Lawrence of Arabia & The Cult of Personality

Lawrence is a man who badly wants to be someone else, when we first meet him, it’s clear that he does not belong in the rigid confines of the military and his interactions with the rank and file just increase his desire for isolation, both mental and physical. Lawrence is finally given the chance to move beyond the confines of his station with a secondment to Prince Faisal with his mission being an assessment of Faisal and to report back. Lawrence begins his great romance with the desert, to him, it represents a certain purity that does not exist in England. Prince Faisal does not share his view of the desert, to him it’s a lonely, desolate place.

They say a man’s character is revealed through adversity so in Lawrence’s case it revealed an Iron Will to succeed. It also revealed his compassion as his decision to go back for Gassim is considered suicide by Ali but Lawrence proves them all wrong as he returns to Ali with Gassim in tow, Ali is so moved that he burns all of Lawrence’s clothes and effectively make him an honorary Arab, this is probably the worst thing he could’ve done even if it was done out of a sense of love. Lawrence’s next move once they had crossed the nefud to convince Auda Abu Tayi, leader of the Howitat to join them in securing the garrison at Aqaba. Lawrence once again succeeds by manipulating Auda by focusing on his greed and it works. The attack on Aqaba is an astonishing success, it took everyone by surprise except for Lawrence, he gambled and it paid off.

The second half of the film finds Lawrence waging a war with the Turks by destroying the supply lines with Ali and Auda as his lieutenants. Lawrence has started to believe his own hype thinking he can only be killed by a ‘golden bullet’, it’s this line of thinking that allowed his ego to overtake him completely and he formed a kind of Jesus complex, even as his men begin to resent his attitude that they should move mountains for him. Lawrence’s final act of hubris occurs as he enters Derra, a Turkish stronghold thinking that he can pass unnoticed as an Arab, it backfires horribly as Lawrence is subjected to a beating (and implied rape). The idea that he could conceivably pass for an Arab is laughable and he finds out the hard way. It’s also the turning point where he realizes that he will never be an Arab and so flees back to the British military, it’s telling that his efforts to fit in with the establishment just comes off as brown-nosing.  It’s uncertain whether Lawrence’s desire to be an Arab stems from self-loathing or his contempt for England or both but it’s clear he fetishizes the idea of Arabia and the people within it.

Lawrence’s guerilla warfare is taking a toll on him mentally, despite his best efforts to retreat to a sense of normalcy, the military brass just want the winning streak to continue so General Allenby convinces Lawrence to join them in the final push on Damascus, at this point though, Lawrence has been pushed to his breaking point, his army of followers have now been reduced to paid mercenaries. Ali remains Lawrence’s conscience up until Lawrence and his army come across a column of Turkish soldiers including their wounded, his decision to attack the column is what truly damns him. It’s a massacre, Jackson Bentley, the reporter who has been cultivating the legend of Lawrence through the newspaper is disgusted by what Lawrence has become.

As an act of redemption Lawrence and his army arrive at Damascus before Allenby. Lawrence tries to form a kind of UN with the Arab tribes but it’s pretty much a disaster as the council devolves into in-fighting and squabbling while there is no power and a fire breaks out, in the end, Lawrence is deserted by the tribes, all except Auda and Ali. Lawrence’s dream of a United Arab States had come to an end along with Lawrence’s usefulness to both Faisal & Allenby. In some ways, he got what he wanted, to be ordinary but in the end Auda is right when he said “For you, there is only the desert”.

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Evolution of Silent Cinema: A Star is Born.

As the movie business began to establish itself, actors flocked to embrace the emerging art form.  In France, a little known theatre actor called Max Linder began appearing in short comedy films for Pathe in 1905. The silent comedian was born. Max cultivated an onscreen image of a wealthy man about town who frequently ended up in trouble due to his penchant for attractive women.  Linder’s apprenticeship with Pathe paid off as he steadily became one of the most recognizable actor’s in the world and up until the advent of the first world war, Max Linder was the number one star in Europe. Linder returned to film following the end of WW1 but the experience had left him with chronic depression that would follow him for the rest of his life.

