Reading the Meaning of a Scene (“The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”)

Prior to writing this blog I saw the last 45 minutes of “The Good, Bad and The Ugly” and I feel it helped me understand the scene and the motivations of the characters better. The scene before this scene was very touching and explained how and where Joe/the Good (Clint Eastwood) acquired his poncho. Personally, I loved the contrast in costume, from the long coat he was wearing previously to the poncho, because it made the dueling scene stronger.

Filmed in 1966, but set during the Civil War, this part of the film features three mysterious men, Joe/the Good (Clint Eastwood), the Bad (Joe Van Cleet) and Tuco/the Ugly (Eli Wallach). They’ve arrived at an arid and deserted graveyard to settle an obvious dilemma. Suspense hangs heavy in the air, as they gravitate to three different points of a large triangle as if pulled slowly by an invisible rope and the camera takes an extreme wide shot.

Joe walks to his spot first, with a slight swagger. Silently placing a craggy white rock on the ground in front of him, his hand lingers over it briefly, in a close-up, then he stands and throws the end of the poncho over his shoulder with a swish. The garment and the accompanying soundtrack transform him into a glamorous bullfighter in the ring. But instead of a bull, he’s examining his opponents-the Bad and the Ugly.

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Extreme close-ups of the characters’ guns, holsters and faces are the only preambles to the final action. They quickly draw, aim and Joe shoots the Bad. Lying on his side, his body flails awkwardly, and his face in close-up looks determined and confused as he grabs his gun and tries to shoot Joe before Joe kills him and he falls wounded into an open grave. A wide shot is used to capture this. Meanwhile, in a medium wide shot, Tuco fumbles with his gun and tries to aim and shoot Joe, but there are no bullets in the gun, so he fails and appears frustrated.

Emotionally they’re operating from various degrees of stress and anxiety but show it differently on their faces and bodies. Joe seems cool and calm, yet bristling with a need to overpower the Bad and the Ugly. Tuco is afraid and nervous to the point of desperation. The Bad appears to be as cool as Joe, but he displays a devilish serpentine quality, through the constant licking of his lips. If these three characters were animals I’d say Joe is an eagle, Tuco is a rabbit and the Bad is a snake.

Initially, when the camera establishes the scene with an extreme wide shot and places the characters within the scene, it feels tense. The size of the men compared to their surroundings is unsettling. Ranging from medium wide shots to close-ups the camera effectively contrasts the dueling body language between Tuco and the Bad causing the tension to ebb and flow as they size each other up before moving to their places in the duel.

The extreme close-ups of the eyes, faces, and hands of the three right before the duel, provides the most thrilling part of the scene. The viewer knows something’s going to happen but they don’t know what. Finally, after the gunfight, when the camera moves back into an extreme wide shot, it feels like there was a resolution that brings the viewer back to the beginning of the scene.

Digital Fashion Sourcebook

Victorian Mourning Dress

Mourning one’s dead, during the Victorian era, was a serious undertaking especially for women. One of the most famous widows, Queen Victoria, was so bereft after her husband Prince Albert died in 1861, she wore black “widow’s weeds” until her own death. Mourning dress was primarily black, and worn to isolate the mourner from the public during a time of sorrow.

Mourning Dress, ca. 1894-95 British, silk, formerly owned by Queen Victoria

Divided into two successive stages- “first”and “second”-the fabric utilized had to have a matte, non-reflective surface. The first photo from 1880, is French, created from “medium silk” and from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Department. A dark palette, with somber details were replicated with dramatic appeal in Thom Browne’s Fall 2015 Ready-to-Wear collection. The photo of the off-the-shoulder dress, next to the French Mourning Dress, is long, nipped in at the waist, and has tight fitting sleeves. This garment has the same austere fit as the classic 1880’s Mourning Dress, but the off-the-shoulder collar and shorter hem length gives it a contemporary edge.

Edwardian Shirtwaist Blouse

From 1890 to 1900 a societal and economic shift occurred, whereby women joined the working world and they needed something to wear. At times called a “bodice” and at others a “blouse” the Edwardian shirtwaist solved this problem.

Designed as a simple button-down it reflected the straight lines of the Neo-classical movement, and with the fanciful “silk and lace trimmings” the curvy, naturalistic signature of art nouveau. For Spring 2016, Zimmerman’s Master and Mischief Ready-to-Wear collection recalled the blouse with romantic high-necked collars and ruffles.

In photos one through three the classic shirtwaist can be seen, then in photo four it’s shown as a more updated, contemporary garment that’s just as lovely. By maintaining the traditional features, of the blouse, using beautiful, nostalgic textiles and redefining its original purpose, Zimmerman has updated without losing any integrity.

Harem Pants

French fashion designer, Paul Poiret, was determined to do two things in 1911-free women from their corsets and design an exotic, comfortable garment. Taking his passion for “Orientalism” into consideration he designed the juke-culotte (harem pants) thereby introducing Western women to a new way of dressing.

Fitted at the waist, full and voluminous at the leg, and tight at the ankle, they allowed the wearer the freedom of movement. In 2014 Maison Martin Margiela’s Artisanal Line for the Spring/Summer season introduced a collection that included wide-legged pants in the mode of Poiret’s harem pants.

While each creation features a fitted waist and spacious leg section, Margiela eliminated the ankle tightness and let the fabric flow into a natural long hem length. Margiela’s striped pants, in photo three, also deviate why having roomy side pockets. The light fabric and easy flow of the silhouette do ultimately connect the two designs and reflect Poiret’s vision and inspiration.

Ivy Style

Ralph Lauren’s Fall 2018 Ready-to-Wear collection embraced the “Ivy Style” of the 1920s then added plenty of contemporary twists. A red parka added over the otherwise traditional pairing of stripes, knits and heritage print trousers brings the look, in photo two, up to the present.

Initially the “Ivy Style” was a type of casual dress adopted by college students in the 1920s in reaction to their parents’ more formalized wardrobes. A precursor to sportswear, it’s come to personify the American look.