Cinema Retro has received the following press release from the BFI Southbank:
From Monday 2 April – Monday 30 April, BFI Southbank will celebrate one
of the undisputed masters of cinema, Sergio Leone, with screenings of all his films,
as well as a complementary season of contemporary westerns. The season
coincides with the re-release of AFistful of Dollars (Sergio Leone,
1964), which is back in selected
cinemas courtesy of Park
Circus on Friday 13
April, and plays
on extended run during the season. Also included in the season will
be the other two films in Leone’s Dollars Trilogy –Fora Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad
and the Ugly (1966) – as well as his virtuosic
Once Upon a Time in
the West(1968), and the American gangster epic Once Upon a Time in America(1984).
There will also be a talk from Leone biographer Sir Christopher Frayling on Friday 6 Aprilexamining the distinctively
Italian character of Leone’s unique films and
charting how they’ve been
interpreted and celebrated over the years. Leone continues to influence filmmakers, from Edgar Wright
(whose first film was a parody called A Fistful of Fingers) to Quentin
Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and David Mackenzie, and to complement the season,
there will be screenings of modern takes on westerns, including feminist interpretations and those
which explore the African diaspora's contribution to
the genre; these will
include My Pure Land (2017), followed by
a Q&A with director Sarmad
or High Water (David Mackenzie, 2016) and a preview of Chloé
Zhao's The Rider (2017).
Sergio Leone came from a filmmaking family, cutting his teeth working on dozens
of features including Ben Hur, and directed his first
Colossus of Rhodes (1961), a traditional
Italian ‘swords and sandals’ film, before moving
on to the genre that would define his career.A Fistful of
Dollars (1964) was the film that put Leone on the map, a
that flips the American western and gives it some European punch. The first
part of Leone’s Dollars
Trilogy, which is re-released on Friday 13 April, firmly sets out
the winning blueprint for the other two: not least in establishing both the
role of Clint Eastwood’s nameless anti-hero and his
memorable collaboration with Ennio Morricone. It’s
sequel For a Few Dollars More (1965) boasted double the budget of its predecessor and saw Lee Van Cleef and Clint Eastwood play a couple of smart but ruthless bounty
hunters closing in on a vicious gang and their horrific leader. Eastwood’s final
film with Leone The Good, the Bad
and the Ugly(1966), which
completed the Dollars Trilogy, ironically
produced some of their finest work during a period of deteriorating relations.
Eastwood stars as Blondie who, in competition with two equally dangerous and
resourceful men, is after a stash of stolen confederate
gold. The resulting film is undoubtedly one of the greatest westerns ever made.
Also screening in
the season will be Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) starring Henry Fonda, Charles
Bronson and Claudia Cardinale. A piece of land with a
vital water source becomes the focus for this epic
piece covering all the best aspects of the Wild West;
it is both a homage to what
came before and a thoroughly
entertaining addition to the genre. Leone’s final
western A Fistful of Dynamite(1971) is set during the Mexican Revolution in 1913 and
sees a bandit and a British explosives expert
reluctantly team-up in a
tale that reflects the
political instability and violence rocking Italy at the time. Though often overshadowed by his
previous work, his final western is a rarely seen
treat. Completing the programme is Leone’s final film
as director, Once Upon a Time in America(1984), which saw the director transfer his ‘adult fairytale’ approach to the American gangster genre, following the friendship between four
youngsters from New York’s Lower East Side as they rise within the ranks of
organised crime. Despite an all-star cast including
Robert De Niro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern and Joe Pesci, the film was overlooked
critically and commercially in the US, but has since been re-appraised
as one of the greatest gangster films in cinema history.
westerns screening alongside the Leone titles bring
the genre right up to the present day, with recent releases and previews of
brand new features, and regular BFI series WOMAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA and AFRICAN ODYSSEYS alsofeaturing
films from the genre. Based on a true story, My Pure Land (Sarmad Masud, 2017) is a western with a feminist
twist which centres on a land dispute in rural Pakistan; the screening on Thursday
12 April will be followed by a Q&A with director Sarmad Masud.
Another western with a distinctly feminist perspective is Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts (Mouly
Surya, 2017), which intelligently blends the western genre with arthouse
sensibilities; the film, which previews as part of the BFI’s WOMAN WITH A
MOVE CAMERA series will be followed by a Q&A with the director Mouly
In my critique of the 90th annual Academy Awards ceremony, I criticized the Academy and host Jimmy Kimmel for wasting valuable air time on an elaborat (and unfunny) comedy sketch that deprived viewers from seeing some of the honorees who had received Oscars earlier at a ceremony hosted by the Academy's Governors. Among them was one of the world's finest and most enduring actors- Donald Sutherland, who surprisingly never received a nomination despite giving movie lovers a rich selection of characterizations ranging from those found in screwball comedies to intense dramas. Sutherland delivered a humorous, classy and gracious acceptance speech that viewers never got to see. However, we found this clip of his entire speech that was made available by the Academy. In fairness, the Academy argues that by giving their honorary awards away from the main ceremony, it allows the recipients to speak at length and not be bound by artificial time demands. That's a valid point. However, our guess is that most of the honorees would happily deliver shorter speeches in order to have their moment of glory shared with viewers around the globe.
