Once Upon a Time in America


My final tribute to Ennio Morricone (although I might get around to “The Mission” at some point if I keep doing this). “Once Upon a Time in America” was Sergio Leone’s last film, after a 13 year break. Morricone pulled out all the stops for his old friend on this one. His score is amazing. In my opinion “Deborah’s Theme” is the most beautiful thing he ever composed. “Cockeye’s Theme”, played on pan-pipes, is also wonderfully haunting and an example of director and composer working together – in the movie Cockeye plays pan-pipes. The whole score is just breathtaking, a masterpiece, as is the film itself.

It’s another gangster film, this time set in New York. It’s also another movie that stars Robert De Niro. It’s based on the book “The Hoods” by real-life gangster Harry Grey (originally Herschel Goldberg) and it’s mostly based on Grey’s life. Leone supposedly made the film because he thought “The Godfather” was too soft. As I’ve said before, Leone had strong political ideas and strong statements to make, and he thought that greed was never good.

It tells the story of several characters in three different time periods – when they were kids, when they were in their prime, and when they got old. It jumps back and forth between the three time periods, neatly melding them all together. The child actors give the likes of De Niro, James Woods and Elizabeth McGovern a run for their money. Jennifer Connelly as the young Deborah is a particular stand-out. Trigger warnings – it portrays the characters as damaged by their youth, and contains one particularly unsettling rape scene.

The whole thing looks amazing – production design and costumes are fantastic – and Tonino Delli Colli once again does wonderful cinematography for Leone. I used to have a huge poster of this movie over my bed when I was at university. And when I finally got to New York I walked the length of Manhattan several times to visit almost every location that I knew was in this movie, exteriors and interiors, streets and bars. Almost everything you see that’s in Manhattan, I’ve been there. I love this movie. My name is Craig and, yes, I am a film geek.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *