Five Reasons Why Ennio Morricone Is The Man

Posted on 27/03/2011

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Of late, a certain CD has been on fairly constant rotation in my car: The Platinum Collection, a three-disc case of pure awesome, packaged in silver and oozing with awesome. A selection of some the essential pieces of music written by a man who I believe the creme-de-la-creme of composers, living or dead.

A man who, if I ever met him, I would probably try and get a sample of him (hair, urine, skin, sperm, whatever) so that I may somehow be as inexorably brilliant as he is by being in possession of his… You know… Being…

A man who has taken me to Africa, Rome, the Old West, Italy and back again, and on not one of those occasions did I ever need to pay, get on a crumby Jetstar flight or even leave the comfort of my chair. A man whose work I admire as much as – if not more than – the films they accompany. A man who I hope will never die, or at the very least will be cryogenically frozen, so that he may continue to be a genius.

An Italian man, with dark glasses, silver hair, a baton and a hell of a lot of talent…

 

Ennio Morricone

😀

 

I’m even listening to his brilliance right now (his score from Fear Over The City from the 70s)

Which is why, totally unrelated to anything and everything that has so far been discussed in class, I am now going to give you – the reader unfortunate enough to stumble across this – my…

Five Reasons Why Ennio Morricone Is The Man!

 


1. He’s Composed More Than 500 Films

Sure, Morricone is probably best known for Once Upon A Time In The West, The Good The Bad and the Ugly, The Untouchables, The Mission, Once Upon A Time In America, The Thing, Cinema Paradiso, the list goes on. Now, I’ve just named seven films there. Each one kicks ass musically. Let’s add to that another 493 (give or take… Most likely give) and then add to that the inevitable five or six films he’s probably composing as we speak, and you’ve got in excess of 500 scores for film and television. This equates to approximately six scores every year for 83 years.

That is insane, and I give not a shit what anyone says!

 

2. He is the best thing to happen to the Western since Sergio Leone, John Wayne and John Ford

One of the best shots in cinema. Ever.

Let’s look at the train station scene in Once Upon A Time In The West. The train pulls into the station and after a while, Claudia Cardinale steps off (looking hot hot HOT, by the way). Listen to the music; the kind of thing you’d find the hillbillies from Deliverance dancing to whilst they drink moonshine and watch their children copulate on the floor. Jaunty, foolish and busy. Redskins, Negros, rich people, poor people, animals and the like all pass by her as she scouts for where she needs to be, obviously lost in a sea of people. It is, undoubtedly, a sublime piece of film making. Exquisitely costumed, set-decorated, designed, shot and directed. Leonie directs one hell of a crowd scene and this is a fine example of that talent. But then something happens.

Jill looks up at a clock on the wall of the station, and all of a sudden, everything’s different. There’s a change in mood, a change in tone, and it is done not through a cut, a change in location or costume or anything Cardinale does herself, but it is done entirely musically. Something that sounds almost like a Mandolin begins to play quite percussively, and we suddenly find ourselves in something resembling an opera; something that feels utterly secular and  heart achingly beautiful – to the point where it almost overwhelms you. We cut to a long shot of Jill and suddenly, she’s alone.

Then the soprano voice enters with that now so recognizable motif that has sprung from Morricone’s brain like some sort of genius daffodil from the dirt of awesomeness!

But this is just Morricone and Leonie building up to what comes next. The camera begins to track with Jill as she walks towards the station house, where she enters and talks to some men in uniforms (their official titles are not important here, dammit!). An agreement of sorts is reached and so she exits with them out the other side of the building.  Now, the camera suddenly finds itself on a crane, and we’re now floating up towards the heavens and over the station house, a panoramic view of the town sitting just on the other side of it now revealed to us in all all it’s glory.

Morricone let’s loose, the horns and strings stand up and elate and – the first time you hear that music and see that footage together – it is hard not to be swept up and overwhelmed.

I love the spaghetti western tradition with all my heart, but it was Morricone who – I believe – made the West beautiful, balletic and truly operatic.

3. He’s One of Only Two Composers Ever to Receive a Lifetime Achievement Oscar

The other was Alex North – whose work I also absolutely love.

Morricone with his chocolate replica of an actual Oscar…

Furthermore, Clint Eastwood was the man who presented Morricone with his Oscar.

And here’s a bit of injustice for you: Morricone, like North, was nominated on several occasions for ‘Best Score’ without ever winning. Bugsy, Malena, Days of Heaven and my favourite ever The Mission, and not a single win!

Not one! And then the Academy – being the politically screwy institution that they are – whilst sitting around a table sipping their Cognac with boutique chocolates fall from their mouths as they gush over James Cameron (this is what I imagine the Academy members do) think to themselves: “Wow, we really got it wrong didn’t we…?”

And then they give him one, as if to say – like they did with North, Eli Wallach and Alfred Hitchcock before him – “Yeah, we know, we fucked up… Here’s one for being such a good sport…”

But Morricone, like most – if not all – things Italian, is awesome, and was not deterred by such a seemingly last minute, tacky gesture, and so he continues to write.

 

4. Two Words: The Mission.

The only film score for which I own not only the piano, but portions of the conductor’s score, if you have not heard Morricone’s score for The Mission, you are missing out on something unlike absolutely anything and everything you will ever hear in your life

Seriously, I cannot sing the praises of this score any more, and I haven’t even seen the fucking movie (my fear being that the images won’t complete with the music).

Sure, you could argue a score like Howard Shore’s work in The Lord of the Rings or even anything from Star Wars by John Williams is more eclectic or all-encompassing as a score, but Morricone does all that those works do in two hours.

He so seamlessly blends the secular with the tribal, Baroque music with African infused rhythms, beautiful with ugly. His orchestrations are outstanding; utilizing not only the entirety of what his instruments can do (his writing for the oboe in this film is as good as anything from the 17th century onwards) but also of what the human voice, and what a chorus can do.

Having never actually seen the film, I have no idea how Morricone’s pieces work with the images Roland Joffe created, but I know what images this hauntingly beautiful work conjure up for me, and they are at once secular, uplifting and life-affirming.

 

5. This…

 

 

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