Have you ever watched a movie directed by Sergio Leone?

Sergio Leone is one of the most famous Italian film directors worldwide. Three men duelling over an empty grave full of dollars. A full close-up on the men’s eyes. The desert land burnt by an unmerciful sun. The music of Ennio Morricone underlining the thrill. This is the “triello” scene, the most popular scene in Sergio Leone’s “Il Buono, il Brutto e il Cattivo” (1966), last movie of the famous “dollar trilogy” also composed of “Per un pugno di dollari” (1964) and “Per qualche dollaro in più” (1965).

Sergio Leone western movies are a new version of a very exploited movie genre. Westerns had been massively produced in Hollywood but Leone was able to make them something different, new, a model to many other directors in the years to come.

For his first western movie Leone was inspired by an Akira Kurosawa’s film “Yōjinbō” about a samurai. He managed to make western stories a new kind of fairy tales for adults: brutal and realistic on the surface but mythical in the core. His particular perception of time and his great use of full close-ups and very long-shots created a new style, which had a great influence on following directors. Quentin Tarantino, Sam Peckinpah, John Wood, Brian de Palma and Martin Scorsese, have declared to have been influenced by his films and his directing ways. A tribute to Sergio Leone has been payed also by Stanley Kubrick, Robert Zemeckis, Gore Verbinski and the Coen Brothers.

Sergio Leone Movies and Biography

Let’s go through some of his most famous movies!

After the dollar trilogy he changed his style and directed “Once upon a time in west” (1968), where all the American western clichè were represented: the redeemed prostitute, the romantic outlaw, the cynical gunman pledged to the businessman, the lone avenger. A sort of final tribute to an epic but disappearing world.

That’s also the main theme of the last Leone’s western “Giù la testa”(1971). Here the train is the real protagonist, symbol of the incoming new era which would be the end of the old west. This is the first film about the modern world, set in a place resembling the old west. It’s Mexico and here there are huge national and social issues to face and so personal matters, that ruled everybody’s life in the west, are no longer important.

In the last Leone’s film “Once upon a time in America” (1984) the old west is far away but the epic theme remains the same. Leone was inspired by the biography of an ex jewish gangster which mixed real events with cinematographic fiction. The last film is maybe darker and more melancholic and it also describes the end of an era, the first years of the last century in America, where the main topic are human relationships. Leone gives us an epic picture of New York, unforgettable, moving and gloomy, emphasized by the usual monumental sound track composed by Ennio Morricone.

Even though Leone’s filmography is composed only by seven movies, he has been one of the most important Italian and international movie directors of the last century. He has reinvented the western movie, created a permanent link between film and music (thanks to his co-operation with Ennio Morricone) and created a star like Clint Eastwood, who achieved popularity thanks to the “dollar trilogy”.

Without Sergio Leone the entire history of cinema would be very different.

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