Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Ennio Morricone - Giù la testa

Composer: Ennio Morricone
Title: Giù la testa (Duck, You Sucker!) [OST]
Year: 1971
Italian director Sergio Leone, known for his Spaghetti Westerns, including the iconic The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, directed only six films between 1964 and his death in 1989 and each of those is beautifully scored by the peerless Ennio Morricone, a former schoolmate of Leone's whose rise to success was defined by their collaboration.  To say Morricone's music is essential to Leone's films would be an understatement; indeed they define the films as much as the breathtaking cinematography, the gritty violence or the stories they tell.  In fact, their approach to the music was one that is very unique in film history: in some cases the music would be written before the films and Leone would play the music for the actors on set to inform the mood he was striving for.

Though the Dollars Trilogy, Once Upon a Time in the West and Once Upon a Time in America, get the bulk of the attention among their collaborations, Giu la testa (or Duck, You Sucker!) is a remarkable and epic film with an equally masterful score, mostly overlooked by history.  Starring James Coburn and Rod Steiger, the film is considered a Zapata Western, a variation on the Spaghetti Western that typically focuses on a Mexican revolutionary partnering with a money-hungry Caucasian.  The score here ranges from grand and emotional orchestral pieces to light-hearted small-ensemble pieces that highlight the happy-go-lucky sentiment into which the film briefly wanders.  As always, Morricone leverages his imaginative sense of instrumentation, at some points employing what seems to be essentially a man burping as a percussive accent.   There is a particular feeling of nostalgia in this work as a whole, which both fits the film and the then quite mature partnership between Leone and Morricone.

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