Watching Once Upon a Time in the West – Rara Avis

(Based on recommendation of SI reader yourmate)

Fast horses. Fast guns. Fast women.

Is there any other movie genre that has captured the imagination of millions of movie fans the world over as much as the Western?

We doubt it.

And when you think Western, you think of Once Upon a Time in the West.

Directed by Sergio Leone, Once Upon a Time in the West features Henry Fonda, Charles ‘Death Wish’ Bronson, Claudia Cardinale and Jason Robards in key roles.

Although the movie failed to rock the U.S. box office and failed to win the Best Picture Oscar, it’s now hailed as a masterpiece and considered the ne plus ultra of westerns in some circles.

We’ll update this post later today after we finish watching the movie.

Amazing work.

Once Upon a Time in the West is one of the very, very few movies that we’d like to watch a second time. And we will.

Notwithstanding what you may have heard, this is not a Henry Fonda movie. Oh, this is by no means a Charles Bronson movie either.

We don’t care what you’ve heard or read but Once Upon a Time in the West most certainly is not a Claudia Cardinale or Jason Robards movie.

Brilliant and dazzling as no doubt all these actors are, none of them own Once Upon a Time in the West.

Folks, Once Upon a Time in the West is Sergio Leone’s movie. No ifs and buts.

Only a master storyteller like Sergio Leone could stitch together several small beautiful portraits into a master canvas of compelling beauty, one that defies aging and will endure as long as the medium of movies endures.

The movie starts off with a homage to Gary Cooper’s High Noon via a similar opening scene of three men waiting at a railroad station for the train to arrive.

After that scene, this movie veers off in a completely different direction.

What is Once Upon a Time in the West all about, you ask.

Is it about the relentless march of the modern era into the old West as the railroad keeps extending its sway through hard desert frontier territory? Is it a familiar tale of revenge? A story of another hooker looking for love and stability in an unlikely place? A tragic end to the rough life of a endearing criminal? A story of a bunch of old-style outlaws? A greedy businessman’s land-grab?

Yes, all of the above but so much more too. So much more.

Never has the banal sentence of the whole being greater than the sum of its individual parts been truer.

Supported by hauntingly melodious music throughout the movie, Once Upon a Time in the West is no less than a visual tour de force.

If you live in the U.S., you can rent Once Upon a Time in the West from Netflix or the Blockbuster stores.

13 Responses to "Watching Once Upon a Time in the West – Rara Avis"

  1. guruprasad.s   May 16, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Good that you are watching it.

    Can’t believe that this is the same Henry Fonda that played the part of a rational man filled with compassion, who resourcefully argues his case to save the life of a boy (12 Angry Men).
    The Fonda you will see is every bit the opposite.
    He is vile, to say the least.
    I liked Cheyyane quite a bit, and the rather quiet Harmonica too.
    An enjoyable movie on the whole, when I watched it.

    There is also a Once Upon a time in America (De Niro).
    A long movie, good one.

  2. Ænima   May 16, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Have you watched “American Beauty”?

    Best Picture Bruce Cohen, Dan Jinks Won
    Best Actor Kevin Spacey Won
    Best Director Sam Mendes Won
    Best Original Screenplay Alan Ball Won
    Best Cinematography Conrad Hall Won Responds:

    No. Seems interesting.

    Will watch in the next 10 days.

  3. kreacher   May 17, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    When I was younger and less familiar with movies I always used to get confused between Zeenat Aman and Parveen Babi. As I grew older and watched many more movies I realized that the trick to differentiating between the two was to cover the face and look at the rest of the body. I used to think that I must be a rare specimen who couldn’t figure out the difference between the two, till I came across several other colleagues and acquaintances who were in the same boat. Then I met a person who couldn’t distinguish between Madhuri Dixit and Manisha Koirala!! I never knew that such people existed and could not understand how someone couldn’t distinguish between these two ladies. And now I come across someone who hasn’t seen movies like Matrix, American Beauty and Troy!! The wonders never cease πŸ™‚ Responds:

    We bet many of the SI readers have not seen or heard of the Tamil movie Aadu Puli Attam, the English movie On the Waterfront or the Hungarian movie Kontroll.

    The wonders never cease. πŸ˜‰

    • vjcool   May 12, 2011 at 1:57 am


  4. vetrivel   May 17, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    i watched ‘superbad’
    awesome !

  5. boopalanj   May 17, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    I watched it (‘American Beauty’).

    Btw, Which movies of Will Smith do you like? I personally like ‘Pursuit of Happyness’ and ‘Seven Pounds’.

    Ok, Now, for a change, Once upon a time in the east – Mettukudi – Koundamani Comedy [Just now, I was watching this – Responds:

    You write above: Which movies of Will Smith do you like?

    Let’s see.

    Of the nine Will Smith movies we’ve seen Seven Pounds, Hancock, I Am Legend, The Pursuit of Happyness, Hitch, I, Robot, Bad Boys I and Bad Boys II and Enemy of the State , we enjoyed The Pursuit of Happyness and Hitch the most.

  6. yourmate   May 18, 2009 at 2:10 am

    I’ve watched Aadu puli aatam and American. Aadu puli aatam i think is one of the final full length movie featuring both Kamal and Rajini. I’ve always wondered how American Beauty managed to bag so many oscars???

  7. sganeshkumar1989   November 13, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Watched this film finally. Another Great Entertainer from Sergio Leone.

    @SI: /Folks, Once Upon a Time in the West is Sergio LeoneÒ€ℒs movie. No ifs and buts./


    I think it’s because of having too many ‘major characters’ like Fonda,Claudia,Jason and Bronson,so no one could dominate the screen; and Sergio leone had been more ambitious, compared to his ‘Dollars Trilogy’;as the latter were just an escapist tale about the hunt for Money and Bounty; while this Once upon a Time in the West dealt with things which were historically significant for USA Railroad, Beginning of a New Civilisation and the ‘Capitalist Greed’!

    Good,Bad and Ugly was more entertaining though πŸ˜‰ . (As it had more enjoyable dialogues and pleasing music.) Responds:

    You write: Good,Bad and Ugly was more entertaining though … As it had more…. pleasing music.

    Ennio Morricone’s The Man with the Harmonica (one of our best 99-cent purchases) from Once Upon a Time in the West is good too. We’ve listened to it a gazillion times (OK, if that sounds like an exaggeration, make it a billion times).

    (The Man with the Harmonica playing in the background.)

  8. 1012900   February 11, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    Have u watched The Matrix?

    One of my all time fav sci-fi movies πŸ™‚

    When it was released in India,10 years ago i guess, it rocked the theatres with its AMAZING special effects. People here used to watch it just for the amazing special effects.

    Can i expect a review? πŸ˜‰ Responds:

    You write: Have u watched The Matrix?


    Our verdict: Not the One (to borrow a phrase from the film).

    Will review it when we get a breather from other tasks.

  9. 1012900   February 11, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    Just look at this..

    Shameless rip-off of the lobby scene from “The Matrix”. Responds:

    Just watched the above video.

    Thieving f*cks.

  10. 1012900   February 12, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Personally, I loved the movie very much, not at first though. I had to watch it a couple of times to understand the story.

    Why did it disappoint you? Responds:

    You write above: Why did it disappoint you?

    If you are referring to The Matrix, we’ll do a full review in a couple of days.

    We promise. No, it won’t go into the Dev D kind of limbo.

  11. 1012900   February 14, 2010 at 11:58 am


    Waiting for your review. Responds

    One of these days.

  12. 1012900   February 21, 2010 at 11:02 am

    What happened to The Matrix review? Responds:

    After we finish our tryst with the Quran.

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