Like any other trilogy, the Dollars trilogy shouldn’t have to be viewed chronologically if it’s worth its salt. So, after A Fistful of Dollars and then The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, finally sat down to the oft-neglected middle one. Everything active in the other two is happening here, without a doubt. The absence of women as anything but flashback-driving-force material from the narrative seems stronger than ever in this one, even while skimming through other Spaghetti Western fare such as Django. The Italians love their women (perhaps more shamelessly than ever in the 60s), but Leone created a man’s man’s world in these films, and unlike Peckinpah he didn’t even bother to objectify or exploit women to any considerable extent.
The Man With No Name takes a back seat here, noticeably more than in the first and third installments. He’s content to be the ronin, the man with no real loyalties or passions, who seems to take part in the quest for the bounty out of boredom and a desire to entertain himself rather than for any meaningful reason. Colonel Mortimer even carries some human baggage in this one, leading The Man to withdraw from the final gunfight. His passivity here is contrasted with that from A Fistful of Dollars, in that he actively staged, or at least encouraged, a war between two clans. Here, he recognizes that a fight is happening whether he participates or not.
Nearly to a greater degree than in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, the film For A Few Dollars More seems to elevate form above content and channel all of its discourse through its exaggerated style. After doing a lengthy study on a so-called “amplified” style, Leone’s becomes qualitatively different by consistently drawing attention to itself from beginning to end. An amplified style, on the other hand, breaks through the film’s standard discourse to highlight important themes, moments, and the like. Leone is creating a new grammar for the Western, one that is highly self-referential; referencing its own genre without ceasing. The sheer number of shots in any given scene, and the deliberately repetitive and loud manner of editing those shots, is designed to raise this world and all who dwell in it to something mythical. This kind of form may be the logical end of the Western genre, a kind of style that was always destined to be and one that signified the imminent death of the genre. Taken to such extremes, some kind of rebirth or reboot is now necessary to rethink this cinematic category. Leone doesn’t seem to rethink it but rather to wallow in it, to amplify it 100% of the time and thereby exaggerate it to force its inclusion into the canon. It may be that such films are, ironically, the best introduction to the genre than anything John Ford ever made.