Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo (aka The Good, The Bad And The Ugly) (1966)
During the Civil War between the states, three gunslingers known as the good (Clint Eastwood), the bad (Lee Van Cleef) and the ugly (Eli Wallach) work at odds with each other, sometimes in an uneasy alliance as they look for a graveyard where $200,000 in Confederate gold is hidden. Sergio Leone's epic western (3 hours long) wasn't embraced by mainstream critics when first released. The casualness of the violence and brutality was considered "vulgar" but audiences flocked to it and it paved the way for Peckinpah's WILD BUNCH. Today, the critical consensus is that it is one of the screen's great westerns. Of course, I've seen the film before but this time around I really appreciated Leone's use of the wide screen format (in collaboration with his cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli) which is stunning. Every frame a master composition that could hang on a museum wall. Leone's visuals are the thing here and very often there are long stretches of silence but the narrative continues, dialog isn't missed. Ennio Morricone's score is one of the best film scores ever written and it becomes as important a character as the three leads. The "ecstasy of gold" sequence which runs about 6 minutes with no dialog, just Morricone's score accompanying Wallach's search for the grave is justifiably famous. Speaking of Wallach, his performance is terrific and he really should have been nominated for an Oscar (movies like this weren't considered Oscar material) and he would be today!