The Good, the Bad & the Ugly (1966) Directed by Sergio Leone

During December we have decided to watch and review our favorite films, which for a reason or another we have not yet discussed here. The first pick is Nick's.

My relationship to Leone and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is comparable to my relationship to beetroot (the vegetable): after the initial heartfelt dislike and unease comes forcefeeding and through that a new voluntary relationship. Now I am full of wonder and curiosity when it comes to beetroot – and Leone.

It is annoying to have to admit that something so square and simplistic, so male-oriented and nostalgic can indeed be more than it appears at first glance. At first the use of landscape and photography win me over, then the beauty of Clint (so obviously in love with himself), then Ennio Morricone's score overwhelms me. Finally, in this particular movie, Eli Wallach adds some high-class acting to the soup.

A truly enjoyable Borsch is ready.

Yet, I cannot review this film without mentioning Leone's disregard for women. There it is as a matter of fact. How can we watch these movies in the 21st century as anything else than masterful caricatures of the ideal masculinities in the past-and-gone century? Is this why my boyfriend loves these films so? What is he nostalgic for, his childhood or something else?

When it comes to picking all time favorites, does over-familiarity breed contempt? Not in this instance. Whichever way I look at Leone's picture (and it is a film I've watched over 30 times), there are always new details to find and every viewing brings more to admire. I first saw this movie when I was 12 years old. At the time Leone and the Dollars Trilogy were not as iconic as they are now and these films did not have the critical favor that they now possess. Time and culture have given Leone's picture a rare standing of being both popularist  and critically loved.

Viewing The Good, The Bad & The Ugly this time round it was easy to acknowledge that Eastwood doesn't feature in this movie so much, yet he walks away with the candy. The Good, The Bad & The Ugly is Leone's first picture to delve into the use of substantial character, Eli Wallach's Tuco steals the film from Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef (the Good & The Bad respectively to Tuco's Ugly). Tuco is a character that Leone revisits to some extent in the later Duck, You Sucker with  Rod Steiger showing similar crudity as Juan Miranda. Eastwood drifts in and out of The Good, The Bad & The Ugly like a ghost, only assuming his Man With No Name  figure in the final reel when he don's the famous poncho.

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly ultimately blows me away with its vision, Morricone's score still surprises, and the humor works in not making me take this film so seriously. What followed from Leone had more depth and an even greater sense of what cinema could do, and I know I will revisit all those films over the course of my life. But let's just say that The Good, The Bad & The Ugly is a lot more fun.


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