Ennio Morricone: the drama, the intrigue, the magic

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We often celebrate artists and recognize their merit based only on what we know about them, sometimes ignorign what actually made them so much appreciated and respected in the past. A matter of historical memory that sometimes we miss, not always easy to recover. Because on one side we have young people who appreciate the new works, on the other side we have older fans that consider the masterpieces as greanted for everyone. So it happens to talk often with young fans who esteem directors like Hitchcock or Scorsese because they have seen Psyco and Shutter Island, but maybe they do not know anything about Taxi Driver or Vertigo.

Same with Morricone, which recently is getting more popularity for his collaboration with Quentin Tarantino (for which he recently won the Academy Award, for The Hateful Eight). Not everybody knows that the music used by Tarantino in that movie has been written by Morricone years ago, taken from the unreleased pieces created originally for John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) and Tarantino often reused some of the old Morricone classics in his previous movies (The Mercenary, Allonsanfan among others).

This article will then try to provide the answer to the question: “what made Ennio Morricone the great artists of today?”. A question that for manye can be redundant and for many others is necessary. Below you will find ten classic masterpieces that helped to generate Morricone’s myth.


The Legend of 1900

One of the most challenging soundtracks created by Morricone, for a protagonist who was a pianist, considered among the best in the world in Giuseppe Tornatore’s story. Particularly romantic throughout most of the movie. But that 15-minute sequence in the central part of the movie is another story: the arrogant Roll Morton challenges 1900 on his own ship. And well, the challenge has a winner. For those who see the images above for the first time, we warn you: you’ll remain speechless.


Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion

1970, the famous movie with Gian Maria Volontè in a dark and unscrupulous character that for long time will represent the sick part of Italian society. The soundtrack is powerful, the use of jew’s harp (often present in Morricone’s soundtracks) is ingenious, almost a lament on a mysterious and lethal pace, disturbed exactly as the character of the movie. They say that Kubrick was widely inspired by this music.


Once Upon a Time in the West

Here we open Morricone’s huge western chapter, which represented one of his main successes. Sergio Leone was the one who managed to amplify the effects of his music, up to One Upon a Time in America (which was no longer a western, and not part of this overview – otherwise Leone would have monopolized the list). The previous film, however, was one of the best of the genre: Once Upon a Time in the West has one of the most original and courageous stories of western cinema and the soundtrack is masterful, as well as extremely varied. Above you have one of Morricone’s most beloved compositions ever.


A Fistful of Dollars

Here the things to say would be so many that maybe it’s better not to say anything. With this movie and this soundtrack we see the explosion of spaghetti-western, Sergio Leone, Clint Eastwood and one of the most emblematic musical themes associated with Western cinema. All done practically only with a flute, a pistol and a stone face. Immortal.


Bianco Rosso e Verdone

Something that not everybody remembers is that Morricone was very good also in music for comedies. He helped in the making of some of the best italian comedies on the 80s, following the rise of Carlo Verdone, one of the most popular showman of those years. The one above is a nice example of Morricone’s genius: italian national anthem reworked with a funny approach. When patriotism makes you smile.


The Sicilian Clan

Back to jew’s harp, for one of those gangster movies which are famous more for the soundtrack, then for the movie itself. Here the music is just perfect: slow like guilty silence, sad like resignation and tragic like mafia. One of Morricone’s most mentioned compositions.


The Mission

The Mission was a very special soundtrack for Morricone, because of its particular cultural mix behind the movie. The soundtrack is harmonious, natural and always suggestive. It was also one of his emotional peaks, although that music requires a proper atmosphere to be appreciated in full. It doesn’t want to be the protagonist, but it plays a slight, constant attraction on the listener. Magic translated into music.


The Palermo Connection

What really enhances Morricone’s skills is thriller. More than half of his compositions were directed towards dramatic movies, revealing his ability to create pathos through motifs that often remain unforgettable. Works like Frantic or The Untouchables are out of this selection, we prefer to mention a relatively minor movie like The Palermo Connection. Which is “less masterpiece” than others, but has a dragging musical theme that multiplies the tension of images. Without that soundtrack, nobody would probably remember it.


Cinema Paradiso

One of the most harmonious works of Morricone, to celebrate the intense artistic relationship with the italian director Giuseppe Tornatore. An artist who can tell stories with a old classic style and a composer who dusts off his classical sensibility with an orchestral composition that does nothing but establish balance and touch emotional strings. Not exactly one of the soundtracks that hit you more, and yet one of the most beloved in the years. Here is where you get in contact with Morricone’s emotions.


1900

We close the overview with drama: Bernardo Bertolucci’s masterpiece, an epic story that required an atmosphere capable of catalyzing the power of history. For the central motif, Morricone wanted all the space and time possible: the song begins slowly and goes in constant crescendo, accompanying you throughout the spectrum of sensations in the movie. In four minutes of music here is everything a great story can tell, and what can actually make that story great. That’s what Morricone was for cinema.

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