Across the pond, another actor treading the boards in a vaudeville troupe who went by the name Charlie Chaplin was invited by the New York Motion Picture Company to join them in the hope of replacing current star Fred Mace. Chaplin’s first film for Keystone ‘Making a Living’ received a lukewarm response but it’s Chaplin’s decision to create the most enduring character of his career for his second film ‘Mabel’s Strange Predicament’ that would have the most lasting impact, “the tramp” was born. Chaplin’s co-star Mabel Normand was a gifted comedienne in her own right, having written and directed dozens of shorts, she took on Chaplin and mentored him in the film industry. Chaplin’s directorial debut ‘Caught in the Rain’ was successful enough to allow him to direct the remainder of his shorts until Essay lured him away with a more substantial paycheck. Chaplin’s tenure at Essanay allowed him more creative control over the films he made, he recruited a woman he met in a cafe called Edna Purviance to co-star with him in the majority of his films, no surprise that a romance developed that lasted until 1917. Chaplin would continue to refine his tramp character for the rest of his career.

Mabel Normand’s career seems dotted with scandals which have overshadowed her contribution to film as both an actress and director. Normand began her career at Vitagraph Studios but quickly moved over to D.W. Griffiths Biograph Studios where she landed a leading role in Griffiths ‘Her Awakening’, she met Mack Sennett during her time there and began a relationship with him, when he moved to California to establish his own studio, Keystone, she went with him. Normand’s star quickly rose during her tenure at Keystone as she proved very adept at comedy. It was Normand who convinced Sennett to give Chaplin another chance after the relatively poor reception of Chaplin’s debut. Normand was involved in no less than three scandals, one of which involved another of Sennett’s star’s Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. Despite his size, Arbuckle was a remarkably adept physical comedian, towering over his co-stars and leading ladies.  Arbuckle’s career began with amateur talent contest, which wasn’t going well until he performed a somersault into the orchestra to avoid the shepherd’s crook which pulled them offstage, the audience loved it, Arbuckle’s vaudeville career had begun. Arbuckle moved through a number of different theatre companies until he arrived at Selig Polyscope Company, where his film career began before moving onto Keystone.

Paramount managed to lure him away from Keystone with a more substantial paycheck, during this time Arbuckle set-up his own company, Comique Studios and recruited another vaudeville alumni, Buster Keaton. Keaton’s debut was in ‘The Butcher Boy’ and they went on to make 14 films together and formed a close relationship (Keaton and Chaplin were the only two who vouched for his character during the trial of Virginia Rappe’s death). Keaton had performing in the vaudeville circuit since he was a child, he performed with his family as they were known as the ‘Three Keatons’, it was here that Keaton learned how to perform physical comedy by doing trick falls, part of the act included Buster being thrown around by his father, sometimes into the orchestra pit, sometimes against the scenery, they achieved this by having a suitcase handle sown into Buster’s clothing. Buster was often having to prove there was no child abuse as he learned to land safely thus avoiding bruises or injuries. It was this training that proved tremendously useful for his career as a physical comedian and allowed him to perform incredibly dangerous stunts. Keaton would eventually transcend Arbuckle and become the sole rival to Chaplin.

Arbuckle would also co-star with another silent comedian of a different kind, Harold Lloyd. Lloyd’s image was that of a bespectacled man in a straw hat, like Keaton, Lloyd was a child of the theatre but he gravitated towards film, he began his career at Edison film studios before moving to California and joining Keystone. Lloyd also worked as an extra for Universal, it was here that he would meet his creative partner in crime, Hal Roach. Lloyd’s commitment to performing often dangerous stunts himself would eventually prove fatal as he was seriously injured while holding a prop bomb that was supposed to be a smoke pot, it exploded. Lloyd’s Thumb and forefinger were blown off as a result.

While Keaton, Chaplin & Lloyd were presented as loveable goofballs, there was another actor who displayed the same physicality but with movie star charisma, his name was Douglas Fairbanks. From an early age, he was involved in the local theatre, he dropped out of school at 15 to join an acting troupe which crossed the country. After a couple of years, Fairbanks travelled to New York and began appearing in broadway shows while holding down a day job, he eventually got married and had a son before leaving with his family to L.A. where he began his first film engagement with Triangle Pictures under the tutelage of D.W. Griffiths. The first film he starred in ‘The Lamb’ showed off his natural athleticism but he was instead cast in a number of romantic comedies before signing with Paramount. He began a whirlwind romance with Mary Pickford and it wasn’t long before they were dubbed Hollywood royalty as their fame and status rose. Fairbanks would be most well known for the adventure costume picture which allowed for his charisma and athletic skills to be put to excellent use, you could say he was Hollywood’s first action hero.

At the time Mary Pickford met Douglas Fairbanks, she was already a rising star. Born in Canada, she began her career like most others in the theatre, treading the boards and getting nowhere, it wasn’t until 1909 when she tested for a role in a Biograph Company film that she caught the eye of D.W. Griffith. Pickford was cast in both bit part and leading roles, as she gained momentum in Biograph and worked for a variety of different film companies over a number of years. It wasn’t until her performance in ‘Tess of the Storm Country’ that she finally ascended into the stratosphere. Mary Pickford was one of the first actresses to fully take control of her career and utilized her business acumen to become a power player in Hollywood. Within three years of acting in features, she became a producer and was involved in every aspect of the making of her film, for all intents and purposes, she was a movie mogul. She solidified this position by forming United Artists with Chaplin, D.W. Griffith & Douglas Fairbanks, a creative enterprise which allowed independent film producers access to theatre screens owned by UA and also temporarily unbooked venues owned by other companies. She ran the company with Chaplin until 1959 (he’d already left by 1955) before selling her shares for three million dollars.

The era of the Hollywood star had begun.

Evolution of Silent Cinema: The Business of Film

By the turn of the century, the moving image had moved beyond it’s basic platform, there was a constant state of experimentation with the form, from close-ups to linking footage together to form the basis of editing. As film began to emerge as a public form of entertainment, it wasn’t hard to see there was money to be made from screening these films. In 1905, “The Nickelodeon” in Pittsburgh, began screening films on a regular basis, the most popular of these screenings would be “The Chase” film, the first example originating in England by James Williamson, who made a film called ‘Stop Thief’. Others soon followed his example and began creating narrative short films which the protagonist would be chased in some form or another.

By 1907, theatre’s specifically designed for screening film began operating in the U.S. Britain & France. Pathe were the first to capitalize on the increasing demand for programmes by the emerging theatre chains, the programme was usually a 30 minute affair accompanied with live musicians to enhance the experience. In the initial stages, Pathe would sell their films for a flat fee but soon came to realize that there was more money to be made by renting out their films to be screened. Not to be outdone, the U.S. began increasing their production output.

As Cinema began to spread throughout Europe, other countries began to make their own strides in forming production companies, the most unlikely becoming one of Europe’s most important production centres, Denmark. Ole Olsen, seeing an opportunity, founded Nordisk and began cranking out films for the local market, he eventually produced 67 films with his collaborator, director Viggo Larsen. Sweden, Russia & Germany soon followed suit, bringing their own ideas to the table but the first world war derailed their efforts leaving the U.S. to pick up the slack, as their film technique improved so did their audiences both at home and overseas.

For more info:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_film

Evolution of Silent Cinema: The Big Bang

It’s no surprise that the first people to utilize cinema’s potential in its earliest form were magicians, cinema was in its basest form just another illusion for the public. In 1878, an english photographer, Eadweard Muybridge performed an experiment whereby he set up a row of cameras at a racetrack with a timed image exposure and took photos of a horse as it ran past, linking these stills in sequence, the horse was shown to be moving within the set of stills, “a motion picture” was born. Inventor Thomas Edison, had already been working on a device he called the Kinetograph, which captured images and a Kinetoscope, which allowed for viewing the images, through these two devices he created a smoother way for the images to viewed in linked succession. Edison thought he’d make a quick buck selling the Kinetograph/scope but forgot a crucial detail, he didn’t patent his invention.

In France, almost a decade later after Muybridge had made his discovery, Louis Le Prince shot a 2 second film called Roundhay Garden Scene in Roundhay, Leeds, it’s considered the oldest surviving motion picture. The Lumiere Brothers were also at work on their own camera, called the “Cinematographe” but their genius was to make it more suitable for travel while containing a projector and processor in the same unit, this allowed them more options for filming, their first experiments involved filming workers leaving a factory (Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory in Lyon) a man and a woman feeding a baby and filming life as it was in France in general. The Lumiere Brothers were not just content to film in France, The Lumiere Brothers took their invention on a global tour, filming in nearly every continent and documenting different cultures, they basically invented the travel documentary.

