Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone, 1984)
The film was originally planned as two sections, to be screened several days apart and totalling four and a half hours. But the producers objected and Leone reduced it to a single screening of three hours 40 minutes. Gangster films are plentiful but have rarely been so visually striking and carefully put together (the film starts and ends in an opium den) as this one, which is a caricature of the fantasy America that Leone saw in the films he watched as a child.
His Proustian search for a lost era is explicit when he has Noodles (played by Robert de Niro) say that for 35 years "I went to bed early" (Proust's most famous sentence). The film, about a whole life, was completed just before Leone died, giving it a lasting quality it didn't have when it was made but which is very fitting.
Walter Salles also made melodramas (such as Central Station and Dark Water) and Leone's personal and imaginative film, which stars de Niro and James Woods and is entirely composed of flashbacks, must strike a special chord with him.
See film details
Wednesday 14 October (19:30) at the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Oullins
Thursday 15 October (19:45) at the Pathé Bellecour
Friday 16 October (14:30) at the Pathé Bellecour
Saturday 17 October (14:30) at the UGC Astoria
Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone, 1984) © DR / Coll Christophe L
Once Upon a Time in America
1933. The end of Prohibition. Noodles takes refuge in an opium den after betraying his three best friends, with whom he grew up in New York’s Jewish Lower East Side as gangsters and racketeers.
1968. He returns to New York, summoned by a strange message asking him to come out of hiding to the graves of the three. He can’t forget the past, their life in the 20s as small-time gangsters led on by the most ambitious of the trio, Max... and his love for Deborah.
Leone’s last film. Originally planned as two sections, to be screened several days apart and totalling four and a half hours. But the producers objected and he cut it back to a single screening of three hours 40 minutes. The film consists of flashbacks, in a quest for the past, and took Leone 12 years to make. “I’m filming my ghosts,” he liked to say.
“With Once Upon a Time in the West, I said 80% of what I wanted to. With Once Upon a Time in America, it was 100%.” -- Sergio Leone.