Quentin Tarantino (and Cinematographer Robert Richardson) studied it before shooting The Hateful Eight. At the end of the 1960’s, 20th Century Fox Chief executive, Darryl Zanuck, was so offended by it, he refused to release it in America. It contains a superb score by Maestro Ennio Morricone and it stars screen legends Jean-Louis Trintignant and Klaus Kinski.
It took 50 years, but Sergio Corbucci’s seminal Spaghetti Western, Il Grande Silenzio (1968), has been finally restored (in 4K) by the Cineteca Nazionale of Rome using the film’s original negatives and sound elements. Corbucci’s film about outlaws, in late 19 century Utah, getting unexpected help from a silent gunslinger (Trintignant) against a group of bounty hunters, turns upside down numerous conventions of the Western genre.
A revisionist Western, Il Grande Silenzio was made by Corbucci two years after his own influential Django (1966) with whom it shares the nihilistic and bleak approach, while adding, a more composed pacing, a more serious tone, as well as concepts and ideas considered subversive within the context of a 1968 Western. The vicious bounty killers (led by Kinski) clearly work and kill as the state right arm, Trintignant’s (an odd but excellent choice) love interest, Afro-American actress Vonetta McGeee, brings us a rare interracial relationship for the time, etc.
Another convention getting twisted is the snowy mountains location (Dolomites standing for Utah) replacing the usual Almeria desert in Spain. If tons of mud was Django‘s trademark, Cinematographer, Silvano Ippoliti inherited snowy settings (and mountains of shaving cream standing as snow for studio shots) to help create the dark bitter and pessimistic mood Corbucci designed.
Its overall unusual atmosphere and treatment prevented Il Grande Silenzio to achieve greater distribution, thus significant box office success, upon its initial release, but elevated it to a well deserved cult statue and beyond.
The Great Silence is a cinematic achievement.
FNC screenings: (Italian with French subs):
Friday October 13, 5:10 PM – Cinéma du Parc
Sunday October 15 , 7:30 PM Quartier Latin 17