his life: together they kill all of them. Then the harmonica-man lets Frank go. But now Frank is a finished man: all of his men are dead and his old boss wants him dead. Frank returns to the train to find all of his men slaughtered (by Cheyenne's men?)
The railroad tycoon is crawling in the desert towards a pool of water, crying and dying (and hearing ocean waves in his mind). Frank pulls the trigger, but then changes his mind. The cripple dies as Frank walks away.
Jill has moved back to the farm. Cheyenne rides in to pay a visit to Jill. He is clearly in love with her. He tells her she should bring tea to the workers.
Outside, the harmonica-man is waiting. Frank is riding towards the farm, past the railroad workers. Frank and his nemesis fight the last duel. As they stare at each other, the harmonica-man remembers: he was a young boy in a mission when Frank's gang hauled his brother on top of his shoulders and put a rope around his neck, waiting for the boy to collapse and for his brother to die. Frank, amused, put a harmonica in his mouth. He really is a man with no name for Frank. The harmonica-man wins the duel. Frank's last words are "who are you"? The man with no name puts the harmonica in his mouth.
Seeing that the winner is the harmonica-man, Jill smiles.
The harmonica-man and Cheyenne ride away. Past the railway workers, Cheyenne collapses: he has been wounded by the tycoon and has been bleeding to death all the time. He killed himself to go pay his respects to Jill.
Th train brings more workers. And Jill goes out to bring them tea. Civilization goes on.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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If English is your first language and you could translate the Italian texts, please contact me.
Giù la testa! (1971) ambienta all'epoca della Rivoluzione Messicana le avventure di due banditi dinamitardi rapiti dal mito di Pancho Villa, uno dei quali tradisce l'altro ma poi paga con la vita.
Once Upon A Time in America (1983) is an epic and hallucinated film, a four-hour visual and narrative tour de force that tells half a century of social history camouflaged under the format of the gangster movie. A woman enters a room, lifts the sheets of the bed and sees bullet holes drawing the shape of a body. There are gangsters in the room and they ask her where "he" is hiding. She refuses to answer and is shot dead. Elsewhere, gangsters are torturing a man. He, Noodle (Robert DeNiro), the middle-aged man the gangsters want, is in the back of a Chinese movie theater, doped up on opium.
While a phone rings in the background, a flashback shows the police taking pictures of three corpses in a rainy night. He, Noodles, is watching the scene, petrified. The prohibition is over and people celebrate.
The gangsters enter the Chinese movie theater and his Chinese friends help Noodles escape in the alley. Noodles finds the man who has been tortured. Then walks to the station, withdraws a bag from a locker and buys a ticket for the first bus out of the city. Then changes his mind, rents a car and drive to the bar run by an old friend, who hasn't seen him in many years. Noodles tells him that "they" found him and summoned them back to the city. And tells him that he never took the money, that someone else did: they are talking about something that happened 35 years before. The picture on the wall is of his friend's sister, who, he tells Noodles, is now a star.
He remembers, as a boy, spying on her and being madly in love with her. He grew up in that Jewish neighborhood and used to hang out with three friends: Max, Cockeye, Patsy. They formed a gang, led by the eldest, Max. Beaten by the other gang on the block, they made a deal with the mob to help them against the coast guard. They stored the money in a briefcase and lock it in a locker: they gave the key to their friend. They were still celebrating when the rival gang attacked them and killed the youngest of them. Noodles stabbed the killer to death, but was then arrested by the police.
Back to the present, a doomed middle-aged man, Noodles visits a cemetery where three tombs bear the names of his three friends, all dead the same year. Then walks to the station, opens the locker and takes the briefcase full of banknotes.
When he was finally released from jail twelve years later, Noodles rejoined Max's gang. Max was on his way to become a powerful boss of the organized crime during the Prohibition. He met again the girl of his dreams, Deborah, who was on her way to become famous. Max accepted a job from the Mafia to pull off a diamond heist and then kill the gangsters who would come to buy the diamonds (Noodles and the others killed all of them). During the job, Noodles raped a stupid clerk, Carol. Noodles, disturbed by Max's ambitions, drove the car straight into the river.
At a cocktail party they met again Carol, the dumb girl of the diamond heist, who had a good memory of the rape but mistaked Max for Noodles and became his girlfriend.
Noodles had a romantic date with Deborah, but she told him that she was on her way to Hollywood. Desperate, Noodles raped her.
One day the Prohibition was repealed and good old days of the mob were over. Despite Noodles' objections, Max was planning to rob the Federal Reserve. Noodles thought it was a suicidal job and decided to turn Max in. But Max, Cockey and Patsy were killed, and Noodles had to live for the rest of his life with the sense of guilt.
Back to the present, Noodles visits Deborah. He has been invited to a party by an important politician and has found out that Deborah is his lover. Deborah refuses to tell him why the politician wants to see him but begs him to go away. Then he shows him the politician's son, who bears his name... probably his own, the fruit of his rape.
Noodles goes to the party and meets the politician: it is Max. He survived the shoot-out. His political career is about to be destroyed, and he wants Noodles to be the one who kills him. Noodles refuses. As he leaves, Noodles witnesses the brutal murder of Max (his body thrown in the grinding machine of a garbage truck).
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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