Once Upon A Time In America (1984) Restored Version
Some good news today, which kinda swiftly turned to faintly bad news. After the satisfying clunk of the new Sight & Sound arriving this morning through the letterbox I was idly flicking through the magazine and alighted upon a quiet revelation in the home theatre section – the new restored cut of the magisterial Once Upon A Time In America which premiered at Cannes last year (and reputedly reduced the implacable De Niro to tears, no mean feat) has surprisingly swiftly arrived on Blu-Ray. Running an exhausting 251 minutes this is the closest we’ll get to realising Leone’s original if uncommercial vision, and naturally this has been hugely anticipated in cinema literate circles. Why the disappointment? Well for some unknown reason the restoration job on the extra material is apparently pretty shoddy and the fresh footage stands out like a sore thumb in terms of visual and sonic quality from the rest of the material, and there is absolutely no documentaries, interviews, restoration background material or associated extras, not even a transplant of the material that feature on the ‘Collectors’ DVD (which has a couple of great scholarly commentaries if memory serves), it’s almost as if Warner Brothers are embarrassed by the film and are slipping it out as quietly as possible. Of course the only reason we’re seeing it all is due to a long campaign on behalf of Scorsese and Bobby lobbying WB executives to resurrect this from the vaults, you’d think they’d commission some new ancillary material to buttress the release, but apparently not;
It’s all very confusing, the troubled history of this essential film with all the various versions prowling around in multiple manifestations, I’m also a little disappointed that this version hasn’t found a cinema screening here in London, I’ll keep an eye out as things may change, and that will give me a chance to update my fairly shoddy BFI screening effort from 2009. Here’s some footage from Cannes last year which should provide further context;
I’m also ill and have had to cancel seeing some friends today which is profoundly irritating, thus I’ll be giving Hitchcock a miss this weekend, and to compound this misery I have to attend an evening consultation meeting in a couple of weeks on the same bloody night that I had tickets for a BFI preview of Stoker – stupid public and their opinions on how we should be spending their Council Tax….