I’ll quote Scherp here then (from his excellent latest offering)…
“A second misunderstanding is that Once upon a Time in the West is more American in feel than his previous westerns. It’s more serious in tone, and it’s dubious if it can be called a genuine spaghetti western (a genre, as Howard Hughes put it, associated with fast action and much bloodletting), but it’s deeply Italian in style and meaning.”
I’ll go along with this.
Leone was responsible for making popular a style of movie that tried in some ways to imitate American westerns, but most (when they’re good) have failed. Instead we got a generally low budget breed, tinged with an Italian flavour of war-guilt, anti-colonialism and a peculiar religious bent.
OUATITW ‘comments’ on (in a post-modern sort of way) and transcends the cliches of this genre, but neither is it an ‘American Western’. It’s slicker and better in many ways than the poor twisted-cliched world of spaghetti-land, and it’s better than any American western I’ve seen. It’s certainly the most moving western I’ve seen (although I’m in no real mood for a rewatch soon, and it’s certainly not the most entertaining) and it’s probably one of the finest films of any genre - but it doesn’t feel to me like a spag… and therefore it can’t be in my Top 20.
My top 20 reflect the films that seem to intend to play with the cliches - but for whatever reason result in being both fresh and surprising - and therefore jolly entertaining. OUATITW looks too American in parts, has too big a budget, and in being so it is detatched (partly geographically, but also possibly in intent) from some of the spaghetti ethos that I so love. Ethos and intention being the key words here.