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GIAN MARIA VOLONTÉ AND TOMAS MILIAN GOING 'FACE TO FACE'

Title: FACE TO FACE Year: 1967 Rating: ****1/2

In what's Italian director Sergio Sollima's equivalent to Sergio Leone's THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY also features three representational, symbolic characters with various backgrounds sharing the same agenda from different perspectives ending up in a suspenseful showdown... 

Starting with a Boston university professor in Gian Maria Volontè's Brad Fletcher, moved to Texas for health issues and eventually winding up part of post-Civil War history instead of merely teaching it ("though all men must die in time, other men will make history live") — primarily since local villain Tomas Milian as Solomon 'Beauregard' Bennet, with his heart more into protecting a group of mobile peasants (including gorgeous Jolanda Modio and cute tomboy Carole André), is reluctant to maintain his criminal scoundrel status...

Gian Maria Volontè and Tomas Milian in FACE TO FACE

And it's undercover detective William Berger as Siringo — deliberately happening-upon the outlaw and professor after an exciting stagecoach/kidnapping escape from bullying lawmen — who gives Bennet the initial idea to reform his old gang, originally known as Bennet's Raiders: which leads to a central robbery sequence where the East Coast intellectual attempts instructing the Southern banditos into a more logical than volatile heist (economically filmed within a single HIGH NOON style main street)... wherein all tables turn, for everyone...

Yet the best sequences are in that rudimentary setup, when the teacher first learns of gun-play and the rugged outdoor lifestyle compared to his previously comfortable yet melancholy, darkly-secluded college life the film opens with — while Milian has his own terrific early moments as the cagey outlaw who's equally slowburn, desperate and aggressive...

Gian Maria Volontè and Tomas Milian in FACE TO FACE

However, the primary character-development relies almost solely on Gian Maria Volontè's switch from good to evil, and is what FACE TO FACE centers on beyond the misleading titular notion of both characters constantly squaring off (like, say, Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach)... in actuality, both get along (and work together) for most of the picture...

In what could have been more of a sprawling Leone-style epic to cover such a tremendous personal shift (from educated teacher to student villain to woman-beater to full-blown villainy): all splendidly orchestrated by a rousing Ennio Morricone, igniting the usual animated title-card opening credits leading into Spain-as-the-American Wild West of semi-dilapidated, lived-in one-horse-towns and purgatory desert wastelands...

Gian Maria Volontè and Tomas Milian in FACE TO FACE

Ironically, after the first act, director Sollima keeps his potentially explosive Cuban actor/collaborator Milian (followed by THE BIG GUNDOWN and RUN MAN RUN) on the sidelines  — a kind of passively impartial observer within a fable about another man's tempestuous shortcuts, acquiring quick power (slightly rushed because of the sparse 90-minute runtime) from someone else's (i.e. his own previous) work...

And since we never literally witness Milian's original outlaw reign, or are provided a full explanation for having slowed down in the first place, it's all in his ongoing pursed-lip scowl and screaming silence that provides equal power to co-star Volonte's intensely dramatic diatribes.

Gian Maria Volontè in FACE TO FACE
Tomas Milian in FACE TO FACE
Tomas Milian in FACE TO FACE
Tomas Milian in FACE TO FACE
Carole André in FACE TO FACE
Carole André in FACE TO FACE with Tomas Milian
Gian Maria Volontè and Jolanda Modio in FACE TO FACE
Tomas Milian in FACE TO FACE
Tomas Milian in FACE TO FACE
Carole André in FACE TO FACE
Carole André in FACE TO FACE
Gian Maria Volontè and Tomas Milian in FACE TO FACE
Tomas Milian in FACE TO FACE
Gian Maria Volontè and Tomas Milian in FACE TO FACE
Gian Maria Volontè and Tomas Milian in FACE TO FACE
Tomas Milian in FACE TO FACE
Tomas Milian in FACE TO FACE
Jolanda Modio in FACE TO FACE
Carole André in FACE TO FACE with Tomas Milian
Gian Maria Volontè and Jolanda Modio in FACE TO FACE
Gian Maria Volontè in FACE TO FACE
Jolanda Modio in FACE TO FACE
Jolanda Modio in FACE TO FACE
Gian Maria Volontè in FACE TO FACE
Gian Maria Volontè in FACE TO FACE
Gian Maria Volontè in FACE TO FACE
Gian Maria Volontè in FACE TO FACE
Gian Maria Volontè in FACE TO FACE
Opening Credits from FACE TO FACE
Opening Credits from FACE TO FACE
Opening Credits from FACE TO FACE
Opening Credits from FACE TO FACE
Gian Maria Volontè in FACE TO FACE
Cutest Uncredited Actress in FACE TO FACE
Antonella Della Porta as Elizabeth in FACE TO FACE
Gian Maria Volontè in FACE TO FACE

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