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  • Writer's pictureSteve

Once Upon A Time in America (1984)

[IMDB Completionists Series - #1 of 85]

What strikes me first about this honest first viewing of Sergio Leone's film is that Star Wars was made seven years before it.

Leone's vision of Benvenuti's book is demanding of both your patience and attention, cinematically impressive to say the least, flitting back and forth from Noodle's (De Niro) time growing up on the east side of Manhattan and his subsequent return decades later. You can see elements of this in Alan Parker's Bugsy Malone, arriving two years later, in the first act, concerning itself with Noodles childhood, coming across as a nostalgic speakeasy love letter to New York despites all of its warts, his regrets at a time long gone and liberally sprinkled with melancholy.

Leone's Godfather, for that is really what we have here, is quite the impressive and often brutal sight, seeming to come directly from a different bygone era at times, but this should be noted that despite what it shows us, this is much more the human drama than gangster movie and quite unlike many much beloved traditional gangster films that we have seen since.

A sprawling epic that deserves repeated viewings I imagine as the European cut can be confusing for the uninitiated at times, but the drama of the whole of one man's extraordinary existence can be forgiven for being complicated.

The footage for the original version amounted to roughly nine hours and the US theatrical cut was made to run 2 hours and 19 minutes. The version I watched was the full European release running for 3 hours and 47 minutes, as Leone wanted it to be seen.

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