Sunday, April 04, 2021

Watch the Most Intense Shoot of a Musical Performance You’ll Ever See: Ennio Morricone Conducting the Theme of Once Upon a Time in America (Live in Rome, 2004)

Re-Posted by Nicholas Stix

Once Upon a Time in America (1984) is one of those deeply flawed but entertaining pictures a former second unit director drunk on America named Sergio Leone made. Leone put every nickel he had into financing the production, and nothwithstanding one of Robert de Niro’s most brilliant performances in his prime, a sterling cast, and a strong screenplay, it proved one of the biggest bombs of all time.

The picture marries the mix of brutality and sentimentality peculiar to Leone and his kindred spirit, Morricone. It tells of Lower East Side Jewish gangsters, based on the supposedly autobiographical novel by Kiev-born mobster Herschel Goldberg (pen name, “Harry Grey”) The Hoods. At the time, the brutality was off-putting; today, it would be routine. (Grey/Goldberg’s novel is currently sold under the title of the picture.)

One signature touch of Leone’s: The obsession with rape, and its various motivations and consequences. It may issue out of revenge for infidelity, or result in orgasm for the victim.

The cast included James Woods as de Niro’s untrue best friend, Jennifer Connelly as the young girl they both loved, and Tuesday Weld as Woods’ moll later on.

The picture was up for two Golden Globes—Best Director and Original Score, and won BAFTAs for Morricone and for Best Costume Design, for Gabriella Pescucci, as well as being nominated for Best Cinematography (Tonino Delli Colli), Leone, and Tuesday Weld for Best Supporting Actress. However, it was not up for any Oscars, despite it being released in a lousy year within a lousy decade. (Exceptions were Milos Forman’s Amadeus and David Lean’s last hurrah, A Passage to India.

It was made during a renaissance of nostalgia regarding Lower Manhattan, as numerous period pieces--The Godfather, Part II in 1974, Milos Forman’s Ragtime, in 1981, and this picture--produced exquisite recreations of Little Italy and the Lower East Side.

Once Upon a Time in Americashould have been up for Oscars for Best Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Screen Adaptation, Art Direction/Set Decoration, costumes, Cinematography , Editing and Dramatic Score.


Ennio Morricone – “Once Upon a Time in America” (Live in Rome)

This performance of a mournful theme was beautifully shot. How many cameramen did they have? Rarely have I seen a musical performance shot with such intensity. The quality of the shoot reflects the respect, nay, reverence, that the director and cameramen had for the maestro, may he rest in peace.



1 comment:

jeigheff said...

There are some more live performances on Youtube of the music of Ennio Morricone.

"The Ecstasy of Gold" and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" by the Danish National symphony Orchestra, along with "Abolisson" (from Burn/Quiemada), are some of my favorites. The videos I've seen so far weren't performed outdoors like this one was, but the performances are still worth seeing.