In the mid-1960s, in the middle of the New Wave, the western found a second youth thanks to Sergio Leone and his filthy cowboys. Farewell John Wayne, make way for Clint Eastwood, to the sublime music of Ennio Morricone.
A few days later For a fistful of dollarsFrance 3 will rebroadcast tonight and for a few more dollars, from 9:10 p.m. And next Monday, place at Good, the bad and the ugly. Be there “Dollar Trilogy”still as popular sixty years after its creation.
Cigarillo at the corner of his lips, wrinkled eyes, eight-day beard, dubious poncho, the gunslinger who descends from his ridiculous mule has nothing to do with the classy cowboy, hero of the golden age of Hollywood whose John Wayne remains the archetype. From the opening scene of For a fistful of dollars, the iconoclastic tone is given. In the war for supremacy between the two clans of the city, the Baxters and the Rodos, the mute foreigner (he also shoots faster than his shadow) intends to play his card alone. At first glance, this nameless dark hero has nothing to do with the model justice of righteousness dear to Western tradition. Against all odds, drawing in 1964 For a fistful of dollarspenniless film and first opus of his cult trilogy, Sergio Leone lays the foundations for a new genre: the spaghetti western. With accomplices Ennio Morricone on music and Clint Eastwood on six shots.
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When filming began in the south of Spain, in the region of Almeria, the chaotic atmosphere on the set (Leone was bloodthirsty) and the lack of means did not bode well for future success. Nobody believes in this cowboy film from the land of peplums. So much so that Leone takes the pseudonym of Bob Robertson and his actor, Gian Maria Volonte, that of John Wells. On the set, Eastwood, star of the American TV series Rawhide, seems doubtful. “He seemed detached. When we had to shoot, we went to get him and then he immediately went back to his corner. I think he thought we were crazy and there was reason“, remembers Fernando Di Leo, one of the screenwriters. But the director knows perfectly well where he is going with this neo-western inspired by Yojimbo (The bodyguard) of the Japanese Akira Kurosawa. He transposes the plot from the universe of the samurai to that of the Wild West: a solitary vigilante precipitates the fall of two rival clans who terrorize the villagers. Leone’s avowed objective: to dust off the good old US western. No guilt and zero complex since “it was Homer who invented the western“, he explains. Gone is the Manichean canvas of yesteryear, violence and blood electrify the screen. Humor too. Preferably tinged with black. Forgotten are the good sheriffs dressed to the nines even after a ride in the desert. Make way for the filthy gunslingers with random morals. able signed Ennio Morricone.
After For a fistful of dollars, nothing will be the same north of the Rio Grande. Paradoxically, it is by dynamiting the codes of the western that Leone will offer him a salutary second wind. Having become a world star thanks to this role of lonesome cowboy, Clint Eastwood will not forget the lessons of the Italian maestro when he in turn directs several anthology westerns.
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