PUZZLES FLAWS & INTERPRETATIONS
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At one point, I pondered the corruption angle as possibly a way that Max could be confirmed under his new false identity. As pointed out, it doesnít really hold up. Even partisan politics of the 60's variety would of probably got him.

I think we do look at this through a lens of our times. There was a post that seemed to raise that idea with the media. Extreme partisan politics, being real deep into a post Watergate cynicism (with Iran-Contra, Clinton impeachment, Jack Abramoff and numerous other scandals), media out of control that reports anything and everything (perhaps with less of a public service dedication as opposed to a profit motivation for the large corporations which own and operate it). Yet, if you try to put it in historical perspective for that period (Iím definitely not an expert in that area)...it still would seem unlikely.

I think we saw this kind of thing with DYS, the english name issue and use of the phrase. I think Sergio loved that line by Coburn so much from a dramatic standpoint (heís right, itís cool everytime) that he wouldnít listen to anyone that tried to tell him it wasnít a popular phrase of that time. I think OUATIA, maybe sets itself up for more of these issues, because heís approaching his material with a lens that attempts to get even closer in someways than the other films (to certain characters, details of the period and events). Yet, OUATIA, for all this greater character development and detail of an actual time and period, is a..... once upon a time story. In his mind, these stories fuse the real with fantasy. I really think thereís something to this when thinking about the final act. I donít think itís a case of being unable to address plot points because the adaptation source ran out (ended in the thirties and does not include the 60's segment), or that there were so many writers involved or that the editing problems were factors. OUATIA has plot "contrivances" much like fairy tales and fables where everything seems cyclical and interconnected (Deborah ends up with Max, Max is still alive and obtains a high position of political power almost becoming the fallen king of our fairy tale complete with throne). How much and to what extent has Leone incorporated elements of fantasy within his story set in a realistic time and setting to complete his message and his charactersí story cycle? These seem to be the "inconsistencies" that are always talked about as the "flaws".

In an interview included in Once Upon A Time In Italy The Westerns Of Sergio Leone (pg 77), Leone states:

The films are for grown-ups, but they remain fairy tales and have the impact of fairy tales. For me, cinema is about imagination, and the imagination is best communicated in the form of parables...meaning fairy tales. Not in the Walt Disney sense, though.  They draw attention to themselves as fairy tales...everything is made up and cleaned up and sugary sweet, and this makes the tale less suggestive. To me, anyway. I think that fairy tales capture the audienceís imagination when the setting is realistic rather than fantastical. The fusion of realistic setting and fantasy story can give film a sense of myth, of legend, Once upon a time......

Maybe Iím being subjective in my thinking. By no means am I suggesting this approach releases Sergio or the film from scrutiny on these details, but if one is going to analyze those details so closely, shouldnít his artistic intentions also be considered? I could be wrong, but I think thatís the gist of what Iím hearing in quite a few of the posts on this thread.

I do shake my head when someone likes to put down the worth of the film as a whole by focussing on these points.....almost like a vocation on every possible forum. On the other hand, differences in viewpoint and disagreement are good things when it can create more discussion and allow everyone to get closer to the material.....I guess if it can be some kind of dialogue and exchange rather than assistance in tweaking someoneís nonsense.

If someone really admires Leone cinema, I think they would have an appreciation of OUATIA. Itís still my favorite Leone film. Itís a beautiful piece of cinematic art. A masterpiece. He put so much of himself into that production, and itís all there for everyone to see and appreciate.


In the commentary on the DVD, Richard Schickel says that Leone and the other writers pondered for quite a while on the feasibility of the gang keeping their cash in a railway station left luggage locker. They came up with various alternatives including four safes in four different hiding places.

The writers obviously also realized that there was a problem with "Senator Bailey" - personally I think that they could have got round this by making him a high official in a business such as transport, hotels, banking, gambling or import/export etc rather than making him "Secretary Bailey"

Regarding titles I can't imagine anyone in England being attracted to "Duck, You Sucker". OUATIA is my favorite film but I still cringe a bit at the length of "Once Upon A Time In America" and the impression it creates for those unfamiliar with the movie. I realize the fairy tale aspect but personally I might have preferred something like "Once In America".

There are very few movies that support repeated viewings and provoke discussion and thought in the way this movie does.


I just wanted to say this proves that many people do love this movie (me included). Most of the people that participated in this topic tried to make logical points, actually thinking of this movie (what I find extremely rare outside of this board). That is the greatness of OUATIA; people have the need to talk about it with someone, and share opinions, even if they're different. This isn't just another "I love it - I hate it, just because I do, fuck you if you think different" thread. Plus, like someone said before, spotting all these "flaws" doesn't reduce OUATIA's value.


Noodles watches as Deborah leaves on a train. The scene is supposed to be set in New York's Grand Central Station in the 1930's but the station no longer existed when the film was made and Leone used the Gare Du Nord in Paris.

According to Frayling, Leone commented:
"Grand Central was only a replica of the Gare du Nord, in any case... made of the same materials."

There are a couple of items in the image which indicate that the scene was filmed in France, one of which is mentioned by Frayling.


The carriages for one are European not American especially with the SNCF on the side.

Also if it was Grand Central or Pennsylvania Station they would have been using all electric locomotives. Only Hoboken or Weehawken across the Hudson would have maybe still had steam locos.


The SNCF logo seems a bit out of place but the only item which Frayling mentions is the "VOIE 13" sign.


Well the cabs like 1212 below would have pulled the passenger trains in and out of Grand Central Station after it was rebuilt and the tracks dropped below Park Avenue and covered over.

If it was Penn Station the passenger trains would have been pulled by the tuscan red GG1's like below.

But if it was steam then Noodles and the gang may have been going to The Lackawanna Terminal in Hoboken which looked more like the terminal in the film but hardly likely but if you read the captions you could catch a train to Buffalo from there. But then again you could also from Grand Central Terminal.


Electric locomotives have an attraction but I can imagine that some of the movie's audience may not have viewed images of them in quite the same romantic way as images of steam trains.

Leone uses the steam very effectively and as the train pulls away, the steam at times envelops the screen. Reminds me of the way tears can cloud vision when someone you love disappears from your life.


It's often reported that Leone was obsessive with detail, some of which wouldn't have shown up on film.  I think that for Leone the important thing was his vision and having that vision transferred as faithfully as possible to the big screen.  When Leone was questioned about detail, he is reported to have said:

Detail is important, but it is not everything: vision is everything.


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