D.J. Haza presents the next entry in his series of films to watch before you die…
Once Upon a Time in America, 1984.
Directed by Sergio Leone.
Starring Robert De Niro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern, William Forsythe, James Hayden, Tuesday Weld, Treat Williams, Joe Pesci, Burt Young and Jennifer Connelly.
Once Upon a Time in America is the stunning final film of Sergio Leone. The story follows the lives of several Jewish children growing up in the ghettos of New York in the 1920’s as they create their own street gang and go on to become prominent in the city’s organised crime circles of the 1960s.
Noodles (De Niro) and Max (Woods) are the leaders of the gang and as they grow from being adolescents to adults they become major players in bootlegging business, which starts off a rift between the two. As they become involved in the Mafia business and with crooked Police Chiefs, the pair clearly have different ideas. When Max decides the gang should rob a Federal Reserve Bank, Noodles doesn’t want any part in it and in order to try and stop it from going ahead, he calls the Police to tip them of a liquor run. Noodles later hears that Max and the others were killed when cornered by the cops and he disappears. When Noodles later returns to New York as an aging man after receiving a mysterious letter, he begins to uncover truths that he didn’t know back then.
Once Upon a Time in America is a beautiful story about friendship, loyalty, love, lust, greed, loss, betrayal and friends moving apart. The original film was four-and-a-half hours long, but Leone cut it down to around 3 hours and 49 minutes in order to appease the distributors. This version was shown in cinemas across Europe, but in America the film was cut further against Leone’s will, where it was trimmed to only 2 hours and 19 minutes long as well as having the structure of the film altered.
Once Upon a Time in America is a film you must see before you die as Sergio Leone was so devastated by it being cut so much in America that he never made another film before he passed away in 1989. Rumour has it that his children have bought the Italian rights to the film and are planning a re-assemble of the original four-and-a-half hour cut to be shown at either the Cannes or Venice Film Festivals in 2012.