Brazenly bizarre, absurdly violent, disgustingly tasteless, intrinsically crass, practically implausible and thematically intimidating – the choosiest of unpleasantries could be doled out on Sergio Leone’s ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ (1966). While a film critic is welcome to castigate this apparent rendezvous with ‘cinematic trash’ to the corridor of infamy, one would do well to remember that the auteur intended it to be exactly so. Notwithstanding, a cinephile’s life doesn’t really stay the same once he/she experiences the movie for reasons that could be a little difficult to explain. Strenuous as it might be, impossible it isn’t! One could measly go through the film’s text in order to get a firsthand experience.
There can be an extensive debate over how a film like ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ ought to be categorized. Although it could be rightfully described as an epic Western, the biggest proponents of the genre might just be a tiny winy uncomfortable with the proposition. The backgrounders aren’t really very difficult to gauge. For one, it deglamourizes the ingrained heroism usually portrayed in typical Westerns. Two, it shows the ugly underbelly of the American Civil War. Last but not the least; it makes a distinct attempt at deconstructing the stereotyped notion of Americanism. A John Wayne or a John Ford might have personally referred it to the notorious ‘House Un-American Activities Committee’ (HUAC) had it been a rank American venture. Thankfully, nothing of the sorts transpired and we had Sergio Leone turn in one of the most innovative creations in global cinema.
The widescreen cinematography, the long shots, the extreme close-ups, the cynical characters, the insensitive mercenaries, the crude ways of Western life, the ragged gunslingers, beautiful landscapes – multiple markers dot the plotline. However, when one takes a closer look at the movie; it becomes conspicuous that the entire story is about how three marksmen run after a cache of confederate gold buried in a cemetery. While one wonders how the director fills the rest of the film, there never really is a shortage of entertainment and action. Not very often have filmmakers so graciously dabbled with the synergy of art and commerce. The unending chases, the tension in the air, the ambivalent nature of characters and the rather stark portrayal of the human race – there is something deeply ominous about the movie.
Tuco, who embodies the titular Ugly, represents a mix of grit, resilience and blunt humour. It would probably be justice done if it were to be said that it is Tuco who acts as the connection between the Good and the Bad. Critics argue that Leone had invested his maximum energy in shaping Tuco’s character. The methodical Eli Wallach plays the role with a rare precision and zeal.
The ruthless Angel Eyes embodying the titular Bad is menacing to say the least. He never fails to finish his task, which is invariably exterminating someone. With his calm demeanour and immaculate way of dealing with things, Angel Eyes creates a sense of paranoia. The ragged Lee Van Cleef acts out the part of Angel Eyes with absolute élan.