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SIFF 2009, Day 23

June 13, 2009

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) Dir. Sergio Leone

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Every year, SIFF shows a few newly restored archival prints and I never attend these. I don't know why, but when I saw Once Upon a Time in the West had a screening, I had to see it on the big screen. Like a lot of people my age, I once claimed to not like westerns, but my reason was a little different then most. I was raised on westerns. My mother used to watch movies non-stop when I was a kid, burning through VCRs. And most of the movies were westerns. She even used to write fan fiction that was western in setting. So when I would say, "I HATE westerns", what I meant was that I was sick and tired of old episodes of Rawhide, Roy Rogers, and most of the John Wayne library. Just like any genre, there are amazing Westerns out there and most of my favorites are Sergio Leone's films.

What I find strange, is that I had never seen Once Upon a Time in the West as a child. Which is really a shame, because it means that my mother isn't a fan of this film. I noticed something during this viewing. This film has clear cut heroes and villians. I didn't think that happened in Leone's films. And not only are there good guys and bad guys, but Harmonica (Charles Bronson) wears white and Frank (Henry Fonda) wears black.

The other thing that I really enjoyed about Once Upon a Time in the West as I had forgotten how funny the opening is, specifically Jack Elam waiting for the train. It's just a great scene, watching a group of gunslingin' thugs wait. And you can see it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueeDdrBnV2M

The Clone Returns Home (2008) Dir. Kanji Nakajima

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The other movie we saw was the Japanese science fiction, The Clone Returns Home. This could have been a great film. It looked amazing, shrouded in white for much of the film, I was reminded of Macintosh advertisements. And the ideas embodied in the story are quite profound, asking us to think about questions of life and death and the nature of the soul.

Set in a near future, human cloning has been perfected allowing for the recently deceased astronaut Kohei (Mitsuhiro Oikawa) to be cloned and his memories to be implanted. This clone however is defective and has only the haunting memories of his childhood, when his twin brother died. The clone attempt to return to his childhood home and along the way, finds the body of Kohei in an astronaut suit. He mistakes him for the body of his brother and he continues on his journey carrying the body.

As I said, the imagry is incredible, but there is something lacking in the storytelling. Maybe director Kanji Nakajima relies too heavily on the imagry for the storytelling, because while the elements are there to explore the nature of the soul, it doesn't provide a compelling enough narrative to keep the audience involved. In otherwords, The Clone Returns Home was slow and didn't manage to go much of anywhere.



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