The Last Spaghetti Western-Documentary

The Last Spaghetti Western-Documentary
by Sherif Awad
The Spaghetti Western subgenre contained this group of
western films made in Italy and Spain during the mid-1960s cashing great box
office sales worldwide. Sergio Leone contributed to the most famous and
immortal ones like The Dollars Trilogy starring Clint Eastwood and One
Upon a Time in the West
starring Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson and Claudia
Cardinale.
One documentary director from Bulgaria is still
influenced by the genre and decided to travel to the small town where they used
to shoot these movies around half a century ago. His name is Tonislav Hristov
and he made his first feature-length documentary Family Fortune in 2009.
It was followed by The Rules of Single Life, Soul Food Stories
and Love and Engineering. The latter was shown in Tribeca Film Festival
last year.

And so Hristov travelled to the Andalusian town of Tabernas to
shot his documentary Once Upon a Dream: A Journey To The Last Spaghetti
Western
where he met many normal townspeople living there but still
captivated by the magic of Westerns that used to be shot in their desert and
landscapes. Tabernas is located in the southern desert of Spain, a place that
used to be for decades the shooting place of not only Spaghetti Western but
also received the cast and crew of successful Hollywood productions, which went
around the world to become part of cinema history. To name a few: King of
Kings
, Cleopatra, Lawrence of Arabia, and Indiana Jones
and the Last Crusade
. Elizabeth Taylor, Harrison Ford, Claudia Cardinale,
Sean Connery, Steven Spielberg and hundreds of other famous names in the film
industry, all of them were already there and have left their mark. The
residents of the town live for generations in an almost unreal backdrop, caught
in a twilight zone between theatre, film and life. They all live somehow from
working in theatre and film. Some of them play as extras and in smaller roles,
some play in the shows, in which tourists can see the great moments of cinema
alive (something like Disneyland and Universal Studios in the US), others have
their jobs and their daily lives built around the functioning of this system
around. Life in this town itself is like a never-ending film. But as time has
passed by and the economical crisis took over, the village lost all its glamour,
the citizens their jobs. Pubs and local businesses had to close; grown-up men
in the best working age resigned and lost their jobs possibilities. There is
hardly any decent paid work, only few tourists get lost in the town, no future
prospects are in sight. All of a sudden, a rumor flies that a new big film
production starring Claudia Cardinale is coming into town. For few people a new
light of hope shows up, a new chance to escape the rough reality of their daily
lives. Some of the workers in the town’s western film museum start to dream of
joining the backstage of the production as electricians or carpenters. Another
middle-age man, who happens to be a lookalike of Jack Palance, dreams of making
a stunt scene in front of Cardinale. In fact, he still believes that she is
that young and beautiful young woman that seduced Henry Fonda and Charles
Bronson in Leone’s One Upon a Time in the West back in 1968. Pepe Novo,
another actor and stuntman, has a more sinister story. He believes that he is
son of Henry Fonda who had a one-night-stand affair with his mum during the
shooting of Leone’s film. And so, till now, he still sports the same outfit
worn by Fonda in the classic spaghetti western: a cowboy dressed in black from
top to bottom and big dark sideburns. If I remember correctly, it was Fonda’s
sole villainous role in his renowned career.
The Last Spaghetti Western is a very funny yet
poignant film about how cinema can influence Ordinary People to the extreme by making
them living in twilight zone between reality and fiction. It also shows how the
image of great stars like Eastwood, Bronson, Fonda and Cardinale can challenge
time only to be eternally beautiful as a long as the film plays on again and
again. 

Sherif M. Awad
Sherif M. Awad
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