An interview with Sergio Leone biographer, Sir Christopher Frayling

1 December 2009

Once Upon a Time in the West

Sir Christopher Frayling is a globally renowned writer and film historian. In 2001 he was knighted for “Services to Art and Design Education”. One area of cinema that Sir Frayling has dedicated a significant amount of time to is the Italian-made spaghetti westerns of the mid-1960s and in particular the films of Sergio Leone who made classics such as The Good, The Bad and They Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West. Sir Christopher has provided the commentary on many DVD releases of Leone’s films plus he wrote Sergio Leone: Something To Do With Death, a book that many regard as the definitive biography of Sergio Leone.

On Saturday 28 November 2009 I recorded the following interview with Sir Frayling, which was played on The Casting Couch later that day in conjunction with the re-release of Once Upon a Time in the West at The Astor Theatre.

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Film review – The Good, the Bad, the Weird (2008)

3 October 2009
Park Do-won, the Good (Jung Woo-sung), Yoon Tae-goo, the Weird (Song Kang-ho) and Park Chang-yi, the Bad (Lee Byung-hun)

Park Do-won, the Good (Jung Woo-sung), Yoon Tae-goo, the Weird (Song Kang-ho) and Park Chang-yi, the Bad (Lee Byung-hun)

The Italian director Sergio Leone, best known for ‘Spaghetti Westerns’ such as A Fistful of Dollars and Once Upon a Time in the West, has inspired many directors to pay homage to his highly kinetic style of filmmaking. Some of these directors have included Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Sam Raimi, Shane Meadows and Tsui Hark. Now the South Korean director Kim Ji-woon (A Bittersweet Life, A Tale of Two Sisters) has paid tribute with The Good, the Bad, the Weird, a film that obviously derives it title from Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Kim’s film is one of the most successful films to capture the spirit of Leone’s cinema and it is also one of the most enjoyable.

As with The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, in The Good, the Bad, the Weird there are three protagonists all after the same goal – buried treasure hidden in the Manchurian desert. Set in the 1930s shortly after Manchuria was occupied by Japan, the trio not only have to contend with each other and their respective cohorts but there are also a gang of bandits and the Imperial Japanese Army who are after the treasure too.

Key Image_Gunman shooting from train_300dpiFrom the exhilarating train hijacking at the start of the film right through to the all out horse/motorbike/car chase across the desert before the final showdown, The Good, the Bad, the Weird is a cinematic rush of adrenalin. Kim beautifully replicates Leone’s aesthetics of contrasting extreme close-ups with wide shots, depicting violence in a way that is both brutal and poetic, and establishing an overall tone that is frequently funny and self-conscious without ever being camp. As well as taking inspiration from various Leone films, Kim has also borrowed a few ideas here and there from Mad Max 2 and to a lesser degree Raiders of the Lost Arc. While contemporary action films are increasingly becoming a blur of quick edits, Kim has the confidence and logistical skills to set up complex action sequences and then film them in continuous shots. The Good, the Bad, the Weird is a very technical and modern film but it is also a return to the old-school discipline of simply presenting movement on screen in the most exciting way possible.

© Thomas Caldwell, 2009

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5 reasons why Cinema Autopsy loves Clint Eastwood

4 February 2009

With two new films playing in Australian cinemas it seems only right that Cinema Autopsy should dedicate an entire post to the iconic actor and great filmmaker that is Clint Eastwood.


1. He is The Man With No Name

The Italian director Sergio Leone, famous for his “Spaghetti Westerns”, made six truly great films and three of those stared Eastwood as The Man With No Name character. The first of these was A Fistful of Dollars (1964), a western remake of Akira Kurosawa’s samurai classic Yojimbo (1961). A Fistful of Dollars established Eastwood’s steely gaze, witty one-liners and capacity to burst into action at any moment. His seductive, unpredictable capacity for sudden violence means that you can’t take your eyes off him. Eastwood dominates the screen and continued to do so in For a Few Dollars More (1965) and then The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), the film that leaves no doubt about the greatness of Eastwood and director Sergio Leone.

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