Tarantino on Sergio Leone

Sergio Leone, the Italian director best known for his 1960s spaghetti westerns like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West, has long been an inspiration for writer/director Quentin Tarantino. But in addition to paying homage to Leone in his own films, Tarantino has now written the foreword for a new book about Leone in which he specifies why the cinematic maestro “is the greatest of all Italy’s filmmakers.”

Tarantino on Sergio Leone

Author Christopher Frayling’s new book Once Upon a Time in the West: Shooting a Masterpiece features a foreword by Quentin Tarantino, and The Spectator has published an extract of that essay (hat tip to Indiewire) in which he talks about how much Leone influenced him as a filmmaker.

If any readers out there haven’t seen the 1968 movie Once Upon a Time in the West, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Here’s the trailer:

Tarantino explains how this is “the movie that made me consider filmmaking, the movie that showed me how a director does what he does, how a director can control a movie through his camera,” and “how to give your work a signature.” Part history lesson and part praise, Tarantino gets into the specific ways that Leone shaped not only his work, but modern movies at large:

When it comes to the filmmakers of the 1960s that mean the most to filmmakers of the 1990s and 2000s, I believe that Leone is pointing the way towards modern filmmaking. There is the excitement and the action scenes that you would see developed later in films like The Terminator. There is a sizzle to the action scenes…It’s the use of music, the use of the set piece, the ironic sense of humor. They appreciate the surrealism, the craziness, and they appreciate the cutting to music. So it is the true beginning of what filmmaking had evolved to by the 1990s. You don’t go past Leone, you start with Leone.

There’s tons of great stuff in that essay (including Tarantino explaining that composer Ennio Morricone and Sergio Leone “affected my films in every way, shape and form”) and the entire piece is definitely worth reading. I’ll leave you with the finale of Tarantino’s essay, which solidifies Leone’s place in the pantheon.

I would go even as far as to say that [Leone] is the greatest combination of a complete film stylist, where he creates his own world, and storyteller. Those two are almost never married. To be as great a stylist as he is and create this operatic world, and to do this inside a genre, and to pay attention to the rules of the genre, while breaking the rules all the time — he is delivering you a wonderful western.

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