Thursday, February 1, 2024



SERGIO LEONE: THE ITALIAN WHO INVENTED AMERICA is a 2022 documentary on the great filmmaker, written & directed by Francesco Zippel, and co-produced by the company run by two of Leone's children. I watched the film on the Max streaming channel. 

This documentary has a number of big names involved in it, including Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, Robert De Niro, and Dario Argento. These men, and others, talk about their love for Leone's films and the legacy that they have today. 

Sergio Leone is one of my favorite directors of all time, and I know all his films backwards and forwards. Someone like me is certainly going to appreciate this film, but I must say that even though all three of Leone's children provide their thoughts and memories, it doesn't give much personal insight into the man--the most a viewer finds out about his personality is that he loved cinema and he had a childlike sensibility. There are a number of film clips and audio snippets of Leone, but at times these seem almost inserted at random. The result is that instead of a film dealing with Leone, it's instead a film dealing with a group of famous folks discussing Leone (not that there's anything wrong with that). 

As expected, there's plenty of clips from Leone's films, something like a "Greatest Hits" collection of famous scenes. There's also behind the scenes footage taken during the making of some of the films. Needless to say, Ennio Morricone plays a large part in the proceedings, whether speaking on-camera or his music being featured on the soundtrack. 

If you are a major Leone fan, and love his films like I do, there's nothing here that will be surprising or revealing. The celebrated anecdote about the premature explosion of the bridge during the Civil War battle in THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY is brought up, and Leone biographer Christopher Frayling makes an appearance. 

There are a few items the documentary does not cover, such as MY NAME IS NOBODY (Tonino Valerii is the credited director on that one, but Leone was producer, co-writer, and he personally directed a few scenes himself), and the series of commercials Leone made during his semi-retirement. 

SERGIO LEONE: THE ITALIAN WHO INVENTED AMERICA is a well-made project, and it provides the basic knowledge one needs to have about Leone and his directorial career. I enjoyed watching it--heck, I'd enjoy a film about random people on the street discussing Sergio Leone--but I felt that it wasn't as thorough or as penetrating as it could have been. 

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