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THE PUPPET MASTER


A few years ago I had the good fortune to be offered an amazing trip by the Italian Trade Commission. A half a dozen producers were invited to tour the Umbria region of Italy as well as Rome over the course of a week. There were great sights, great food, great hotels, great people. At one stop we were interviewed by a local paper who wanted to know our thoughts on Italian film. I riffed off my (somewhat obvious) favorites: Antonioni, Fellini, Pasolini, Argento and Leone. The latter two caused the journalist to laugh at my low-brow tastes. I was kind of shocked — somewhat about Argento but particularly about Leone, whose films over time really stand up as classics.

So, I enjoyed reading Manohla Dargis’s appreciation of Leone in the New York Times which takes the form of a report from the opening of Once Upon a Time in Italy: The Westerns of Sergio Leone, an exhibition at L.A.’s Autry Museum. The opening featured a puppet-show reenactment of the final shootout in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Here’s Dargis:

“…the three giant puppets listed into the courtyard, guns in hand and faces fixed in Leone-style scowls. They got down to their dirty business quickly. As in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the Eastwood puppet shot first and the Van Cleef puppet bit the dust, or more accurately was gingerly lowered to the ground by the puppeteer wearing the great body and carved-foam head. That was it. The bad guy had been vanquished, the Gallo wine quaffed, the gelato devoured. It was time to hit the trail.”

Click on the link above for the museum’s website, which contains a number of clips and items of interest for Leone fans. The exhibition runs until January 22.
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