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Thursday, February 03, 2005

The Best Spaghetti Western? No.

Sergio Corbucci's 'The Great Silence' is the director's best film. It's got a lot going for it, and incredible cast Jean-Louis Trintignant, Vonetta McGee, Luigi Pistilli, and Frank Wolf, a odd, grim snowbound setting, a hero that takes the quiet gunslinger hero to new extremes, and one of the most unhappy endings ever filmed. I'm not kidding. It's fucked up, even by the wonderfully low standards of Italian cinema.

Corbucci's known mostly for 'Django', which is a highly recommended film featuring a hero that carries around a machine gun in a coffin which he utilizes to gun down dozens of people, and a Klansman hood wearing badguy that shoots Mexican farmers in the back from hundreds of yards away with a high powered rifle just to be an asshole. Corbucci's other Western to achieve a degree of notoriety is 'Navajo Joe', featuring Burt Reynolds in the role he came to be continually typecast in, the Indian. 'Navajo Joe', while admittedly amusing, if just to watch Burt Reynolds attempt's to channel the noble Native American's inherent spirituality though copious squinting, has a admirable amount of violence and a great, often quoted score.

Nevertheless, 'The Great Silence' is considered Corbucci's best film, and it's easy to see why. 'Django' and 'Navajo Joe', which fine features in their own way, lack the substance of 'The Great Silence'. One of the great things about it is, it's unusual structure. It starts like many other films of the genre, with the Gunfigher arriving in a town ruled by a bad guys, before going off to spend more time on the big Villain, who is even more evil than usual. And nobody does a Villain like Klaus Kinski, who is able to channel mankind's natural, and understandable hatred and distrust of Germans into one evil, racist fascist fuck of a Bad Guy. The whole film seems slightly off, with it's extreme editing, surprisingly tender interracial romance between Trintignant and McGee, and the off-kilter setting. How many Westerns have you seen set in the Utah Mountains featuring Mormons? The outlaws, living on the outskirts of town subsisting on Horsemeat and whatever they can steal, due to Luigi Pistilli's Banker character's typically evil financial machinations, which despite being heavy on the proletariat sympathies that run rampant through Italian cinema, is still just strange. Trintignant isn't trying to save some Orphans or innocent homesteaders here, he trying to save a bunch of outlaws.

So after the Hero, his girlfriend, and the only sympathetic characters are gunned down like dogs by the Kinksi and his Kohorts, the film has a title crawl vaguely alluding to events which supposedly took place in Utah, but I have my doubts. I think Corbucci just wanted an excuse to subvert any expectations and brutally gun down a bunch of people, which is fine with me. That is happens to lend the film more substance then the relatively light 'Django' and the cartoonish 'Navajo Joe', but this greater meaning seems almost incidental in retrospect. 'The Great Silence' suffers from phenomenally poor dubbing, even by the standards of it's time (I think when the Jerk Offs at the Dub factory took a break from the daily diet of fortified wine and bologna and saw that the lead characters is mute, they let the Junior Level dubbers take over), and the filmmaking occasionally lapses into the slipshod, with appallingly poor use of camera filters, and some horrible, distracting shaky camera work.

Alex Cox, an enthusiastic cheerleader for the film, mentions that it might very well be the greatest Spaghetti Western of all time. Alex Cox is totally wrong, and while the film is certainly good, elevating it to the level of 'Once Upon A Time In The West', of 'The Good The Bad And The Ugly', to compare it with Leone is totally ridiculous. Don't believe him, his own attempt at a Spaghetti Western was 'Straight To Hell', so obviously his perception is warped. Believe me, I'd rent it if you haven't seen it, it's better then watching whatever is on television, you illiterate, uncultured, ignorant asshole. Fuck you.

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