A new restored copy of the masterpiece by Sergio Leone, 4 hours 15 minutes long, is screened in Cannes Classics. Initiated by Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation, this version is very close to the Italian master's initial montage.
Everything conspires to give Once upon a time in America its place in the ranks of film legends: the last film of an immense director who made only seven films, a project of pharaonic scope - 12 years of writing with some twenty script writers, 45 weeks of shooting, a budget that exploded into 51 million dollars instead of the planned 30 million, a mixed reception on release… Not to mention the sublime score by Ennio Morricone which could not compete in the Oscars, because Morricone's name did not appear in the American credits.
But the saddest part of the film's story is without a doubt the editing. Sergio Leone was contracted with Warner to deliver a film no longer than 2h45 maximum, but his ideal version was in fact 4h25. On his own initiative, Sergio Leone cut several scenes to get to the European version of 3h49, screened in Cannes, Out of Competition, in 1984. But it was still too long for the Americans, who turned it into a grotesque version of 2h19, put back into chronological order!
Thanks to Martin Scorsese's desire to do the restoration, carried out by the Cinémathèque de Bologne, in association with Andrea Leone Films, the Film Foundation and Regency Enterprises, today we are screening this 4 k digital version, with 25 minutes never screened before. The biggest challenge was finding and integrating the scenes cut by Leone, given that unfortunately the negative of the scenes that were not mounted no longer exists. Like an army of ants, a research team worked for several months, looking for any information or witness accounts that could bring us closer to the initial version that the Italian master had intended. Persistent rumours refer to missing scenes, according to Martin Scorsese, who hopes that they will one day be reincorporated into Leone's film.
B. de M.
The film is screened in the Salle du Soixantième Friday 18 May at 6:45 p.m. and in Salle Bunuel Saturday 19 May at 8 p.m.