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Once Upon a Time in America [Blu-ray]  [Region Free]
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Epic, episodic, tale of the lives of a small group of New York City Jewish gangsters spanning over 40 years. Told mostly in flashbacks and flash-forwards, the movie centers on small-time hood David 'Noodles' Aaronson and his lifelong partners in crime; Max, Cockeye and Patsy and their friends. Once Upon A Time In America journeys from their time growing up in the rough Jewish neighborhood of New York's Lower East Side in the 1920s, to the last years of Prohibition in the early 1930s, and then to the late 1960s where an elderly Noodles returns to New York, after many years in hiding, to look into the past.
• Commentary by Richard Schickel
• Once Upon a Time: Sergio Leone
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This version runs to almost four hours - there's an intermission moment after about 2hrs which is really useful.
The story follows a group of teenage thugs as they develop into booze bootleggers during Prohibition, then flashes forward to the late 1960s. Everything revolves around the relationship between two of the gangsters, Robert de Niro and James Woods - and it is masterfully portrayed. Covers just about every angle of the gangster genre, and then some - with full-on bloody violence, brutality towards women and unflinching fights.
But the core of it is all about loyalty, betrayal and redemption.
It does get a bit confused here and there, because even this version is an edited form of an even longer story. The muscial score feels a bit inappropriate at times, too.
Even so, this is the benchmark to judge all other gangster films against.
Years later the complete version finally surfaced with little fanfare. This film is one of those that gets better every time you watch it, “if” one takes the time to sit down and really watch and absorb it.
The commentary track is ok but far from Richard Schickel’s best work as a commentator. To me he seems bored and probably lost a bet to someone and begrudgingly did this as a favour. I would much have preferred Sir Christopher Frayling, a Leone expert, to do it justice instead.
I know Sergio Leone had a preferred cut to the one we know and love and I get that his family went to some trouble to get this extended cut released so to show the world his true vision. I have seen it, in one sitting, and I wasn't all that fussed by it, I truly believe the original cut is all you need to see, it didn't make the film worse, it just didn't really add anything necessary to it. Being one of my favorites I of course got a kick out of the extra scenes. I would have preferred an edition where you got this cut, the original release and just for history sake the US TV cut which sounds so awful its intriguing.
This edition was also out of print a few months later as well, something I didn't understand, I guess it was out there for the fans and not for a mainstream audience. The original release is all your gonna need so I would stick with that and certainly don't pay the money they ask for this edition as it isn't worth it, but still a mind tripping journey all the same.
Well, I managed it in the end, and thank God that I did – it turned out to be one of the best films that I’ve seen! It’s right up there with The Godfather and Goodfellows imho, - yes, without a doubt.
I just love the jazz age / roaring twenties, the styles, Scott Fitzgerald, flappers, white-walled tyres on the limo’s – it was such a stylistic age.
The first thing that struck me was how good the film quality is (easily HD) and the wardrobe soon had me purring. The cinematography was so atmospheric – just wonderful. I have the non - Bluray version!
We all know now that the film was suicidally cut to ribbons to accommodate the cinema audiences, this led to several things, firstly, the film lost 25 million dollars, but it also cheated it actors and its makers out of numerous Oscars! Thankfully, the only sane way to watch this film now is on DVD!
DeNiro & Wood are both terrific but there are many other very fine performances to enjoy, even if Joe Pesci is limited to just one very brief scene.
There are some superb scenes here and some quite harrowing ones too – the rape scene is particularly difficult to watch. The film has just enough violence and is also quite sexually explicit, but then, this was a very hedonistic period.
When the film was released with scenes restored then it was worthy of standing alongside his Western epics. Sadly, Sergio refused to make another movie and passed away before the full version was released
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Sergio last masterpiece, if anyone seen the film then still wonders why Deborah hasnt aged when noodles sees her when he old then it's because its all a...Read more