Director Sergio Leone is best known for his westerns and unfortunately that means that most people disregard his epic gangster tale Once Upon A Time In America. Of course, the fact that his original 269-minute cut of the film has never been seen. Under pressure from distributors, Leone trimmed 40 minutes out for the film’s 1984 premier at the Cannes Film Festival. The film’s US distributor slashed the film down to a paltry 139 minutes version which was panned by critics though a home video release of the 229-minute cut has helped restore the film’s reputation somewhat.
Now, 28 years after it was originally supposed to screen, a restored 269-minute version of Once Upon A Time In America will unspool at Cannes. News of the restoration had been circulating for over a year now, and as a fan of the film it is nice to hear that a premier has finally been announced.
Leone’s film follows three friends from a Jewish ghetto rise to become powerful figures in New York City’s organized crime world. While the bastardized 139-minute version went without Academy Awards recognition, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards voted it a Best Picture runner-up in their annual poll, while both BAFTA and the Golden Globes nominated Leone’s direction.
Although there is no word yet as to what future there is in store for this new restored version, I suspect that it will see a few more festival screenings and perhaps a limited theatrical release before making its way to home video.