His final film was Once Upon A Time In America, and it definitely gave new meaning to the word EPIC. A turn of the century tale about Jewish mobsters, it starred Robert De Niro, James Woods, a young William Forsthye, Treat Williams, Elizabeth McGovern, Tuesday Weld, and had Burt Young, Joe Pesci, and Danny Aiello in cameo appearances. A young Jennifer Connelly shows up, and even Leone mainstay Mario Brega shows up towards the start of the film as a thug.
Unfortunately the film was drastically cut upon it’s initial 1984 release, and it wasn’t until years later that it was restored to it’s original Cannes cut of 229 minutes. Last year there was news that 40 minutes of previously unreleased footage had been found, and was being cleaned up and inserted into the 229 minute cut to pump up the run time to 269 minutes. This is effectively the original vision that Leone had.
Now it’s going to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on May 18th where the 229 minute version premiered 28 years ago.
This is amazing news for anyone who is a fan of film, as I (in my own opinion of course) believe that it is a film that is essential viewing. It’s powerful, beautiful, and horrible all at the same time. When you hear the words “Noodles….I….slipped.” and the magic that is Morricone begins to play on the soundtrack, it’s hard not to feel sad during that scene.
It’s also one of those rare films that does not feel like it runs just 11 minutes shy of 4 hours. It easily feels about 3 hours or less. It’s that engrossing. Once it starts, it sucks you in and doesn’t let go. When the film stops, you want to go back and start analyzing everything in the film, and believe me, there’s a lot to interpret in the film.
Can’t wait to hear word on what the footage is when it screens, and I look forward to the Blu-ray release so it can sit next to my 2 disc dvd set, and my Blu-ray of the 229 minute version.