A Fistful Of Dollars (1964) & Ride With The Devil (1999)

This may be an unfair comparison, but there it is in the above pictures. Toby Maguire's eyes gazing to our left outside of the picture – generally cosidered a feminizing pose. Compare to Clint Eastwood's stare coming straight at us. I may not even see his eyes, but I feel his attention anyway. Then there are the hats and the question of what happens to your hair underneath.

What confirms Clint's victory is the poncho. Seconds into watching A Fistful Of Dollars I say to Nick:
I need a poncho. Right then Clint walks into the picture (or did he ride?) covered in that perfect multi-tasking garment. (The Drunk Lovers may have looked more like the guys in Ride With The Devil on the last tour, but on the next one they'll all wear ponchos.)


Two contrasting experiences from the same genre. A Fistful Of Dollars is a film I've watched probably over 30 times. It was a favorite of my fathers, and I do recall as a pre-teen watching this film with him. It's possible that The Man With No Name (Clint Eastwood), is a perfect reflection of Italian masculinity as some commentators have suggested to gauge the initial impact of the Dollars movies in Italy and subsequently everywhere else. Or could it be that Director Sergio Leone showed us the first glimpse of how the Western genre could be revitalized with a heady stew of Morricone's exciting music, over the top violence and the cool iconoclast of Eastwood's loner. Still essential, Peckinpah took note, Tarantino copied badly.

Ang Lee's Ride With The Devil gives us a sure sign why this genre has not stood up going into the new century. His Civil War picture is such a mess. It reeks of studio tampering, the look is straight from Laura Ashley, the main protagonists seem to have been transported in from grunge-era Seattle. It takes an earth to actually work out what is going on. Jeffrey Wright holds the interest here as the confused Holt, his performance is worth a look. Otherwise, Lee has got this so wrong.  A mention for Tobey Maguire's usual bland performance which is only matched by Jewel's vacuous presence. This film is one to avoid, and a surprise given Lee's other work.

We watched Lee's movie first, and struggled to finish it. Faith in my favorite genre was restored from the first frame of Leone's picture. Yes, A Fistful Of Dollars has been much parodied and copied, but go back to the original source. It still holds the attention and it still thrills.


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