In 1896, George Melies was a working magician in France when he attended a private demonstration of the Cinematographe. Melies immediately saw the potential for this new invention and offered The Lumiere Bros. 10,000F for the camera, they refused. Melies, undaunted looked elsewhere until he found an Animatograph film projector in London, an invention by Englishman Robert W. Paul. Melies bought one-off Paul and returned to France to install it at his theatre, he modified it into a film camera. When better cameras emerged from The Lumiere Brothers, Gaumont etc Melies immediately upgraded. Melies established a film company called the “Star Film Company” with Lucien Roulos. Lucien Korsten was appointed as their primary camera operator. Their first initial attempts at filming were mostly remakes of Lumiere Brothers shorts but Melies background in magic began to emerge as he began to experiment with theatricality, it was a direct contrast to The Lumiere Brothers scientific approach to the new art form, Melies just wanted to entertain. Melies started to experiment with the camera achieving visual tricks, creating cinema’s first visual FX. As his films became more ambitious, Melies built a film studio on his property in Montreuil, as his films became more successful he built up the studio to include more props and set’s to bring to life the more vivid ideas of his imagination.

Towards the end of the 19th Century, Melies had made over 200 films within a variety of different genres that were emerging as the art form expanded. Melies innovations were capturing the audience’s attention, the age of cinema as entertainment was beginning to emerge.

For further info:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silent_film

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Melies

The Mad Detective of Hong Kong

The quirky detective has a long history in both film & television, dating all the way back to Columbo. Usually presented with observational skills that far outstrip their colleagues, using unorthodox methods to solve crimes or just the ability to see things others can’t, they’re left as outsiders (but not always). Johnnie To and Wai Ka Fai take the quirky detective down a much darker path.

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Detective Bun (Lau Ching Wan) has a unique gift (or curse depending on how you look at it) to see the inner personalities of the person he is investigating but it’s left him adrift, he cut’s off his own ear as a retirement gift for his boss and get’s kicked off the force. Inspector Ho Ka-On (Andy On) approaches Bun with the idea of getting Bun’s help in solving a case he is working on, the case as it stands involved a police officer Wong Kwok-Chu (Lee Kwok-Lun) along with his partner Ko Chi-Wai (Lam Ka-Tung) investigating a series of thefts and tracking the thief to a nearby forest. The thief is alerted and heads into the forest, forcing Wong and Ko to give chase. Wong goes missing, his gun ends up being used in a series of armed robberies.

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Bun lives with his wife May (Flora Chan) who is adamantly against him becoming a detective again. Ko realizes how unbalanced Bun has become when he sees him arguing with someone who clearly isn’t there. Bun starts off by following Chi-Wai and discovers that he has seven inner personalities, the most dominant being a woman (Jay Lau) dressed in a business suit, a violent man (Cheung Siu-Fai) and a portly man (Lam Suet) who clearly abhors violence.

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As Bun continues his investigation, all evidence points towards Chi-Wai being the prime suspect in the disappearance of his partner. Bun’s non-imaginary wife May (Kelly Lin) confronts On about her ex-husband not taking his medication and not keeping his appointment with his psychiatrist, leaving On to seriously question Bun’s mental health.

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The re-emergence of Bun’s ex-wife is what gives this film a certain resonance, and also cast doubt on whether Bun has a supernatural gift or if he’s just mentally ill. May is represented in two different ways, one as Bun sees her and the other as she really is. The May as seen through Bun’s eyes is not subservient or demure but she does care for him, she just wants him to be happy when clearly, he isn’t. The May that exists is just fed up with having to be his caretaker. There’s a scene late in the film where the two Mays finally collide and Bun is forced to confront the reality that he is the only one that can see imaginary May. Real May asks Bun if he sees her as a cruel and heartless woman before she walks off, Imaginary May says a tender farewell to Bun and disappears leaving Bun well and truly alone.

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It’s also significant that at the end, On’s inner personality of a scared young boy is replaced by a young woman (again, dressed in a business suit) who guides On out of a tricky situation and On’s wife is presented almost as Lady MacBeth type, she also becomes complicit in a cover-up.

This just as much of Wai Ka Fai film as it is a Johnnie To film, I think it’s one of the best film’s made under the Milkyway banner and a sad and touching exploration of mental illness.

Penny Dreadful & the feminine monster

It goes without saying that horror has never been a safe space for women (or anyone for that matter but women more than most) so it’s kind of refreshing to see a gothic horror provide us with two fascinating female protagonists as they blaze an evil path towards redemption that’s largely kickstarted by one man’s desire and two demonic forces who both want the same thing, a bride.

