Monday, November 21, 2005

Tonino Valerii & an “uncredited” Sergio Leone

Westerns Week comes to an end appropriately with Leone’s last western effort, a western black comedy. Although the onscreen credit goes to his protégé Valerii, Leone’s wonderfully grimy fingerprints are all over this intensely weird semi-masterpiece, a virtual parody of the films that first put Leone on the map.

Henry Fonda plays legendary gunfighter Jack Beauregard, so quick and precise on the draw that he’s able to kill two bad guys with one bullet while getting a shave. But Beauregard’s looking to retire from the gunslinging game after his next cache of gold and board a cruise ship to paradise. Problem is, nearly everyone he runs into is trying to kill him on the way, whether by lethal haircut or a bomb in a picnic basket.

But nobody’s better than Beauregard…except, of course, the actual “Nobody,” a young hotshot gunslinger who has a strange habit of catching fish with his bare hands and staring down other cowpokes while they’re using the latrine. He has a stalker-grade obsession with Beauregard and the legacy he will leave behind.

Seriously, the dude’s intensely “loco.” In what may be the strangest end freeze frame of all time, credits roll with Nobody’s finger pointed like a pistol and jammed into a barber’s crotch, mimicking Beauregard’s signature move, but…without the gun. And then there's his tendency to repeatedly bitch-slap opponents in sped-up motion in lieu of using his gun. And I mentioned his habit of giving dudes the piss-stall staredown but for three to four minutes at a time?

My Name is Nobody is obviously Leone having his last hurrah with the genre he created by completely subverting it. It’s obsessed with the idea of myth-making and how one should “go down in the history books” for the next generation. Obviously, this was an appropriate theme given it's Leone’s last western, one which he was co-directing with a young protégé. Fonda’s retiring gunfighter is the obvious stand-in for Leone, and Hill’s young hotshot seems to be the flashier and morally-loose young directors that would take his place. But the movie isn't an old man's bitter tale. It’s a whole lotta fun, celebrating the spaghetti stereotypes and then blasting them to smithereens. There's even a dig at that young upstart Peckinpah when Fonda reads his name of one off the gravestones in a cemetery: “Peckinpah, that’s a good Najavo name.”

Rest in Peace, Leone. Your place in the history books is well-earned.

1 comment:

Jordan Hoffman said...

Never heard of this one -- sounds fantastic.

Superfuzz, incidentally, rules!!!! Only a matter of time before Todd Philips or somebody does a remake. Under The Rainbow, not so much.