Sunday, May 08, 2011

A Brief Visit with Ennio Morricone


Cinema Paradiso

Thanks to 4Tango4.

Cinema Paradiso: Closing Theme

Thanks to parapuroxochi.

I was reminded of Cinema Paradiso by one of my readers, Sonny Robinson, whose three favorite movie and TV composers are Ennio Morricone, the late Basil Poledouris (try this for a listen!), and Angelo Badalamenti.

I had seen Cinema Paradiso once when it was new, and recalled it only as a shamelessly sentimental picture about how the love of movies suffuses the lives of a little boy who works in the local movie theater, and his village, a picture with a lushly romantic score. However, I did not recall who the composer was.

(Towards the end of the “Closing Theme,” one of the violinists looks about to be overcome with emotion! Is he hamming it up for the camera, or does Morricone really have such an effect on him?)

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Thanks to flutooth.

I of course knew Morricone as the composer on Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, whose theme became a gold record in its own right, as a single. (As I am not a fan of the Catatonic School of Acting, I’ve never been moved by Clint Eastwood’s early pictures.) I also knew him as the composer on The Untouchables, whose theme was as driving and staccato as Cinema Paradiso’s was lush.

The Untouchables: Opening Theme

Thanks to oldmoviemusic.

Well, I’d clearly forgotten that The Untouchables’ closing theme was as lush and romantic as its opening theme was driving and staccato, just how sentimental a picture it ultimately was, and how integral Morricone was to its excellence.

The Untouchables: Closing Theme (Spoiler Alert!)

(I couldn’t find a version of the closing theme to the picture without visual spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the pictures, you’d best switch screens after hitting “play.”)

Thanks to CappyNJ.

I also knew Morricone’s equally lush, romantic theme to the also shamelessly sentimental gangster epic, Once Upon a Time in America, by, of all people, Leone. I saw this last picture only once, in West Germany circa 1985, but its epic scope, Morricone’s memorable score, and DeNiro’s last monster lead performance as a Lower East Side Jewish gangster have seared it in my memory.

Once Upon a Time in America: Three Passages

Thanks to ScarfaceTheBoss.

Once Upon a Time in America: II

Thanks to Caligula0602.

Once Upon a Time in America: III

Thanks again to Caligula0602.

Leone: How that Italian loved America! Yet another tough guy with a heart of mush!

As for Morricone, who at 82 is still working away at his art, his is such a rich and diverse oeuvre that it will be some time before I will be able to render an informed judgment on it. However, it is equally clear from my brief visit with him tonight that that damned sentimental fool masquerading as a tough guy is one of the silver screen’s greatest composers.

By the way: In case you’re wondering—and I’m sure you are—after Morricone had been nominated (only) five times as a composer without ever winning a golden statuette, the Motion Picture Academy awarded him an honorary Oscar four years ago.

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