The first season introduces us to the two principle female characters in the form of Vanessa Ives (ferociously played by Eva Green) and Brona Croft (a surprisingly good Billie Piper) who exist at two ends of the social spectrum. Vanessa is a former childhood friend of Mina Murray, daughter of noted adventurer Malcolm Murray (Grizzled Timothy Dalton). Brona Croft is a working class prostitute, who largely exists as a romantic interest for Ethan Chandler (a surprisingly great Josh Hartnett) so the focus is primarily on Vanessa for the duration of season one.

It’s in the second season where things get really interesting as Brona (who died from consumption at the end of the first season, with a little help from Victor Frankenstein) is brought back to life and re-named Lily,  primarily as a bride for Caliban (Rory Kinnear). Lily, at first appears to be compliant as both Caliban and Victor clumsily attempt to romance her but darker impulses start to emerge following her interaction with Dorian Gray (who Brona had a brief sexual liaison with in the first season) which culminates in Lily going home with a male stranger and killing him, this act ultimately awakens something in her, leading her to reject Caliban in a terrifying scene which leaves him both awestruck and terrified as she lays out her plan to kill Victor and eventually subjugate men. That theme wouldn’t be fully realized until the third season.

The second season introduces another fascinating female protagonist in Evelyn Poole (Helen McCrory, a witch and occultist who just wants to live forever). Evelyn seduces Malcolm as a way of getting at Vanessa and we find out that Vanessa and Evelyn have crossed path’s before while Vanessa was searching for a way to harness her powers which led her to arrive at the doorstep of Joan Clayton (Patti LuPone) a cut-wife (abortionist) and witch. It’s revealed that Evelyn and Joan are former members of a witches coven but Evelyn now serves Satan, in return for everlasting youth. The theme of dominance emerges again as we see Evelyn exerting her power over a prominent local aristocrat (it helps that he’s a vile asshole), there’s a scene where he’s kneeling naked in front of a fire while she stands over him holding a stick and hitting him with it while she taunts him. It’s a total display of dominance in an era where men were clearly in charge.

Frankenstein pathetically makes an attempt to win back Lily from Dorian by confronting her with Dorian present in his house. Lily has embraced her newfound independence, is pretty much sick of Frankenstein’s whiny shit and taunts him until she ends up getting shot. Frankenstein is horrified to discover she is immortal and runs away while Dorian and Lily continue their macabre blood soaked dance. It’s such a defiant fuck off to Frankenstein, who doesn’t love Lily, so much as he loves the idea of her being his perfect girlfriend, his plans to mould her into such a thing has catastrophically backfired.

The third season takes Lily’s adventures even further into the absurd (but so much fun to watch) as Lily and Dorian rescue a young girl, Justine, from certain death , she was about to be tortured to death for the sexual amusement of a group of men. Lily takes Justine under her wing and relays her plan to dominate men, there’s an interesting scene where Lily and Justine watch as suffragettes protest in the street until they clash with the police resulting in an altercation. Lily mocks them and their attempts at a democratic process of change, instead viewing dominance as the real arbiter of power. Lily begins recruiting prostitutes and making Dorian’s place a halfway house (which he seems none too pleased about) and forming a kind of guerilla army. She urges them to go out and cut off the hands of their oppressors, which they quite gladly accommodate her.

Vanessa, after expelling Satan at the end of season 2, visits an alienist Dr. Florence Steward (Patti LuPone) in the hope of exploring her trauma, and ends up re-living her time in the mental asylum through hypnotherapy. Her stint in the asylum reveals the inhumane methods she suffered in order to cure her but also her relationship with her caretaker, John Clare (before he died and became Frankenstein’s monster), they manage to help each other in a fundamental way through empathetic communication. Vanessa’s demon’s (Satan and Dracula) rear their heads in the form of John Clare and attempt to win her over as romantic rivals as they’ve been trying to do since she reached puberty.

Dorian finally reaches the limit’s of his patience with Lily and her army of women and teams up with Frankenstein to basically re-set her like an operating system (men are such dicks) then kicks out the women living in his house and kills Justine. Lily pleads with Frankenstein not to go through with his plan for re-setting her, it’s the memory of her dead child that finally breaks through to Victor and he let’s her go free. She finally returns to Dorian to find a dead Justine and breaks it off with him as well, going to forge her own path alone, leaving Dorian alone with his paintings.

In the end, both Vanessa and Lily are victims of a patriarchal society but they refused to let themselves be victims, Lily didn’t ask to be brought back from the dead just because someone felt lonely (that goes for both Victor and Caliban, they’re both selfish assholes) and Vanessa didn’t ask to be stalked by Satan and Dracula, it probably didn’t help that Malcolm had an affair with her mother (which basically led her down the path to Mina’s fiance and eventually the mental asylum, way to go Malcolm, you asshole) but she fought on to the very end, she chose to go out on her own terms.

