Review: Giù La Testa (Duck, You Sucker, 1971)

giulatesta_big

It’s time for more of the gritty Old West with Sergio Leone!

Screenplay By: Luciano Vincenzoni
Directed By: Sergio Leone

Among all the Sergio Leone films I have seen, Giù La Testa is the oddball. I have noted a progression in his technique from a skilled director in Per Un Pugno Di Dollari to a master at his craft in C’era Una Volta Il West. That progression seems to have changed to regression with Giù La Testa. It comes across in every way as a step back for the Italian director, and one that he could have easily avoided. It’s also odd in how it is a much more comedic movie that any of Leone’s other offerings have been. I happened to like the comedic flare, but still, quite the oddball.

I immediately found Giù La Testa to be unnecessarily excessive. In direction it is excessive in ways that hurt the flow of the film. The extreme close-ups that Leone goes for on the train car don’t serve any purpose other than Leone saying, “Hey, look what I can do.” This carries over into the way that visual imagery is handled, because I found many of the visual cues to be far too obvious and easy. Juan finding an IRA flag and a newspaper clipping detailing John’s back story were just too obvious and excessive in giving us information. Based on his speech and his propensity for bombs, it was easy to glean what John’s history was.

The history of John takes us to the most detrimental aspect of Giù La Testa, the pacing. The flashbacks aren’t really needed and mess with the pacing of a movie that is already overly long and drawn out. It’s fitting that a movie that felt off ends with a flashback that feels very off.

Taking into account all of the above, I did like the story of Giù La Testa. The mixing of the large revolution tale with the smaller intimate tale of John and Juan was handled really well and provided good contrast as well as fine comedic moments. Leone’s usual grit and amoral characters were on display, that is his specialty after all, but as I said earlier, Giù La Testa was very much a comedy and one that I found to be funny. The action scenes were shot very well, but that is an aspect of film that I don’t think Leone can ever falter at. I was most surprised by the score of Ennio Morricone. I was not a fan of it at all when the film began, but as the film progressed the score grew on me and while not up there with his other Leone scores it ended up being an asset to the film.

It may be a regression for Leone, but Giù La Testa is still a good, enjoyable movie. It’s a bit too long and drawn out, but the characters are interesting and the West is gritty like how only Leone can make it gritty. Leone fans definitely need check out Giù La Testa, and other people should check it out as well, but I’d put it on the back burner behind other, earlier Leone works.

Rating:

***

Cheers,
Bill

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5 responses to “Review: Giù La Testa (Duck, You Sucker, 1971)

  1. Agreed. After the first three Dollars films and then Once Upon a Time, Duck, You Sucker (Fistful of Dynamite) doesn’t seem to carry as much quality, even though thematically, or at least politically, it’s actually carries more. But that may have been part of my problem with the film. Leone was great when telling down and dirty western stories devoid of any obvious political allegories. The fact that he tries to get political here maybe wasn’t such a good idea.

    Despite all that, I still found plenty to like. Unlike you however, I thought the flashbacks we’re pretty neat almost because they were so different, both visually and tonally. Weird but cool.

  2. Not my favourite Leone film, but certainly one of his strongest in terms of the moral and political message put across. The theme of the Mexican revolutiona as a backdrop provides much food for thought and the chance for Leone to promote his own particular brand of socialist politics. Further analyis on my blog:

    http://dreamingarm.wordpress.com/2009/08/01/%e2%80%9ca-fistful-of-dynamite-a-fistful-of-leone%e2%80%9d-part-1/

    Comments welcome.

  3. Bill Thompson

    Edgar – We’re pretty much in agreement on this one. For me there was a lot to like, but it pales next to the rest of Leone’s work.

    CW- I agree that there is a lot going on in the film, however unlike some of his other works I don’t believe Leone managed to put as much weight behind the themes in this one.

  4. I’m afraid Bill Thompson is talking absolute crap and probably wouldn’t know a good film if he fell over it. This is quite possibly Leone’s best ever western which ended up being lost for many years thanks to the god-awful title Sergio Leone insisted on lumbering it with. The film is pure poetry from start to finish…poignant, haunting and effortlessly stylish. A film for people who use their brains and don’t require car crashes and explosions every 5 minutes (although there are PLENTY of explosions, including the explosion to beat all explosions when that bridge is blown up). Please watch this film with open eyes and open minds…not all films have to move at 1000 miles an hour, you know. Quite easily one of Sergio Leone’s greatest films.

  5. Yes, because as my reviews have shown I am clearly an individual who is only in love with explosions and car crashes… If you choose to speak try to not speak from a realm of ignorance, it makes all that you say meaningless, keep that in mind for all your future endeavors.

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