Sunday, June 28, 2009

Don't Make a Scene: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

The Story: Family is a funny thing. Although everyone talks about "blood-ties," it is not what courses through our veins that brings people together and binds them, it is the course that has been shared along the way. What unites people is not blood, but history. And families share a lot of that. They are conjoined in a set of circumstances.

Family is important in the films of Sergio Leone. Despite the presence of so many "men without names,"* the stakes usually have to do with families. Whether it be the warring families in "A Fistful of Dollars," Col. Mortimer's quest in "For a Few Dollars More," or the fate of the McBain and Miranda families in "Once Upon a Time in the West" and "Duck, You Sucker," families are the ideal—the norm—that evil disrupts.

The three vagabonds of "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" are loners, but Tuco still has family of a sorts, although his brother has chosen the family of God. Tuco, leaving the Mission, finds that partnership can feel like family, where charity is involved. But, as in the laconic nature of this particular director's work, that is never stated outright. In Leone's films, with their 40 foot faces, a close-up speaks louder than mere words can.

The Set-Up: Blondie (Clint Eastwood) is recuperating at the Mission from his desert torture at the hands of his former partner in bounty swindles, Tuco (Eli Wallach). Never the bearer of the best of luck, Tuco has brought Blondie there to save his life. It seems that Blondie has been told the critical secret to finding the Confederate gold stolen by the late Bill Carson. Now, anxious to find the treasure, Tuco has roused Blondie from his bed to get going. But first, he must pay a visit to the head of the Mission (Luigi Pistilli), who is a brother in two senses of the word.


Tuco enters the small cloister. Across the icon-filled room an abbot stands silently.

Tuco Ramirez (shyly): Heh...Hey, Pablo?

Tuco: (laughs) Don't you recognize me?

Tuco: It's me, Tuco! Let me embrace you!

(Father Ramirez faces Tuco with his arms folded, quite unwilling to embrace and Tuco is confused, looks at his robes and nervously laughs)
Tuco: Ooh! (snickers)

Tuco(thinking the rebuff is a religious thing): I...I don't know the right thing!
(Tuco kneels and kisses Ramirez's sash)

Tuco: I was just passing by here, and I thought to myself: "I wonder if my brother remembers his brother?" Heh.

Tuco: Did I do wrong?

Tuco: It doesn't matter, I am very happy!

Fr. Ramirez: You've seen me, Tuco.

Tuco: Yeah...well, I'm very glad I came!

Tuco: Eh...Oh, my uniform! It's a long story! But, let's talk about you!

Tuco: It's more important! You look very well!

Tuco: A bit thin, perhaps, but...(reaches for his face) You were always thin, hey, Pablito? Uh...w...what about our parents?

Pablo: Only now do you think of them. To begin after nine years...

Tuco:...Nine years?

Tuco: So, it's nine years!

Tuco: (laughs) Nine years!

Pablo Ramirez: Our mother has been dead a long time now.

Pablo: Our father died only a few days ago. That's why I was away.

Pablo: He asked for you to be there...

Pablo: ...but there was only me. (Tuco turns away) And you?

Pablo: Outside of evil, what have you managed to do? It seems to me you once had a wife someplace.

Tuco:(hiding his tears) Not one, lots of 'em! One here, one there, wherever I found them.

Tuco: Go on, preach me a sermon, Pablo.

Pablo: What good would that be? Just keep on the way you're going. Go away and the Lord have mercy on your soul. (Pablo walks away)

Tuco: Sure I'll go! I'll go while I'm waiting for the Lord to remember me.

Tuco: I, Tuco Ramirez...(he stomps in front of Pablo, blocking his path)

Tuco: of Brother Ramirez, will tell you something.

Tuco: You think you're better than I am. Where we came from, if one did not want to die of poverty, one became a priest or a bandit. You chose your way. I chose mine. Mine was harder.

Tuco: You talk about mother and father. You remember when you left to become a priest, I stayed behind.

Tuco: I must have been ten, twelve--I don't remember which--But I stayed. I tried, but it was no good. Now I will tell you something.

Tuco: You became a priest because you were too much of a coward to do what I do.

(Pablo slaps him; reacting, Tuco punches Pablo in the face. From the shadows, Blondie has witnessed all of this.)

Pablo: (as his brother leaves): Tuco...

(Tuco hesitates, but doesn't turn back and, with a dismissive wave of his hand, is gone)

Pablo: Please forgive me, brother.

(Blondie has the reins of the wagon. Tuco gets in and they ride out)

Blondie: Hyah!

Tuco: Ah, my belly's full. Nice guy, my brother. I didn't tell you my brother was in charge here? Everything, like the Pope almost. He's in charge in Rome. Yeah, yeah, my brother, he say to me, "Stay, brother, don't go home. We never see each other. Here, there's plenty to eat and drink. Bring your friend, too." (laughs) Whenever we see each other, he never lets me go. It's always the same story.

Tuco: My brother, he's crazy about me.

Tuco: That's so...even a tramp like me, no matter what happens, I know there's a brother somewhere who'll never refuse me a bowl of soup.

Blondie: Sure.

Blondie: Well, after a meal, there's nothing like a good cigar.

(He hands him his cigar; Tuco takes it, looks at Blondie for a moment, puts it in his mouth and smiles. They ride off)

"The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly"

Words by Agenore Incrocci, Furio Scarpelli, Luciano Vincenzoni, and Sergio Leone, and Mickey Knox

Pictures by Tonino Delli Colli and Sergio Leone

"The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" is available on DVD from MGM Home Video.

* And that's not even true—they have names, nick-names—the whole "Man with No Name" idea was a marketing scheme for the original (cough!) "A Fistful of Dollars."


TParker said...

My favourite scene from my favourite movie.

It was heartbreaking when Tuco mourned for his parents. I could hear his breath quietly shuddering as he hid his face against the wall.

TParker said...

Also, I love Blondie's cigar offering. It's so bromantic.