"There's got to be a morning after" went the strains of the Oscar-winning song from the 1972 film "The Poseidon Adventure" and that somber warning always pertains to coverage of the Oscar events show itself. After last year's abysmal event that saw awful comedy bits, offensive omissions of major stars from the memorial tribute and the historic snafu in which the wrong film was initially announced for Best Picture, there was no where to go but up. Much of the success or failure of these shows rests on the back of the host. I thought it was going to be a mistake to bring back Jimmy Kimmel, as I was generally unimpressed with his performance last year. However, the second time was the charm- or almost. (More on that later). In general, this year's telecast was more tightly structured and moved at a faster clip even though it still ran about three-and-a-half hours. Helping matters was the fact that there was an exciting and highly diverse selection of films competing in the key categories and they boasted some brilliant performances by an eclectic array of actors. Gone are the days when viewers had to suffer through the mandatory opening musical production number, which was generally measured in terms of how misguided it proved to be. Kimmel started off with a witty dialogue that was surprisingly and refreshingly light on the political barbs in spite of the fact that the White House had just gone through a couple of miserable weeks that had brought out a surrealistic number of self-imposed scandals and crises.I had thought there would be so many quips about this that I expected to see President Trump's name listed among the key contributors to the show. (There were, however, some deep digs at Harvey Weinstein, who does not have a political base that can be offended.) However, I was relieved that Kimmel kept himself in check because I'm among those that think major awards shows should try to stick with the subject at hand: the work and the personalities involved in creating it. With Kimmel having decided to follow the old adage and "Leave the messages to Western Union", it fell upon others to promote diversity and equality. Great efforts were made in both areas with Best Actress winner Frances McDormand movingly calling for all female nominees to stand up. It was a moment that illustrated how fast and furiously Hollywood is moving to finally provide opportunities to females in the industry. Similarly, there were many minority artists on stage as presenters, performers and winners. I was glad to see triple-threat Jordan Peele, the director, writer and producer of the ingeniously quirky "Get Out", become the first African American to win the Best Original Screenplay award.
The awards dispensed during the show all went to worthy winners, though I would have liked to have seen "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" take home the Best Picture prize. Gary Oldman and Frances McDormand were popular, if predictable, winners based on their superb performances. "The Shape of Water" took Best Picture, as did its director Guillermo del Toro. The elaborate presentations for Best Song just emphasized the strengths and weaknesses of each of the nominees in this category, as the songs themselves ranged from pleasant to dreadful, which is often the norm. The show was moving along swimmingly until Jimmy Kimmel took viewers and participants on a major, ill-advised detour just as he had last year by introducing an elaborate gag in which people in an adjoining movie theater were used as unknowing props when Kimmel brought an array of celebrities from the Oscars ceremony next door to surprise them. Incredibly, it was a variation of the same awful shtick he pulled off the previous year. There's something rather condescending about bringing in a boatload of rich people to dispense candy and hot dogs to the grateful masses. It's like watching benevolent nobles toss some trinkets to their loyal serfs. Worse, the gag ate up valuable air time that could have been used for more appropriate purposes. Earlier in the show Kimmel made a snide remark about showing some of those honored with Oscars being dismissed with "blink-and-you-miss-them" clips from a ceremony that had been held previously. He correctly needled the Academy for pointing out that these artists and technicians, who would have once been allowed on stage at the "real" event, were now excluded. But his hypocrisy was revealed when he launched his dopey sight gag later. If you think I'm being a grump then ask yourself if it was more appropriate to spend time showing Kimmel and company tossing food to audience members or have the opportunity to see and hear Donald Sutherland accepting the Governor's Award for lifetime achievement.
The segment that honors artists who passed away in the last year should also be retired. Although sensitively presented and well-edited, the number of inexcusable exclusions is now almost downright offensive. Yes, it's great to honor those who make the cut (I counted three personal friends in the montage of artists who have left us in the last year), but if you can't extend the segment for even another few minutes in order to include other worthy honorees, then let's just eliminate it altogether. (The Academy does provide a more comprehensive tribute on their web site. Click here to view).