Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Once Upon a Time in the West
Once Upon a Time in the West (C'era una volta il West, 1969), directed by Sergio Leone, is considered by many to be his greatest and most critically acclaimed film, and by some even as the greatest Western ever made.
The epic film stars Henry Fonda, in his most villainous role, Charles Bronson as his nemesis, Jason Robards, as a generally benign bandit, and Claudia Cardinale, as a newly-widowed homesteader with a lurid past.
Stylistically unique as a Western, the film has several striking features - emotionally resonant leitmotifs which relate to each of the main characters (each character having their own unique theme music), as well as to the spirit of the American West, and long scenes in which there is very little dialogue and not much happens, broken by brief and sudden violence. The dry, unsentimental tone of the film is consistent with the arid semi-desert in which the story unfolds, and imbues it with a feeling of realism which contrasts with the elaborately choreographed gunplay.
The film begins with a parody of Fred Zinneman's classic High Noon; in this case, the train arrives two hours late and time is openly distorted. According to critic Sir Christopher Frayling , the film quotes from as many as 30 classic American Westerns.
The composer Ennio Morricone wrote the score before Sergio Leone began filming, forcing the movie to conform to the music. Like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the stirring music almost defines the film and adds to its mythic or operatic grandeur.
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