Archive for Ennio Morricone

More Shrouds for Turin

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on April 19, 2023 by dcairns

THE SUNDAY WOMAN is a very nifty whodunnit from Luigi Comencini — Jean-Louis Trintignant and Jackie Bisset are among the suspects and Marcello Mastroianni is the long-suffering detective. The good people at Radiance are releasing this on Blu-ray.

Asides from the mystery and the photogenic people, this has a startlingly progressive portrayal of gay domesticity — rich guy Trintignant has a secret menage with young Aldo Reggiani. Mastroianni gets flashes of different versions of the way the crime(s) went down, and also flashes of random daydreams. Ennio Morricone supplies the score and Turin looks nice.

It’s by no means a giallo in the accepted sense, it’s much too benign — rather than being furtive and hostile, everyone’s rather nice and helpful, so that Marcello finds himself swamped with leads. Though the method of homicide — bludgeoning with a dildo — is close to giallo-parody.

I didn’t get to see the new Blu-ray, which I imagine is NOT 1:1.33. Given this, it’s probably inappropriate of me to pass any judgement on the look of the film — I did feel it was a mite televisual — diffuse, saturated photography is attractive, but refusing noir-giallo-Hitchcock stylisation leaves the piece nowhere to go visually except into touristic prettiness. That’s a quibble, though, it’s a delightful film.

Cox’s Orange Pippins: Ringo Stars

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2022 by dcairns

Lots of spaghetti westerns on YouTube!

Above are A PISTOL FOR RINGO and THE RETURN OF RINGO, Duccio Tessari’s two RINGO movies with Giuliano Gemma and his five hundred Joan Crawford teeth as “Montgomery Wood” as Ringo. The Ringo Kid, of course, was John Wayne’s protag in STAGECOACH, and just as everybody and his nephew rushed to make Django knock-offs using the character name without permission, this can be seen as Italians claim-jumping a piece of established mental real estate, though nobody was likely to believe that these films had any official connection to Ford’s classic.

Tessari, one of Leone’s writing team on A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, apparently wasn’t interested here in using the hardboiled YOJIMBO model to upend Western movie morality, as the Sergios had done. His films tend to be nicer — even his gialli have sympathetic characters sometimes.

I just acquired The Pocket Essential Spaghetti Westerns by Howard Hughes (not that one), who traces Tessari’s influences to Hollywood B-pictures and serials, though mercifully his cowboys do not sing (but both these movies have a lugubrious balladeer warbling saccharine over the Morricone title themes). Leone, feeling the need to shore up his intellectual credentials with some smart references, claimed he was influenced by silent cinema and neo-realism, and that the western was fundamentally European because Homer invented it. But Tessari’s second Ringo flick (which, as is the way of these things, enjoys zero continuity with the first) really IS a Civil War version of the Odyssey, or the last section of it anyway, the homecoming. (It’s the RETURN of Ringo not in the sense of his being recognizably the same character, but in the sense that this Ringo incarnation returns home after an absence.)

I do like the jokey start of the first film — check it out.

Sniper at the Gates of Dawn

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2022 by dcairns

Sergio Sollima’s VIOLENT CITY (1970) is one hell of a thing. As with the same director’s BIG GUNDOWN, I was familiar with the score for decades, but have only just heard it in context. And what context!

The title is misleading, semi-irrelevant. It’s not about any particular city. What you need to know is, Charles Bronson IS Jeff Heston. And you will know it, because everyone calls him Jeff in every single line of dialogue, it feels like. And we also know that Telly Savalas is Al and Jill Ireland is Vanessa.

Jeff is a hitman — the kind of character who was only just becoming possible as protagonist — spaghetti western amorality spreading its web over the urban thriller — though Seijun Suzuki was there first with BRANDED TO KILL (an influence? — Leone and Morricone certainly exerted a big influence in Japan, did it return to Italy, more twitchy and psychotic?) — and I guess there’s the remarkable MURDER BY CONTRACT (“To buy one of these things you have to be a civilized country. Are you a civilized country?” “Me? I never even finished high school.”)

Anyhow, Jeff is pretty ruthless and Bronson is the right guy to play him. Sollima delivers extended setpieces of pure cinema in eye-searing colour, with or without Morricone’s slamming electric guitars. It’s as sexist as any pulp fiction potboiler — the director’s only technical weakness is his bizarre cutting of Jill Ireland’s body double scenes, as if he really really wants us to know it’s not her. Jeff H. is pretty well a rapist as well as a murderer, but Vanessa doesn’t hold that against him.

Jeff Heston, put your vest on!

The (fuzzy) political edge of REVOLVER — this thing goes all the way to the top! — is mostly absent, except a wildly misjudged scene meant to show the corruption of powerful men. The film’s geography is crazy — Jeff drives from New Orleans to Michigan by way of the Florida Keys, but this one scene finds him in a Southern version of the Playboy Club where the Bunnies are Mammies. It’s absolutely horrific, ludicrous — some kind of satire is evidently intended and it lands as grotesquerie but actual people had to wear those costumes…

This all suggests hard limits to Sollima’s political awareness, and my sense that he’s at heart somewhat superficial intensifies — but I’m more impressed than ever by his image-making, and that of cinematographer Aldo Tonti (BARABBAS, THE SAVAGE INNOCENTS, NIGHTS OF CABIRIA).