Fistful of Dynamite & the human cost of revolution.

In Once Upon a Time in the West, Sergio Leone cemented his love of westerns and it’s mythic storytelling of America, his entire filmography can be seen as one long epic about the birth of America  which makes Fistful of Dynamite an interesting anomaly as it’s set, not in America but in Mexico during the Mexican revolution.

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Before the film begins. a quote from Mao Tze-Tung is emblazoned across the screen “The revolution is not a social dinner, a literary event, a drawing or an embroidery; it cannot be done with… elegance and courtesy. The revolution is an act of violence…” which promptly cut’s to an ant hill getting drowned in a sea of urine as we’re introduced to Juan (a clearly not Mexican Rod Steiger) as he flags down a coach with a sob story about his dying father. The coachman initially waves him off but decides to play a practical joke on the people inside the coach by giving Juan a lift. The reactions are swift and immediate as Juan is placed in an environment where he’s clearly uncomfortable but feigns ignorance as they prod him with questions and mock him. Juan is no fool though as he has planned a robbery of the stagecoach with the help of his family. The privileged are now at the mercy of Juan and his family after they kill the coachman and the guards.

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Juan delivers a form of social justice to his “betters” by first taking the man who mocked him with the idea that he didn’t know who his father was and asking him if he can make a “babeh” then introducing the man to his father then taking the woman behind a house where he whips out his dick (It’s implied that he rapes her but it’s never shown onscreen) before stripping them all naked and putting them into a horsecart which is pushed down a hill where it crashes into the ground, they all fall into a group of pigs.

It’s when Juan meets John (James Coburn in all his shaggy Irish glory) an Irish nationalist, on the run for the murder of a couple of British soldiers (punctuated through flashbacks) that Juan get’s mixed up in Pancho Villa and Zapata’s rebellion. Juan is understandably reluctant to get involved in a conflict which does not concern him and it’s only through John’s manipulation that Juan somehow becomes a revolutionary hero.

Juan’s views on revolution can best be summed up via the speech he gives to John about what a revolution means to poor people “I know what I am talking about when I am talking about the revolutions. The people who read the books go to the people who can’t read the books, the poor people, and say, “We have to have a change.” So, the poor people make the change, ah? And then, the people who read the books, they all sit around the big polished tables, and they talk and talk and talk and eat and eat and eat, eh? But what has happened to the poor people? They’re dead! That’s your revolution. Shhh… So, please, don’t tell me about revolutions! And what happens afterwards? The same fucking thing starts all over again!”  and this point is really hit home when Juan finds his entire family massacred. Leone’s camera hovers over the dead until it finally rests on the face of Juan’s youngest child.

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John H Mallory has already fled one conflict only to join another, mostly due to Juan but his reason’s run deeper than just patriotic ideals as the flashbacks peppered through the film reveal John’s past, from his best friend’s radicalization into the IRA, to his lover, who seemingly shares affection with both John and his best friend. His best friend is caught by the British and, through confession and torture, is forced to point out other IRA nationalists, in a small pub, it’s when he finally points out John that everything goes to shit as John goes on the offensive and fires a shotgun at the British soldiers before finally turning it on his best friend, who is aware of his betrayal and tacitly acknowledges his death is necessary.

Dr Viega (Romollo Valli), a physician and ally of John’s who helps orchestrate attacks on the Mexican government is faced with a similar dilemma as he is caught by an army detachment led by Colonel Gunther Reza, beaten and forced to identify his colleagues then watch as they’re shot in the pouring rain, while John watches in the background. Dr Viega is not presented as a villain, just a man who broke under torture (as a lot of us probably would) before finally sacrificing himself for the cause.

The Mexican government Villa and Zapata are fighting against are presented as the villains, as we see soldiers performing executions in the middle of the day, summarily shooting people by the hundreds and killing children. It’s easy to sympathise with the rebels when the government are presented as just another fascist government who deserve to be destroyed.

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The political climate at the time greatly informs this film as it was made during a time of political instability in Europe. Leone and his writing collaborator’s sought to de-romanticise the idea of revolutions and to a certain extent, they succeeded. A revolution is just like any other conflict, whether the goals are noble, it still comes down to a war of ideals and in war, people die.