Friday, January 14, 2011

My Quest To See the 1000 Greatest:
The Good, the Bad & the Ugly (1966)

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly is #573 in  

Screened 09/04/10 on Blu-Ray at Midtown Cinema

Ranked #165 on TSPDT

*this is one in a series of catch-up reviews in my aforementioned quest (which should explain the rather old screening date above).

Quentin Tarantino, one of my favourite directors working in modern Hollywood, claims The Good, the Bad & the Ugly as his all-time favourite movie, proving so by "stealing" several scenes for both his Kill Bill, Volume II and Inglourious Basterds.  Sergio Leone, the director of the same, is one of the greatest visual filmmakers of all-time.  The score of the film, by Ennio Morricone, is one of the most vividly rousing works of filmic music I have ever heard (I even have the main theme as my ringtone).  The Western, as a standard-bearer is one of my favourite genres, and the revisionist and/or Spaghetti style just adds to the revelry.  All this and still it took me until well after my forty-third birthday to finally sit down and watch the damned thing.  But it was well worth the wait, as they say.

Long and weaving, Leone takes his camera everywhere, even right into the sun-beaten faces of Eastwood, Van Cleef and Wallach, and then takes it even further.  I believe this surpasses what Leone would eventually do a few years later in the still fantastic Once Upon a Time in the West, even if many consider the latter to be the better film (except for me and QT).  From the opening credits, Morricone's score blaring behind, beside, in front of and all around them (supposedly designed in places to mimic the sound of crying hyenas), to the once excised, now put back where it belongs Civil War battle scene, torpedoing his camera and his cast through the trenches of warfare (even if perhaps there was never any actual trench warfare in said war), to the seemingly endless three-way shot out finale, with Tuco's frantic penultimate race around the cemetery, The Good, the Bad & the Ugly is a true blue masterpiece of cinema.  And masterpiece is not a word I toss around all willy-nilly like many others - it means something where I come from. 

Sure, the title may be something of a misnomer - there really is no good person involved here. Eastwood's "good" man-with-no-name is only good in comparison to Van Cleef and Wallach's Bad and Ugly respectively.  Still, that aside, Leone's film is a remarkable thing to watch - especially up on the big screen and in hi-def, with the sound system at screaming capacity, and me in the front row, sitting beside my lovely wife (also seeing the film for the first time).  It was a glourious (sic) time had by all.

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