The Eye of the Fish

Leviathan
July 12, 2020

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Ennio Morricone passed away recently – a name I suspect that is reasonably well-known to this readership. If you’re not familiar with his work: he was a composer, of film scores, and particularly good at haunting, ghostly music for films like spaghetti Westerns. Unbeknownst to you lot, I spent all of the lockdown shut away in a small town on the edge of nowhere, completely alone, and so it just felt right that I watched a lot of Westerns about the man alone: including Once Upon a Time in the West and The Good the Bad and the Ugly. Both of these featured soundtracks composed by Morricone – both of them are fantastic pieces of music, and absolutely make the film. It would be good without them, but also: it would be nothing. The music makes it perfect. But Ssshhhhh. Don’t let on that I said so…

I could try and describe the music but as I think someone famous and witty once said, writing about music is like dancing about architecture. Hmmmm. You simply HAVE to listen to music, and you simply HAVE to experience architecture. I wonder if I can insert a clip of his music into this blog? Probably. I’m just not sure how. Maybe just click here?

The Good, Bad and Ugly features three lead actors – Clint Eastwood as the Good (Goldie), Lee Van Cleef as the Bad (Angel Eyes), and Eli Wallach as the Ugly (Tuco Benedicto Pacífico Juan María Ramírez – aka Tuco)…. It was directed by Sergio Leone, an Italian working in Spain, pretending to feature Mexicans in the border lands of the nascent USA. And the films are, so much better than the more traditional cowboy films of people like John Wayne (interminably boring). Wikipedia says this about Leone:

“Leone’s characters were, in contrast, more ‘realistic’ and complex: usually ‘lone wolves’ in their behavior; they rarely shaved, looked dirty and sweated profusely, and there was a strong suggestion of criminal behavior. The characters were also morally ambiguous by appearing generously compassionate, or nakedly and brutally self-serving, as the situation demanded. Relationships revolved around power and retributions were emotion-driven rather than conscience-driven. Some critics have noted the irony of an Italian director who could not speak English, and had never even visited the United States, let alone the American Old West, almost single-handedly redefining the typical vision of the American cowboy.”

Whoever at Wiki wrote that – they’ve got it just right. However, its not just the music that I loved so much – it also gave me a newfound respect for the art of the editor – the close-ups on the eyes of the three shifty protagonists – and also a huge respect for the acting talents of Eli Wallach. There is a lot of talk amongst the trendy ‘woke’ people about how only people of a certain race or gender can play a certain race or gender – but note how Wallach’s nervous, sweaty, constantly shifting eyes perfectly portray the unreliable, underdog that is the Ugly… a masterful actor, even more so given that he is a New York Jew, portraying a Mexican. Now that’s some damn good acting. Watch that clip I linked to above – about 8 minutes long – and nothing happens – except that the music and the acting sustains it until you almost burst. I wish I could see that on the big screen…

Once Upon a Time in the West is another powerful film with ambiguous and dubious morals – acted by a different set of people, mainly Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Claudia Cardinale and Charles Bronson, but with another great score by Morricone. Great opening scene on the edge of town, and another piece of editing and lack-of-dialogue masterpiece. Try this one here. Haunting – and brilliant. Apparently Sergio Leone was used to post-production in the voice-over department, due to Italian films always getting foreign language tracks, so even though these actors all spoke English in the films, their speaking parts were all recorded again in post, which kind of helps explain the lack of dialogue, and the ability to lay down some cracking sound tracks. Apparently Morricone was such an integral part of the process that in some scenes, the sound track had been written first, and the actors were filmed in such a way to support the music. Respect! Tension builds again… RIP Ennio.

I think America is heading towards another showdown – only the actors aren’t as good these days, and the music is terrible. In the mean time, and to connect the blog with architecture, here’s some real pictures of the current Bad and the Ugly from the good old USofA. From the country that just doesn’t know when to say “No Thanks, I’ve had enough…”

Thus is the new Ugly….

Seamonkey Madness
12 - 07 - 20

In 2003, Ennio was involved in two remix albums. My favourite that I’ve heard off them is The Ecstacy of Gold (Bandini remix).
https://youtu.be/fM7GPK6U4-I

Leviathan
13 - 07 - 20

Thanks Seamonkey – I’m listening to it now – but IMHO it is spoiled by the overlaid percussion track. Far more powerful in the original version with no drums. The silence is an essential part of the background soundtrack….

I’ve still got to watch A Fistful of Dollars and A Few Dollars More to complete the trilogy. Listened to the soundtrack – clearly also Morricone.

Alan
14 - 07 - 20

Ennio was fantastic, yes, but why did you have to go and spoil that post with a ghastly picture of those fat morons down the bottom? Clint Eastwood would have made mincemeat of them…!

starkive
15 - 07 - 20

Thanks for the link – really a great piece of film.

Before you take the Wiki entry entirely at face value about Sergio’s English language skills, I’d recommend you hunt out “Once Upon A Time in America” Leone’s final masterpiece – also with a Morricone score. In my opinion it is the greatest gangster movie ever – and one of De Niro’s best to boot. I can’t imagine that a director could put that together without a smattering of the lingo – especially one also credited as a writer.

Of course it is something like the GBATG that Leonardo De Caprio’s character in “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” returns to LA from making.

starkive
15 - 07 - 20

Regrettably, Clint seems to be a MAGA guy these days.

Henry Filth
17 - 07 - 20

Coincidence.

I was watching TGTB&TU last week whilst doing the ironing. A great example of how acting and direction can overcome plot and dialogue to make a great film.

And the music – a great vacuum of tension and suspense with sudden, perfectly-timed explosions of violence.

And the bad – what’s with the lunatic house with the ever-increasing garage doors? Somewhere there’s a website of US McMansions where that thing would be at one end of the bell curve.

And the ugly? Try a $2 1-month trial subscription to some non-metropolitan US newspapers like the Sacramento Bee or the Ihaho Statesman for a different perspective of a very, very, strange country.

Leviathan
17 - 07 - 20

Thanks Starkive and Henry – I’ll definitely take up the suggestion of “Once Upon a Time in America” – just rewatched “Fistful of Dollars” last night – and Henry – I went straight to Idaho Statesman and found and article which had the following:

“….Adams County Commissioner Viki Purdy told her colleagues she felt more concern about the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic than the threats to public health.
“What is the big deal here with this virus? We know who it affects,” Purdy said via video conference. Purdy was one of multiple county commissioners on the seven-member health board who expressed opposition to a mask mandate, health advisory for travelers entering the district, or other measures. She doubled down on resistance to masks in public posts on social media in the days ahead of and following the special meeting….
“Get ready to be nauseous!” Purdy wrote in the July 2 post, which included a link to a YouTube video from the National Governors Association promoting face masks. “A mask was designed to keep bacteria from wounds, it is not designed to keep the particles of a virus from reaching out to you. Most masks are dirty and germ infested. Being touched by your hands 100’s of times a day. They all come from China, let that sink in. What Is the goal? The virus is here and there is no escaping. There has never been a successful vaccine against a Corona virus. NEVER”

Read more here: https://www.idahostatesman.com/news/coronavirus/article244219242.html

Henry Filth
17 - 07 - 20

Yes, you do sometimes gat a different perspective from the non-metropolitan US print media.

Just a reminder of the essentially Maoist nature of the American social and political environment – “Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred thoughts of school contend”.