View Full Version : What was the origin of the cinematic style used in the original "Spaghetti Westerns"?

09-20-2006, 10:42 PM
Spaghetti Westerns are discussed here in wiki. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaghetti_Western) How did Sergio Leone come up with this unique cinematic style? What were his influences?

09-21-2006, 12:47 AM
I'm not sure what you mean by "cinematic style" but I was actually looking at these wikipedia sites yesterday and I though I saw something about how they were filmed--as in the film ratio or something like that--I don't know much about cinematography. Maybe something like they were shot in one aspect and projected in another?

Influences as to the "story" have to include Kurasawa, and I believe there was a quote on one page where Kurasawa wrote Leone "It is a very fine film, but it is my film"--being Fistful of Dollars is a remake of Yojimbo.

From one page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Good%2C_the_Bad_and_the_Ugly):


Fans have noted an uncommon type of cinematography used in the film. As Ebert noted,

Sergio Leone established a rule that he follows throughout "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." The rule is that the ability to see is limited by the sides of the frame. At important moments in the film, what the camera cannot see, the characters cannot see, and that gives Leone the freedom to surprise us with entrances that cannot be explained by the practical geography of his shots. There is a moment, for example, when men do not notice a vast encampment of the Union Army until they stumble upon it. And a moment in a cemetery when a man materializes out of thin air even though he should have been visible for a mile. And the way men walk down a street in full view and nobody is able to shoot them, maybe because they are not in the same frame with them.[3]

This enables the audience to be closer to the character as we see what he sees and it also enables the film to achieve a certain mystical feel.

I know this doesn't answer the OP, or tell you anything new, but it might direct other posters who might have better insights.

The [3] reference is to Roger Ebert's website.

09-21-2006, 01:28 AM
Sergio Leone's visual style was pretty much his own, but his greatest influence, and his hero (cinematically speaking) was John Ford. Rent The Searchers; you'll see the germ of many aspects of Leone's visual vocabulary. Once Upon a Time in the West is, from start to finish, largely a tribute to Ford.

09-21-2006, 03:11 PM

Slithy Tove
09-21-2006, 03:41 PM
Whose idea was the gushot sound? Like a gigantic canary sneezing in an echo chamber.

09-21-2006, 05:00 PM
Rent the DVD of Once Upon a Time in the West with commentary; many such points are covered.

09-21-2006, 06:15 PM
I'm not an expert in film or cinematography. I'm just a cynic. ;)

What evidence is there that Leone chose his style deliberately, as opposed to simply being constrained by the limitations of his set and budget?

A limited budget would suggest you wanted to do as many camera set-ups as possible per day, necessitating haste, requiring you to gloss over certain details as unimportant. Lots of location shooting might mean you had less access to big sweeping crane shots, or long dolly shots, and settled for a minimalist "camera-on-a-stick" look. It may mean you rent a pre-made set rather than building your own from scratch, so the set geography may end up being inconsistent with your storyboards. It may mean you focus a lot on huge landscape panoramas because, well, it's free.

I mean, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" BBC version has a definite style but that doesn't mean somebody set out on purpose to make a low-budget B-grade TV show.

I'm honestly curious: was Leone's style a conscious choice?

09-21-2006, 06:24 PM
Have you ever seen a Leone movie? Lots of dollies, cranes, the whole kit and caboodle. So to speak. These were not low budget films.

The Scrivener
09-21-2006, 08:34 PM
Adding to that, Italy was still recovering from the war in those years. Hollywood dollars could buy a lotta lira back then...

Weren't the spaghetti westerns filmed in Cinemascope (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinemascope)? In any event, some of the Wiki description of that format's technical problems fit the Leone films like a glove.

09-21-2006, 11:12 PM
Yes, I have seen Leone movies. I have a few on DVD here. I don't remember that his style was particularly characterized by dolly and/or crane shots. If anything, in my own mind, Leone's style was more about making the landscape into its own character, of emphasizing the silence between moments as much as the moments themselves.

But hey, as I said, I'm not a film critic.

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