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Wednesday, October 08, 2003

ugly thugs' mugs montage
omigod! I forgot about all the Sergio Leone westerns! My favorite Leone montage is definitely the early scene in Once Upon a Time in the West (it's either the first scene or, I think, the second), where the three thugs lie in wait for the train bringing Charles Bronson into their ambush. Leone intercuts beautifully among the three (he loves intercutting among threes--viz. the stylized, ritualistic shootout at the end of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly). The viewer has no idea what the fuck's going on. One glabrous thug, sitting placidly, almost sleepily, under the station awning, feels a drop of water fall on his scalp, then another; so, smiling broadly, he puts on his hat and the drip starts resounding more loudly, at about one-second intervals, on his hat-brim. Why in god's name is he smiling and not just moving out of the way of the irritating drip? Because he's just so tough? The noise pokes the audience's ear egregiously (exactly like the annoyingly persistent faucet-drip in the otherwise dead-silent kitchen where Sarah Miles seduces Edward Fox in Losey's The Servant). Another thug, sitting at the other end of the station platform, harrassed by a brazen fly relentlessly alighting on his face and then buzzing around his ear, fails repeatedly to catch it in his fist. A third thug, notable for his twisted, wrinkled, scarred, grizzled mug--the kind Leone's camera goes out of its way to capture lovingly for his audience (as Shakespeare's quill does the marsh gas of puns, according to Johnson)--does nothing but sit and stare into the distance irascibly, a rusty windmill screeching plaintively behind him. This montage is as much of sound as of image. Indeed, though absolutely nothing happens of any significance on the screen for an everlasting three-or-so minutes, the characters barely moving or changing expression, the audience has been screwed to a pitch of utter distraction by the interminable cyclic amplification of one excruciating sound after another--drip, buzz, screech--along with its corresonding enigmatically expressive countenance.
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