Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Directors Project: #37 - Sergio Leone

Scene from Cinema Paradiso
With the many lists and essays written on the subject of film, there has been one thing that The Oscar Buzz has tried to understand: Who is my favorite of the film world? For 10 weeks this summer, I will be exploring this with a countdown of the Top 50 names based on a numerical ranking of ratings from various sources, the following is a list of directors who rank above everyone else. With occasional upsets, this is intended as both a discussion opener as well as a better understanding of me as a film critic and fan. Please enjoy and leave any comments you have regarding the entry's selection.


Years Active: 1946-1986

Films as Director: 7

Oscar Wins: 0

Who: Unlike the other western director icons, Leone was a director who took the genre to its absolute bleakest. With highly economic sets, he found beauty in sparse imagery in which the desert was allowed to compensate as art. It was meditative, empty, and in the long, drawn out feel of his feels, there was a new understanding to what a western could be. They were despicable people who were out to make a difference in the world, though not necessarily one of beneficiary. Often accompanied by composer Ennio Morricone, his films tended to feature Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef alongside stories regarding American-Mexican relations along the border with unrepentant hostility and harsh stares. He also focused heavily on close-up of eyeballs, which were gateways into the soul. Leone was a visual director who knew the power of the still frame and made it count for everything imaginable. He also knew how to make cynicism and survivalist culture into compelling cinema.

Scene from For a Few Dollars More
-- A Fistful of Dollars (1964) --

Flickchart Ranking: #127 (800 points)
IMDb Rating: 6/10 (60 points)
Perks: The Dollars Trilogy (Combined 10 points)
Total: 860 points

-- For a Few Dollars More (1965) --

Flickchart Ranking: #322 (600 points)
IMDb Rating: 7/10 (70 points)
Perks: The Dollars Trilogy (Combined 10 points)
Total: 670 points

-- The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966) --

Flickchart Ranking: #389 (550 points)
IMDb Rating: 6/10 (60 points)
Perks: The Dollars Trilogy (Combined 10 points)
Total: 620 points

-- Duck, You Sucker (1971) --

Flickchart Ranking: #463 (450 points)
IMDb Rating: 7/10 (70 points)
Perks: None
Total: 520 points

-- Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) --

Flickchart Ranking: #992 (50 points)
IMDb Rating: 4/10 (40 points)
Perks: None
Total: 90 points

OVERALL TOTAL: 2760 points

Scene from Once Upon a Time in the West
My love for Sergio Leone came upon taking a western class and fully understand what it was that made westerns special. After being exposed to countless John Ford and Howard Hawks films, the juxtaposition to Leone became immediately clear. He was aggressive in his simplicity and the action was often sudden. It was high-strung art with some iconic performances and wonderful soundtracks. They are particularly enjoyable from a cinephile standpoint as each film is gorgeously orchestrated and unique in ways that few directors can achieve. I may not fully embrace his films as much as Ford or Hawks (I haven't quite come around to Once Upon a Time in the West), but I admire how much he demands that you watch him. It is beautiful, subtle, funny, and human all combined into some pretty awesome westerns.

UP NEXT: A high concept world cinema director whose films symbolized greater themes in juxtaposed ways.

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