The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema/VOD] - ENNIO | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema/VOD] - ENNIO

ennio review
Composer Ennio Morricone looks back at his career.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Giuseppe Tornatore

Featuring: Ennio Morricone, Giuseppe Tornatore, Quentin Tarantino, Clint Eastwood, Bruce Springsteen, Hans Zimmer, Dario Argento, Bernardo Bertolucci, Oliver Stone, Quincy Jones

ennio poster

If a Mount Rushmore should ever be created for film score composers, Ennio Morricone's face would no doubt be chiselled into the granite. In terms of working between Europe and Hollywood, in the fields of arthouse and grindhouse, no other composer has left a legacy with such a broad range, not to mention his musical contributions to wider pop culture.

It's with the latter that Giuseppe Tornatore begins his look at the discography of Morricone in what is perhaps the most insightful portion of his doc on the composer, who passed away in 2020. Movie buffs will know Morricone's film work inside out, but outside Italy, his work in the field of pop music has garnered little attention. In the 1950s Morricone transformed the sound of Italian pop music by employing the sort of experimental arrangements and unconventional instrumentation that would see the likes of Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney lauded the following decade. Much of what we consider the sound of the '60s can be traced back to Morricone's work in pop music a decade earlier.

ennio review

The composer is somewhat dismissive of this period of his career, though he's largely self-effacing throughout, a perfectionist who suggests he never quite reached the heights he pushed himself towards. Movie and music fans would disagree of course, and the first of those cinematic heights came with his collaboration with Sergio Leone, an old school friend of Morricone's. Discussing working with Leone, Morricone is forthright regarding the amount of cross-pollination that occurs in the field of soundtrack composition. It's now common for composers to find themselves being asked by directors to replicate a temp track a scene has been cut to, but this wasn't the norm in the early '60s. Morricone tells how Leone had cut a key scene in A Fistful of Dollars to a piece of Dimitri Tiomkin's score for Rio Bravo and tasked Morricone with essentially coming up with a piece of music as close to Tiomkin's as possible without bordering on theft.

The composer is also honest about rehashing his own scores, with some of his movie work even seeing him draw on his earlier pop tunes. His self-effacement goes so far as to admit he felt The Mission would have played perfectly without any music, despite it becoming one of his most lauded scores.

ennio review

Ennio runs close to three hours, but with over 400 scores to his credit, it was never going to be a comprehensive overview of his work. Fans of Morricone will no doubt scratch their heads at some of the movies that fail to get so much as a mention, such as his score for John Carpenter's The Thing, which stands out in his CV by resembling a Carpenter score more than a Morricone score, or his distinctive donkey braying score for Don Siegel's Two Mules for Sister Sara. Tornatore betrays a not so subtle bias towards "prestige" cinema, with lots of time devoted to Morricone's work in lauded arthouse and award-winning fare, but aside from his collaborations with Leone, practically no time is devoted to Morricone's work in genre cinema.

This is quite baffling, as in the early '70s Morricone was as key a figure in the giallo and poliziotteschi movements as any director. When we think of black gloved killers and crazy car chases through the streets of Italian cities, it's Morricone's music that accompanies such images. It's an omission akin to a John Williams doc that fails to mention Jaws. There's something ironic about Tornatore's apparent snobbery in this regard, as the doc heavily posits Morricone as a working class hero pitted against the elites of the Italian music world.

ennio review

While such omissions are unforgivable, Tornatore does at least explore the films he's deemed worthy of inclusion in an interesting and educational manner. Morricone delivers some fascinating anecdotes, like how a filmmaker tried to steal a score he was composing for another director, and how his father, a trumpet player, lost his musical talent, prompting Morricone to forego adding that instrument in his work until his father's passing.

Along with a host of talking heads from the movie and music worlds of both Europe and the US, Tornatore adds some cinematic flourishes, skillfully editing footage of Morricone conducting an invisible orchestra in his apartment with clips of his many live performances in prestigious global venues. Viewers with a limited knowledge of Morricone's work will likely end up with a notepad filled with movie titles, but more familiar fans may find Tornatore's film insightful while also frustrating in its film snob biases.

 is in UK/ROI cinemas and VOD from April 22nd.

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