C’era Una Volta in America [Once Upon a Time in America] (1984)

Well, after sitting on my floor for seven months unwatched (!) and for probably at least one month now even opened, I finally watched it. Night after night trying to get my courage up (er, got some Bob Seger stuck in my head, though I doubt anyone will recognize that–it’s from “Mainstreet,” a personal favourite that fully encapsulates my displaced nostalgia for smoky little bars with neon lights on fresh-rained streets in the middle of the night with rock and roll bands playing songs like that..) and weekend after weekend thinking, “I have two days off, I can fit in a four hour movie…”–I did it.

I spent most of the film checking how far along I was, dreading the moment where it began to drag and I’d see that three quarters of the films 229 minute (3 hours, 49 minutes) running time was left to sit through.

While I was checking the time every half hour or so, at most I chuckled, thinking “Most movies are 1/3 or 1/4 over, but this one is only 1/8.” smirking to myself. It never dragged. It was also bloody amazing. It was much like watching Once Upon a Time in the West (how surprising! another Sergio Leone movie in the same “trilogy”!).

Ennio Morricone’s music was again utterly heart-breaking and perfect. James Woods and Robert DeNiro were fantastic (oh, how surprising..) and Elizabeth McGovern is pretty hot. The characters were unusually flawed (sometimes despicably so) and Sergio and the cast managed to always get exactly the right feeling into the scenes–if it was supposed to be disturbing, it was, if it was supposed to be saddening, it was, if it was funny, it was.

The pacing and the chronology were phenomenal, moving between the three time periods was almost always clear, and in the few instances it was not, it was made clear within minutes (and when you have 229 minutes of flex space, a few minutes really isn’t that long)–but those moments were very few. The ending was perfect. Hell, so was the beginning. The images, the symbols…gah.

The only complaint I have is Jennifer Connelly (admittedly, only around 13) had not yet gained any chops (when she pulls from the young Noodles holding her hair, she doesn’t look or sound remotely as angry or hurt as she should) and the bastards who made the DVD chopped the film at the most bizarre time, about 2 hours in. This could be sort of right, except it was in the middle of a situation (though the end of a scene, and the climax of the situation’s action)–and there’s a damn intermission 40 minutes later (so, 40 minutes into disc 2). This was pretty distracting, but I sank right back in within minutes.

HIGHLY fuckin’ recommended, just don’t expect The Godfather, Scarface (ugh.), Carlito’s Way or Goodfellas, because it’s not that kind of movie. Especially not the Scarface kind because it’s good and not boring.

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