Wednesday, October 14, 2015

This Is Necessary For Me To Function

I'm going to list my favorite lines from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Recent sports results have decreed I do this to avoid spiraling into a torrent of profanities. These are in no particular order, and there's no strict criteria, except perhaps how often I find myself repeating them. I'm going with 10, because that's the commonly accepted number.

'I'm looking for the owner of that horse. He's tall, blonde, smokes a cigar, and he's a pig!'

- Tuco's demand to the hotel owner the first time he catches up with Blondie. I'm just like the characteristics he decides are defining traits of his quarry, and how he spits the last one out.

'God is not on our side, because he hates idiots, also.'

- That moment when Tuco and Blondie realize those aren't Confederate soldiers riding towards them. That recognition that everything is going horribly wrong. Unfortunately, looking at the world leads me to believe God doesn't hate idiots, he hates everyone else, and the idiots are one of his forms of punishment, in much the same way as my grandmother used to tell me that ticks and mosquitoes were a way of punishing us for original sin. Not to be confused with the Jason Aaron-written Marvel event, though in either case, I'm not a fan of being punished for something I didn't even do.

'Sure, I'll go, I'll go. And while I'm waiting for the Lord to remember me, I, Tuco Ramirez, brother of Brother Ramirez, will tell you something!'

- I devoted an entire post to this scene between Tuco and his brother Pablo (played by Luigi Pistilli) some years ago, because I thought it was so well done, and this is my favorite line. The moment after Tuco's learned both his parents are gone, and his brother takes exactly the wrong approach, chiding him for his criminal life. So Tuco draws on the bravado, the sarcasm, and swings back. And I love how he emphasizes the second "brother", not just with his voice, but by poking Pablo in the chest with his finger as he says it.

'Doctor, can you help me to live a little more? I expect good news.'

- The poor drunken Union Captain (played by Aldo Giuffre). When my dad and I nearly had a fight earlier this year because he said some blatantly incorrect things about Leone's films, one of them was everyone was a scumbag, and I countered that Eastwood's characters usually show some small bit of decency that distinguishes them. I think the fact he actually told the Captain to hang and keep listening is one of those (so was comforting that dying soldier right before the big final showdown). He and Tuco could have just grabbed the explosives and gone on their way, but he took the time to let this guy know his dream was going to come true.

'More feeling.'

- This is from the scene where Tuco's getting the crap beat out of him by the fat corporal, while the prisoners play a tune. It's spoken by the Union soldier watching over them, and there's something so callous about it, the way he's sitting relaxed and casual, enjoying a smoke. Then he takes it out of his mouth, and utters that command, when he knows, and he knows they know, exactly what their music is the accompaniment to. It's a total dick move, impressively so.

'Every gun plays its own tune. And it's perfect timing, large one.'

- This is the point when, having both gotten out of the prisoner of war camp in their own ways, Tuco and Blondie's paths cross again. It's kind of interesting the Blondie recognizes the sound of Tuco's gun (especially considering it must be yet another pistol Tuco's cobbled together since the first was confiscated when they were captured). Also, Blondie is talking to a kitten he found that is playing around inside his hat. So, you know, Clint Eastwood playing with a kitten, not something you see that often.

'You see, there's two kinds of people in this world, my friend.'

- In this case, I'm generally thinking of the exchange near the end, about people with loaded guns, and those who dig. But it's a recurring theme, as Tuco uses it a couple of different times. And frankly, it doesn't often come up in my life that who digs is determined by which person has a loaded gun. When I was at my dad's helping look for his water leak, I did the digging because his back is trashed. However, I do tend to use the "two kinds of people" thing a lot. Usually the second group of people are idiots, and the first group is some description that applies to me, like people who recognize Hawkeye is awesome.

'Where's the rebel going?' 'To hell, with a rope around his neck and a price on his head.' 'Yeah, $3,000. That's a lot of money for a head my friend. I'll bet they didn't even pay you a penny for your arm.'

- That little exchange is between a wounded Union soldier, the corporal Wallace, and Tuco. I just really like Tuco's remark at the end. It's cruel, but they're making jokes about how he's going to be executed, so screw it. It's kind of a perfect example of his bravado, that even when he's surrounded by hostile soldiers, not to mention handcuffed to a guy who already nearly killed him, he still can't keep his mouth shut.

'People with ropes around their necks don't always hang.'

- I felt like I had to get a quote from Angel Eyes in here somewhere, but he didn't have a lot of lines that resonated with me. It was this or one of his insolent lines to the commandant of the prison camp. Plus, it ends up being very true over the course of the film. The fact he knows Tuco's got someone watching out for him, and picks that someone out immediately, reinforces how sharp he is (we've already seen how quickly he recognized there was a lot more money at stake than he'd been lead to believe). Also, his utter lack of concern at Tuco's list of crimes (this last time I watched it was the first time I remember hearing he was guilty of passing himself off as a general in the Mexican army, which I thought was hilarious), compared to the lady in the stagecoach's evident disgust. Because hell, Angel Eyes has done worse, if significantly more quietly.

'Such ingratitude after all the times I've saved your life.'

- Blondie's line after he dissolves the partnership with Tuco and leaves him stranded in the desert. I think about how bad an idea that was sometimes. Certainly he made the mistake Tuco warned of, betraying him without making sure to finish him, and this lead to his own near death in the desert. But that's how they found the dying Bill Carson and learned of the gold, sooooo, everything worked out?

There were a lot of other lines I could have listed, which is interesting to me. Leone thought American films talked too fast, and probably also too much. He liked long sequences with little to no dialogue. And English wasn't his first language (which I notice in the way certain dialogue is worded, where I think something would work more smoothly is you changed the order of things in the sentence). But Leone and his other scriptwriters (Luciano Vincenzoni, Agenore Incrocci, Furio Scarpelli) came up with a lot of good lines. Maybe they work as well as they do because I've watched it so many times, so I can focus on the delivery, the camera angle, the music, whatever.

When I watched the commentary for Duck, You Sucker, it mentioned that Rod Steiger spoke at a seminar about the film and said that it wasn't so much that Leone wrote great dialogue, but that everything else he did - how he composed a shot, the music, the cues for the actor's reactions - all combined to aid actor's in giving great performances (the commentary also mentioned that James Coburn accepted his role because Henry Fonda told him Leone was the best director he ever worked with which, considering Fonda worked with Hitchcock and John Ford, to name two, is pretty damn impressive). And that is a part of it, to be sure. The lines are indelibly linked with the actor's faces and body language as they spoke them, and it all comes together to make them memorable to me.


SallyP said...

I haven't watched this in far too long. Great music too.

CalvinPitt said...

It's the second or third time I've watched it this year, which is probably overkill, but it's one of those movies I can pop in anytime, so I frequently do.