Movies | 19 | One Upon A Time In America
His last film. His finest film.
Among the greatest directors of all times, Sergio Leon has made his mark with his unique brand of cinema and storytelling. He is widely known for classical westerns like Once Upon A Time In The West; but Once Upon A Time In America is a tale that touches one’s heart. Perhaps – like me – the movie might remind you a lot of the ‘feel’ that The Godfather had.
In fact, Leon has earlier refused the offer to direct The Godfather – perhaps a decision that later made him make this one in regret. And even though there are no parallels in the plot or in characters, one can easily see the common ambitions and aspirations of both the great feature films. Among other things, what truly stands out is the use of flash-backs for telling the story – common to both the great movies; and a trendsetter at the time. Not just that, Al Pacino and Jack Nicolson turned the role of Noodles down – before it finally went to Robert DeNiro; and the rest is history.
Initially, I had been a little reserved about the movie given its length of four hours; however in those days I was on a DeNiro spree – from King Of Comedy to this. Very high production and massive sets in the scenes impress you in the first few scenes itself. Then there is Ennio Morricone (a classmate of Sergio Leon) with his unforgettable and deeply moving musical scores throughout the movie.
Any comments on DeNiro’s acting would be an understatement; however, it is indeed remarkable how the rest of the cast has matched him in caliber in this one. But the highlight of the movie – for me – remains the baby-switching scene with ‘La Gazzadra’ as the background score. This song would go on to become a popular favourate that can be heard – or hummed along – even to this day. The music is great, the scenes are shot with references from actual photographers, painters and their paintings. It has everything that a great movie must have – but above all, it has a story that will hold your heart.
The movie – which took so long to make that Morricone had finished his score even before the shooting had ended and the producers simply forgot to file his greatest work for Oscar nominations – was actually 10 hours long, then trimmed to 6 and was slated to be released in two parts. However, after the producers refused, Leon had to release it has a 4 hour feature presentation.
Pity, how this movie lost out to the hype – mostly deserved – of The Godfather in the media and in the movie lists down the years.