Last Saturday was Ennio Morricone‘s birthday,I wrote this post to pay tribute to one of the most versatile and prolific film composers of all time.
Ennio Morricone is mostly associated with famous Italian directors like Sergio Leone and Giuseppe Tornatore,when you talk about their most successful films like The Good,The Bad and The Ugly,Once Upon a Time in the West and Cinema Paradiso,it’s impossible to not instantly recall the soprano played when Tuco runs around the cemetery or the camera pulls up to give a full shot of the Western town in Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns,or the nostalgic score played when Toto watches the lost kissing scenes alone in Tornatore’s Oscar-winning film.
Ennio Morricone has composed over 500 scores for films in all kinds of genres,so there is a great possibility that you may have missed some of his brilliant but less-known ones,if you have been moved or excited by his film scores,you may find this list useful for you to discover more of this master’s works.
The Battle of Algiers (1966)
Considered as one of the most influential political films in recent history and one of the best war pictuires ever made,Gillo Pontecorvo’s tour de force about the independence war of Algeria is one of the most popular titles in both the Criterion Collection and its director top 10 lists.You would easily mistake it as a documentary if not listen to the subtle score by Morricone,it provides clues that the director’s political standpoint is neutral because the sad music played in the bomb scenes of both sides.
Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970)
Another classic political film which won the Oscar Best Foreign Language film that year.I heard of this film from the Oscar ceremony when they honored Morricone the life-time achievement award,and this is one of his five nominated scores.Years later I saw the film,and I was floored by Elio Petri’s modern masterpiece,it’s sharp as a razor and Morricone’s score enhanced the tension and suspense.My biggest discovery in the Carlotta DVD is a short video shot in Morricone’s home with him talking about the creative process of the score,invaluable stuff.
Duck, You Sucker(A Fistful of Dynamite) (1971)
Ok,it’s another political film from another Italian director,but unfortunately this film was hugely ignored in Leone’s filmography,for me,it is a classic that matches the quality of his other famous works.Ennio Morricone’s score in those flashback scenes is superb,a piece that worth repeated listening.
Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971)
The most well-known score in all Dario Argento films would always be the Goblin scores in Suspiria or Deep Red,but Morricone’s collaborations with the Italian horror master are also notable,especially the score of Four Flies on Grey Velvet,an unique horror film score mixed with high pitch notes and soft melodies.
Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)
Surprise! Ennio Morricone is the composer of one of the most notorious films in cinema history,for those who have watched the film,you might have forgotten there is any score in the film,let me remind you,can you remember the extremely beautiful score that played during the opening credits? I could never imagine this score is for this film,because it covers up the following plot so well.It is indeed a film with beauty and ugliness mixed in one.
Before winning the Oscar Best Director for The Last Emperor,Bernardo Bertolucci already made a marvelous epic in his homeland,and who could be better than Ennio Morricone to score an Italian epic film? It is not one of the best from Morricone,and his score in this film is overshadowed by the mise-en-scene and performances,but for anyone who hasn’t seen the film,I would still highly recommend it.
Days of Heaven (1978)
Most people heard of this film for its gorgeous cinematography that could be studied in textbooks,or as the early visual treat from the great Terrence Mallick,few people even know it’s a Morricone composed film,the score is quite successful and it even got a nomination for Oscar Best Original Score.If you paid all your attentions on the gorgeous imagery when you first watched it,you should probably watch it again for its melancholic score.
The Mission (1986)
The score of The Mission,as the magnum opus of Ennio Morricone,is even more famous the Cannes winning film itself,and it’s considered by the experts in the field as one of the most influential film scores of all time.Morricone added almost all the music elements he ever knew to the score,made it even ten times grander than scores in 1900 and Once Upon a Time in the West,especially the epic chorus at the end,which would excite everyone who has listened to it.Morricone himself also regards it as one of his best,so in the Morricone music concerts I have seen on the DVD or attended personally,he always saved this score to the very end.
Bugsy is a 1991 American crime-drama film which tells the story of mobster Bugsy Siegel,it won 2 Oscars and got another 7 nominations including Best Original Score,it received some criticism for its inaccurate portrait of Siegel,but other than that,it’s a great film to watch.
If there is anything in this version that is better than the original Kubrick version,it’s Morricone’s amazing score,it won’t work in the original version for the black-humor tone Kubrick set for the film(that film didn’t need it anyway),but works perfectly well in Lyne’s version because it suits his style of shooting the film.The ending with the monologue of Humbert and Morricone’s beautiful score is sublime.
It’s Your Turn
Which film score of Ennio Morricone is your favorite and which score would you add to this list?