Saturday, October 20, 2012

Once Upon a Time: Sergio Leone

Written and directed by Howard Hill, Once Upon a Time: Sergio Leone is a documentary about the life and career of one of cinema’s great filmmakers in Sergio Leone. The documentary explores the evolution of his career from his days making sword-and-sandal films in Italy to how he reinvented the western with his Dollars trilogy. The result is a fascinating story about one of the world’s most beloved filmmakers.

The documentary reveals the life of Sergio Leone through his widow Carla (whom the film was dedicated to) as well as biographer Sir Christopher Frayling where the two unveil a lot about Leone’s personal life. Also interviewed are those who worked with Leone like Eli Wallach, Rod Steiger, Jason Robards, James Woods, Claudia Cardinale, James Coburn, music composer Ennio Morricone, and some of men who co-wrote some of his films. Clint Eastwood appears in an archived piece where he talks about his admiration for Leone.

The documentary also reveals a lot about his importance to the world of cinema though not much is revealed about his pre-Western work like The Last Days of Pompeii and The Colossus of Rhodes as well as the films he supposedly had done additional direction like My Name is Nobody and A Genius, Two Partners, and a Dope. What is shown that Leone fans will love are the commercials he made during the 1970s that definitely bears a lot of the Leone trademarks. Still, the documentary takes it time to reveal a lot about the great films he made such as the Dollars trilogy and Once Upon a Time in America where there’s a lot of stories regarding to the latter and how it was badly mishandled in its re-cut form by the American distributors.

James Coburn recalls how heartbreaking it was for Leone after the film had been badly butchered by the American distributors while James Woods revealed that the re-cut version was voted the worst film of 1984 by Sheila Benson of the L.A. Times while she later saw the uncut version which she named it as one of the best films of the 1980s. Quentin Tarantino reveals a lot about how Leone influenced his work including the close-ups he does which is often a tribute to Leone. Through some rare still photos and other rare footage, Howard Hill makes something is truly a delight for Leone fans.

Once Upon a Time: Sergio Leone is an excellent documentary from Howard Hill that explores the life and works of Sergio Leone. It’s a documentary that fans will definitely enjoy despite some its flaws in not unveiling a lot of information about his films. In the end, Once Upon a Time: Sergio Leone is a superb film from Howard Hill.

Sergio Leone Films: The Last Days of Pompeii (1959 film) - The Colossus of Rhodes - A Fistful of Dollars - For a Few Dollars More - The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly - Once Upon a Time in the West - Duck, You Sucker! - Once Upon a Time in America

Related: The Auteurs #16: Sergio Leone

© thevoid99 2012


David said...

A must-see doc for Leone die-hard fans like me,thanks for the review,Steven!

thevoid99 said...

You're welcome. My Auteurs piece on Leone is coming Friday. It's already finished as I'm getting set for the next part of the Auteurs series.