|Posted by BigBlackHatMan on May 18, 2012 at 12:35 PM|
SYCW Presents: Why I Do Not Like Sergio Corbucci
As you can tell from the title, this is not going to be my usual upbeat article. However, after watching my second movie by this particular director yesterday, I thought there was something important to say. I have only seen two of his films, but I do not intend to see more. The reasons for this have more to do with the second film I saw, but I will talk about both. For those who do not know who Corbucci was, he is often considered the second best director of Spaghetti Westerns behind Sergio Leone, and in my estimation, that is a huge gap if that is the case. I will also warn you that I will be doing a lot of spoiling of not just the films in question, but a few others since I want to talk about how to conclude a film.
The first of Corbucci’s films that I saw was the classic Django. It has a standing amongst the great works of the Western genre. The movie, in my opinion, is okay. The story contains a lot of hackneyed elements from the day and the villains are so transparent you would think I wrote them for comic relief. The plot clearly stole elements from A Fistful of Dollars. On the other hand, Franco Nero as the titular character is very good. He is interesting and sarcastic while keeping a level of intimidation throughout. His presence carries the film in my mind. Had that not been a successful casting, Django may have been just another film.
One of the things that the movie is famous for is its level of violence. For its era, it was considered fairly bloody, but is very tame by modern standards. Here is where the movie loses me a little. Contemporaries like Leone and Peckinpah used extensive violence to make a point or advance the story, but Corbucci seems like he is just trying to show the audience how bold he is. It does little or nothing, in my mind, to make the movie any better.
However, Django still stands out as watchable. I could deride it for some its lazier story elements and poor characterizations, but I vastly prefer to concentrate on the solid lead by Nero. It vaulted him to stardom and rightfully so. If you get the chance to watch this one, pick it up.
Now, I am going to look at the second movie of Corbucci’s I have seen, The Great Silence. Once again, the plot is kind of a mess. It involves some bandits in the hills who have committed crimes that we never really know about who are being pushed by a greedy man for reasons never made clear. The bad guy businessman has hired a group of bounty killers, there phrase, to root out the bandits. However, the poor bandits do have a defender in the gunfighter Silence, who is a mute by virtue of having his throat slit. (That should have actually killed him, especially in the late nineteenth century.) The real conflict revolves around one particular bounty. The wife of the dead man hires Silence to take out the leader of the bounty killers, and there is contrived love between them with some action thrown in.
As watched the movie, I could not help but feel bored by most of it. It had moments where it was okay, but Corbucci’s style without a strong lead like Nero is tough. Silence may have been a decent protagonist. However, taking his ability to speak combined with a nonsensical backstory told in flashback that never really pays off creates a character who is just not that interesting. The ability to get emotionally invested is limited as all of the characters’ have this flaw to an extent.
The villain, Loco played by Klaus Kinski, is stereotypical right down to his name. They just openly call him crazy. He has no background, no interests, and nothing to get the audience invested in him either. He seems like cannon fodder all throughout. He is just someone we want to see die.
This is what brings us to the conclusion of The Great Silence, and the major reason the movie seems to have a reputation. At the end of the film, a badly injured Silence goes to confront Loco and gets killed. Then, the heroine gets killed followed by the sympathetic group of bandits. Finally, the villains ride away triumphant. Oh, I guess technically not. We are given a text scroll that tells us that the madness was ended by public outrage or some other BS fed to the audience. And this ending is praised for its boldness.
Okay… This ending is not bold. It is lazy and destroys any emotional investment the audience may have had in the film. Imagine if at the end of Unforgiven, Little Bill would have killed Mony, drug the kid back into town to kill him, and then killed all the prostitutes for good measure. People would have been outraged by that ending. This conclusion is that bad. The reasons I view it as lazy are that it seems like as the writers were going along, they could not decide how to end the film. Rather than doing something clever or emotional, they just killed everyone. It is like they said, no one had done it, and so we will. I guess they could be credited with doing something different, but it is such a draining moment. I did feel some sympathy for the bandits by the end. However, just cutting them down is annoying. It is also unceremonious. It just happens as the audience looks on going, pardon my language, what the fuck?
Geez, this movie caused me to profane with the big one for the first time in a written blog. (Don’t worry, I do it all the time in my daily life.) I do not want to give the wrong impression though. A happy ending does not have to occur to make the movie good as some of my favorite films have somewhat downer endings. Movies like Shane, Hombre, The Searchers, and The Shootist are excellent in spite of the main protagonist not having a super happy ending. In some cases, the hero dies, but it is okay because the death has context. I am actually going to go back to a couple examples from my favorite silent star William S. Hart because I figure most people have not seen his movies and probably will not.
The first example comes from this film The Toll Gate. Hart plays an outlaw named Black Deering who finds redemption through noble acts and avenging the loss of some of his friends. In spite of this, Deering cannot have the happy ending. He is forced to leave the woman he has fallen in love with and ride off alone. The somber ending could leave a person a little sad, but it has context and the audience understands why this is the way it has to be.
In another example, Blue Blazes Rawden actually ends with the hero dying for a sin he did not really commit for a guilt that should have never been his. Rawden chooses to take on the burden. He could have passed it up and been cold to the man he was forced to kill in a fight and the family the man left behind, but he takes responsibility. This choice leads to his death and the last scene is of him walking off into the cold with a mortal wound. It is sad, but it rings true. The whole thing has context and the audience does not feel cheated.
I am hoping these two examples show why I despised the end of The Great Silence so much. It kills any momentum that the film had or emotional attachment. It frustrates more than causes an emotional response. The funny thing is they also shot a “happy ending.” I watched it and realized it was just as lazy with nothing bad happening to the good guys and easily cutting down the bad guys. To be honest, I would have preferred this ending though as at least I would have been “meh” instead of irritated. Well, I will end my rant here. Let me know what you think. Happy trails and watch out for those rough patches.