by Rob Boylan
For those of you who've never seen it, Once Upon a Time in America can be counted as Sergio Leone's answer to The Godfather (which he was originally asked to direct, but turned down). A dark, roving longform drama that tracks a group of Jewish kids growing up in New York during the 1920s as they grow up to become mobsters, the film is notorious for being re-edited against Leone's wishes.
According to Variety, Leone's children, Andrea and Raffaella Leone, are taking the film back. They plan to restore and reintegrate 40 minutes of footage back into the film, bringing it to a running time of almost five hours. It will be the closet cut of the film to Leone's own vision of the film to be released yet.
As Leone intended the film, it would have been a two-part release, with each part being three hours long. The studio balked and took the film away from him, editing it down into shorter, chronological version that was widely panned upon its release (a release I've never seen, and never plan on). It was later edited back up to a 229 minute cut for television that restored many scenes and the non-linear chronology that most people now are familiar with.
It has to be said that whatever we find lacking in current movie productions, the recent spate of classic restorations and found films makes this an exciting time to live as a film fan. Even if we have to call it an archaeological phase of cinema and it was no doubt it was more exciting to live in the midst of these releases, it can still count as exciting, like digging up a T-Rex or finding a shipwreck is exciting.