For a Few Dollars More (1965)
Posted: March 7th, 2008, 12:24 am
Sergio Leone's much forgotten masterpiece plays tomorrow night on TCM. Two bounty hunters after the same prey, join forces to catch a drug crazed bandit--but do they ever really trust each other? For a Few Dollars More, the second film of the "Dollars" trilogy, is possibly Leone's most complete and deepest work. While clearly in the western genre, echoes of film noir such as flashback and betrayal permeate its styling. The result is an incredible film that has unfortunately been sandwiched between two more popular, but simplistic movies.
Manco (Eastwood) is a young bounty hunter who stumbles onto the trail of Indio, a notorious criminal (Gian Maria Volontè). Standing in his way is Col. Douglas Mortimer (Lee van Cleef) who wants the bandito for his own reasons, which also tie in to Indio's flashbacks, and a mysterious chiming watch that becomes a foreshadowing of death.
There are so many great scenes here; Manco playing cards for a man's life in the opening sequence, Indio's sermon in a ruined church to his gang about a bank job (the parable of the carpenter), quick cuts between Mortimer's eyes and a wanted poster of Indio accompanied by gunfire sound effects, and more. Acting is well done with a minimum of dialogue. Eastwood and his costars are many times not given credit for their skills, with lavish praise going instead to Leone's close-ups and framing. Although masterfully directed, it's the players abilities to convey the unspeakable that give this film its depth, and in some contexts, For a Few Dollars More plays almost like something from the silent genre. Scoring was in the hands of legendary composer Ennio Morricone whose work is always stellar, but in this particular film it's his music that helps us to understand the plot and brings the story to it's climax.
The title of the movie might seem to cash in on the notoriety of its predecessor (A Fist Full of Dollars ), but actually is a play on words dealing with value—material and spiritual. Manco values money and judges men by the price on their heads. Mortimer once believed in Manco’s ideals, but no longer (“One day something happened that made life very precious to me.”) and has become a driven man. Indio, haunted by visions and dreams, is his polar twin with a timepiece binding them together. That the film refuses to define which is the better cause, is perhaps for the best. As Mortimer replies to Manco: “The question isn’t indiscreet, but the answer might be.”