BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Jan 25th, 2016 •

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BluRay review by Roy Frumkes

They say it is a parable of the rise of fascism in Italy. I can see it, particularly in retrospect. But whether you buy into that interpretation or not, this is a particularly good Spaghetti Westerns, and you can enjoy it’s virtues twice in a row, because there are two versions presented on the BluRay. The shorter, US English-language version runs 93 mins and looks immersively sharp and colorful, but truncates the protagonist’s arc, leaving the result of his adventure questionable, where as the 112 minute Italian version is grainier, less sharp, and the colors are somewhat dull, but the hero/villain’s arc is more believable. So really, you almost have to see it twice to appreciate all its virtues. I did, saving the longer version for last, and had the pleasure of appreciating all the cuts. One crucial plot point was still not convincing after viewing the longer version, but a great deal of the clever story was logical and satisfying.

Director/co-screenwriter Sergio Sollima, who died in 2015 at age 94, had a solid career in film, starting as a screenwriter for sword-and-sandal flicks (vehicles for Ed Fury, Brad Harris, and Lex Barker, but not Steve Reeves, alas) and from there, as the Italian celluloid landscape would dictate, into spaghetti westerns (RUN, MAN, RUN, THE BIG GUNDOWN, etc.), crime dramas and thrillers. Later he worked on episodic TV. The same applies to his directorial work. In this oater he exhibits a strong director’s presence, particularly in the use of many little nuances.

FACE TO FACE has an earthy realism immediately distinguishable from his peers (eg. Sergio Leone). The hapless protagonist, having migrated West for his health, falls in with a gang of bandits, the furthest from his roots he could possibly have gone considering that his background was in education. But he adapts, and as the narrative progresses, he slowly trades places with the violent Solomon Bennett (Tomas Milian), his abductor and a notorious badman of the West.

The title sequence is one of the weirdest I’ve ever seen. On the surface it appears to mimic the title design for THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY, but it’s much more surreal. At one point, the ‘death coach’ from DARBY O’GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE seems to pull up. And Morricone’s title score combines Western motifs with Argento-type orchestration. So weird! (Aren’t you curious…?) A wobble in Morricone’s music that I do not think was intentional is less pronounced in the longer, Italian version.

There are some wild scene transitions, some interesting uses of space, and some complex camera moves. Sollima’s got balls as a stylist. His visual designs are energizing (check out 35:16). What he doesn’t have is the ability to quite make his theme work – the two leads gradually trading moral convictions.

I thought FACE TO FACE was a fairly crappy title, but hey, what do I know: I thought THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY, and THE HATEFUL 8 were weak titles, too.

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