The new extended edit of Sergio Leone’s gangster epic Once Upon A Time In America which premiered this past May at the Cannes Film Festival has been withdrawn from circulation. The Guardian is reporting that following the screening at Cannes, it was agreed upon by those involved in the restoration – the Leone estate and Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation – that the newly restored scenes could still use some work in bringing them up to the quality of the rest of the film.
Although there has been no official confirmation of this, the film was pulled at the last minute from the schedule of the Melbourne Film Festival last week. The Guardian goes on to estimate that the work could be done by the autumn, putting the film back into circulation on the festival circuit later in the winter.
This most recent re-edit of the film puts it back to Leone’s initial 269-minute vision of a story about how three friends from a Jewish ghetto rise to become powerful figures in New York City’s organized crime world. 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 with its flashback structure was reassembled into a straight linear narrative. This shortened version was panned by critics, though a home video release of the 229-minute cut has helped restore the film’s reputation somewhat.
While I can understand being disappointed by the delay, let’s just remember that until last year when the restoration was first announced, the idea of seeing the film in its original nearly four-and-a-half hour form was just a pleasant daydream. Even though seeing it is now so tantalizingly close, I don’t mind waiting just a few more months before that daydream finally becomes a reality.