Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
Features; Ennio Morricone,Giuseppe Tornatore, Clint Eastwood, Wong Kar-wai, Quentin Tarantino, John Williams, Hans Zimmer
Documentary opuses are rarely as magnum as Guiseppe ‘Cinema Paradiso’ Tornatore’s exhaustive, and at three hours, pretty exhausting chronicle of the recently departed Italian movie music maestro’s career.
Morricone himself, interviewed at home and sporting old Italian bloke big glasses, narrates his story. The young Ennio wanted to be a doctor, but his father, a trumpeter, decided that his son would follow in his footsteps. Enrolling in an elite music school, the sole trumpet-player Morricone was initially a little self-conscious about his status among his fellow well-heeled music students. But he was confident enough to form his own art collective performing ‘traumatic music’, after an ear-opening visit from avant garde musician John Cage.
In the film’s most surprising and enjoyable passage (and one that really warrants a Spotify Playlist if any Italian pop stans are out there) the composer finds work doing the arrangements for performances from Italian pop singers on TV shows, often utilising non-musical instruments. Admirers from the Italian musical scene pop up here to praise his radical arrangements.
After writing the music for a couple of Westerns under a pseudonym, he was approached by Sergio Leone to score ‘A Fistful of Dollars’. Fascinatingly, the fluty chirruping sound on the theme was recycled from a country album Morricone made with an Italian artist, the first of many occasions when he cribbed his own work. A prolific composer, Morricone once scored an extraordinary twenty films in one year.
As the film traces his long and illustrious scoring career, a wealth of talking heads crop up to sing the maestro’s praises, from fellow esteemed composers John Williams and Hans Zimmer, to directors Wong Kar-wai and Quentin Tarantino (with whom Morricone scored his first non-lifetime achievement Oscar for ‘The Hateful Eight’) and celebrity fans Clint Eastwood and Bruce Springsteen.
Ultimately, this is a fairly orthodox, chronological treatment of a shy but stubborn genius. Nevertheless it’s genuinely illuminating and essential for anyone with even a passing interest in film scoring.
Ennio is out now.
Follow David on Twitter @DWill_Crackfilm