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TO OCT. 16
Spaghetti-Western auteur Sergio Leone’s last film, a decades-spanning New York gangster epic, flopped on its initial, 1984 U.S. release, perhaps because it was drastically edited and rearranged for American audiences. This director’s cut restores the film to 238 minutes, longer even than the generally well-reviewed version released in Britain. Most important, it reinstates the tale’s complex but elegant structure, starting in 1933 with the violent dissolution of a New York gang, then flashing both back and forward to elaborate prologues and epilogues. Chronologically, the story begins in the early ’20s, with the meeting of young Jewish hustlers Noodles and Max on the Lower East Side. When not distracted by his love for his neighbor Deborah, Noodles joins Max in a series of increasingly bloody crimes. The two pals (who grow up to be Robert De Niro and James Woods) become rich and powerful, but with Prohibition about to end, the income from their rum-running and speak-easy will vanish. Max plans a big score that goes spectacularly wrong, and Noodles heads into exile. Not until the ’60s does he return to a now-squalid New York to learn what happened. Leone offers a unified-field theory of mid-20th-century America, involving liquor, opium, prostitution, union corruption, and ethnic assimilation. Yet this New York saga (shot largely in Montreal) seems the most Italian of the director’s “American” films, with Noodles and Max’s ribald but sweet coming-of-age adventures more in the spirit of Cinecittà than Hollywood. The film screens daily (see Showtimes for a complete schedule) at the American Film Institute’s Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. $8.50. (301) 495-6700. (Mark Jenkins)