Well, here’s number 1.
Now that we are close to the end, I’ll share a statistic on the list (more on the epilogue). Here’s the number of films by country:
- USA: 49
- UK: 14
- Italy: 7
- Germany: 7
- France: 6
- Japan: 5
- Hungary: 2
- Denmark: 1
- Sweden: 1
- Belgium: 1
- Canada: 1
- Romania: 1
- South Korea: 1
- South-Africa: 1
- Bosnia-Herzegovina: 1
- India: 1
- China: 1
That’s seventeen different countries and only seven with more than one. On the other hand, those seven comprise 90% of the list. Of course, USA has the lion’s share. They are just on a different level in marketing and just have so much more resources. Maybe more than the others combined. Maybe.
Of course, since most of the movies I saw in my formative years were from the US, that reflects on the list as well. Still, despite all this, over half of the list comes from outside the US.
Hungary seems like an interesting surprise. Not quite among the big boys, but better than most. Both their entries (Kontroll, The Turin Horse) are quite unique movies, which show a very unique perspective on the world. I love that stuff. I seek it out and cherish it.
Still, the US rules… Sadly.
… but you’re not here to read me ramble, so lets move on.
I wanted to schedule this part for this day for a reason. This is the 49th anniversary of the premier of this movie in Italy. I’ve made it a tradition to get some food outside of my usual, healthy diet (I’m thinking wings this year) and watch the movie each year as a sort of salute to its magnificence. (Also to have at least some fun around Christmas.)
1. Il Buono, il brutto, il cattivo (Sergio Leone, 1966, Italy)
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Memorable moment: When the three central characters finally meet each other in a gunfight.
During the US Civil War, Blondie has had enough of his partnership with Tuco. They have been claiming reward money for Tuco and then springing him out, but Blondie no longer sees a future in that, so he leaves Tuco tied up in the middle of the desert. Tuco, however, survives and chases down Blondie. While Tuco enacts his revenge on Blondie, they meet a dying soldier, who spills the beans on where he hid a huge fortune of gold stolen from the army. Tuco and Blondie each learn only a part of the secret and must therefore ally in order to get the treasure. Meanwhile, Angel Eyes has been searching for the same exact soldier Tuco and Blondie met, further complicating the situation when he forces Blondie to collaborate.
Doesn’t sound so great, but it simply is. As so many movies, its not about the plot.
The thing about this movie, is that it has grown with me. The version I saw as a kid was almost 40 minutes shorter than the longest version I’ve seen. We now delve deeper into the characters and actually learn much about them. Especially Tuco, who’s brother we met and get to hear about his history. Of course, its not only about the length of the film. Its also about what I appreciate. I used to be more about the violence (although, the movie isn’t actually even that violent, as mostly the violence happens in very short bursts after anticipation has been properly built up), but now I’m more about the world and the atmosphere build by Leone.
The movie is extremely beautifully shot, and even though the world is very crude and dirty, the scenery is often mind-blowing. Although the art direction is often based on Leone’s faulty view of the Wild West rather than actual period styles, later revisionist westerns have followed it pretty closely. And for a reason. These people have very distinct looks. They have lived through tough times and survived on pure will, and it shows on their faces and clothing. And Leone isn’t afraid to highlight it.
Although the beginning of the movie tells us that Blondie is good, Tuco is ugly and Angel Eyes is bad, that’s not really true at all. They all exhibit all of the above qualities. In different measures, sure, but if there’s a point to the movie, its that our goodness, badness and ugliness are more situational then we’d like to think.
Eastwood, Wallach and van Cleef are the right people for this job. They look like people who been too long out in the sun and possibly hit a sandstorm or two on the way.
I’m not going to even bother mentioning the music by Ennio Morricone, which has since gone on to have a life of its own.