Ennio Morricone‘s career assessed, and the 6th Fringe Film Festival,
plus Awakening and The Package.
INDEX: 20 LISTINGS: WEEK ONE 26 WEEK TWO 27
A fistful of quavers
Sought after by film-makers in Europe and Hollywood, Ennio Morricone is undoubtedly one of the siver screen’s foremost composers. With the release of a new video compiling the Italian’s work over the past decades. Trevor Johnston traces the progress of the man they all call Maestro.
Perhaps this dates me, but I remember that the gun-toting play of my childhood, whether it involved cowboys and Injuns or some militaristic fantasy somewhat closer to home, tended to be punctuated by splashes of Ennio Morricone at fairly regular intervals. At the time (Belfast, the early 705), the pre-pubescent brandishing of imaginary machine guns seemed an activity not inappropriate to our surroundings, but why it had to be accompanied by the eagerly-ululated theme tune of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly remains a topic of some debate. Were our girly peers impersonating nurses to the strains of Max Steiner? I think not.
I suppose it was the combination of insistent whistling. nagging harmonica and men with deep voices shouting at each other that gradually wormed its way into the seven year-old subconscious‘The fact that none of us was grown up enough to have actually seen the movie is indicative ofthe way Morricone‘s music has often been able to stand up even when detached from the images it was created to accompany. From the early 60$ onwards, when his work on Sergio
Morricone’s scores cover a huge diversity oi musical styles and emotional temperatures. The following live soundtracks, excerpts irom which are included on the ‘Music For the Eyes' video and/orthe'Film Music 1966-1987’ compilation album, provide some indication oi his achievement. Here they are in alphabetical order.
I CASUALTIES OF WAR Ennio‘s second collaboration with director
actually watching one of the movies concerned.
' Brian De Palma ioilowlng The Untouchables, is one at his most evocative and imposing oi recent years
with characteristic pan pipes, choral voices and strings powering along an epic vision oi inhumanity.
I CINEMA PAHADISD Giuseppe Tornatore's Oscar-winning elegy to the movie-going days oi his boyhood would barely have carried the punch it did without the sentimental (but not syrupy) Morricone strings.
Leone’s A Fistful Of Dollars brought both men to 5 international attention, by his own estimation he's worked on well over three hundred movies, and his scores have often provided the most memorable moments of many a humdrum Euro-potboiler.
Speaking ofwhich, I haven’t yet had the privilege ofsitting through Giuliano Montaldo‘s latest effort Time To Kill (Nicholas Cage, Africa, woman trouble, etc) , but I can tell you it's just one of the tracks on a new one-hour video collection called La Musica Negli Occhi. Translated as Music For The Eyes, the central idea is to match excerpts from Ennio‘s most successful pieces with re-edited material from their originating movies. Like some lengthy pop promo, the aim is to provide a none-too-taxing visual context for the music. but as the string of elliptical narrative vignettes (the climactic railway bridge carnage from Casualties of War, the film show on the gable wall from Cinema Paradiso) progresses, the attention is never truly engrossed in the way it would be ifyou were
To be bathed in the full textural wondrousness
ofthe scores. you could always turn the telly round I suppose. or (better still) get your hands
I A FISTFUL 0F DYNAMITE We actually preier the alternative title Duck You Suckerl, but the music to Sergio Leone’s 1971 story at the Mexican revolution, which combines jazzy brushes and ultra-kitsch female vocals, remains on at the maestro's
I THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY Although Hugo Montenegro took it into the singles chart, the truly bizarre
theme tune to Leone's outré Clint l
on the indispensable double album Film Music
; 1966—1987. Here Morricone‘s revolutionary
methods, replacing the functional orchestral
soundtracks previously the movie norm with all ' manner ofjew’s harps. pan pipes and enigmatic
wordless warbling, is most readily appreciated,
and you'll be amazed how his quasi-absurd
kitchen sink arrangements like My Name Is Nobody generate an unexpected emotional
frisson. Little wonder that the Maestro was the . subject ofan arresting tribute from John Zorn.
New Music‘s little jackdaw, on his extraordinary The Big Gundown album.
Still, if you really want to be knocked out by Morricone. try to see either Once Upon A Time in The West in a moviehouse (though at a pinch we’ll accept Once Upon A Time In America), where the stylistic singularity of the music (characters are given own individual themes on harmonica or pan pipes) works as a counterpointing commentary on the action while lending it an emphasis that‘s always attentive in its ﬂexibility. The film composer‘s art knows few
moments ofgreatcr accomplishment.
La M usica Negli ()cchi is released 1h rough Virgin Music Video at [9. 99. Film Music 1966—1987 is
. stillavailable on Virgin Records.
collaboration remains Morricone’s both best-known piece and one oi the enduring legacies of the whole Spaghetti Western cycle.
I THE MISSION Apart irom Sergio Leone, Morricone appears to have iound the closest partnership with director Roland Jolie, and the tension between ethnic pan pipes and Western religious music is the perfect aural encapsulation oi the lilm’s thematic concerns.
The List 1- I-Hune 199017