Ennio Morricone-Wizard with a Baton
Apart from movies, one area where i have a real passionate interest is in Background Music scores, or BGM’s. And i do love collecting movie BGM’s of all kindsThere have been couple of other favorite music composers of mine too James Horner, Jerry Goldsmith, Alan Silvestri, Elmer Bernstein, Bernard Hermann and Mikolas Rozsa to name a few.
And then there is Ennio Morricone. Ever since the opening credits of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, just blew me off , i was a dedicated fan of this maestro. There have been some outstanding Western BGM’s Elmer Bernstein’s The Magnificient Seven, Max Steiner’s score for The Searchers, John Barry’s Dances With Wolves to name a few. But it was Ennio Morricone’s score for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, that came to be defined as the ultimate Western scores. One thing i am not a music expert, just a passionate lover of music, and what i am putting here is only a very humble fan boy tribute to Ennio Morricone.
While a lot has been written about the theme score for Good, Bad and Ugly, another favorite of mine is Ecstasy of Gold from the same movie. Picture this scene, a guy searching in a graveyard for a stash of money hidden somewhere. This 10 minute scene, is for me, one of the finest movie scenes ever picturized. There were 2 geniuses here, one of course Sergio Leone, who takes a normal scene, and gives it an epic treatement, with his trademark wide angle shots, and another one is of course Ennio Morricone. I would rate Leone-Morricone as one of the greatest director-music composer combos, along with Spielberg-John Williams or Hitchcock-Bernard Hermann. If we take the BGM for this scene, Leone starts off on a slow, mournful note, with piano strumming and the low tunes from the clarinet. And then slowly, tempo increases, and it hits a high crescendo. When i saw this scene for first time, on screen, it just blew my mind.
From the Wild West to Prohibition Era Chicago in the 30′s, this time it is The Untouchables, a cops vs gangsters drama, directed by Brian De Palma. Based on the true story of Federal agent Eliot Ness, who took on Chicago’s most feared mobster Al Capone, Ennio Morricone’s music for the opening credits has a kind of heavy, foreboding, sinister tune to it. Again if one takes the starting, loud drum beat, and then a fast paced rythm, and then we have a kind of slow, shrill tune intruding in. Compared to his operatic scores for the Westerns, Morricone, here goes for a more faster, more rapid kind of music, though somewhat reminded me of John Williams for Jaws.
The setting is the Amazonian jungles, and a missionary living with the tribes. And he teaches them the power of music, using the oboe. Gabriel’s Oboe from the 1986 movie The Mission, is a score, so moving, so haunting, and so beautiful. Very soft, very melodious, it has a kind of otherwordly feeling, that just transports you somewhere. The way Morricone makes use of the Oboe, here is just brilliant. What he does here is let the Oboe take center stage, and put the other accompanients in the background. Truly divine score. Incidentally this was also used as theme music for 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. Jeremy Irons who plays Father Gabriel in The Mission, actually plays it for first time, and the hostile tribes are so taken in by it. Watch this scene here.
Cinema Paradiso, a movie that is a classic for all times to come. One of the greatest movies of all time. The story of a young Italian guy, who finds a bonding with the projectionist at the local cinema hall, and how his life later takes a turn. Intensely moving, emotional and personal, like most Italian movies, Ennio Morricone’s score for the movie, again beautifully reflects the theme of the movie. This bit of music actually comes in the climax, when the protagonist watches a montage of all the movie kisses that the projectionist Alfredo, had to cut, because the local priest thought they were indecent. One of the most moving climax you can ever see, and here again Morricone’s score, just brings you right into that mood. Trust me if you are in a romantic mood, just play this bit.
Well I think this clip also establishes, why the Italians, are considered the world’s best lovers. Some of the best smooching scenes, I have seen in my life.
It was actually quite tough to pick up Ennio Morricone’s greatest scores, for me, every score seemed so brilliant. Even for not so well known movies. And here I am only referring to his American movie scores, barring Cinema Paradiso, have not seen many of his other Italian movies.
A Few Dollars More– Haunting Whistling tune. One my cousins, loved this tune so much, he would just keep on whistling it, throughout the day.
Once Upon a Time in America– Sergio Leone’s attempt to do a Jewish version of the Godfather, starring Robert De Niro, James Woods, was a commercial failure. Morricone’s score was again beautiful, again very low key, a bit operatic.
Once Upon a Time in the West– For me one of Leone’s most underrated Western. The death scene of Thakur’s family in Sholay was inspired from this movie. Very slow, haunting, but again brilliant one.
Frantic– This Roman Polanski thriller starred Harrison Ford, as a surgeon, whose wife mysteriously disappears in Paris. The opening score during the credits is not typical Morricone one, its more modern one, somewhat faster.
Bugsy– This 1991 Gangster flick starring Warren Beaty and Annete Being, has again a very haunting, heavy score.
This is again not a very exhaustive list of Ennio Morricone scores, just picked up some of my favorites. As i told a very humble fan boy tribute to this wizard and genius.