When I was little, Ennio Morricone he dreamed of being a doctor. His father, however, did not want to hear about it: the boy would be a trumpet player, like him. It did happen, but only halfway. Because the father did not count, perhaps, with the rebellious spirit of his son. And with his ability not only to play music, but to write it. All his life Ennio Morricone followed only his own freedom. So he started with the horn, but then he moved on to composition. And, deep down, he never abandoned his first childhood aspiration: to know how many souls his melodies have cured.
The mission, Novecento, Paradise cinema. They all resonate in Ennio, the documentary that Giuseppe Tornatore had been filming for years and that has finally been released, out of competition, at the Venice festival. Too late, unfortunately: the teacher He passed away on July 6, 2020, at the age of 91. Hence, seeing him on the screen, passionately explaining his art and reproducing his creations with some “ti ti ti” or “pa pa pa”, is already moving. But, in addition, the film – which will be seen in Spanish theaters in 2022 – serves as a posthumous tribute to the best composer in the history of cinema, with the permission of John Williams. Or the best in absolute terms, above “Mozart or Beethoven”, at least according to Quentin Tarantino.
“It was the great exception to all the rules,” says his colleague Nicola Piovani in the film.. Morricone collaborated with the best directors, but he always did it his way. He innovated, risked, invented. Thus were born occurrences such as the famous “sound of the coyote” in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. When he left the cinema, Bruce Springsteen ran to buy the soundtrack, as he tells in Ennio. The teacher listened to the suggestions, but he used to trust himself much more. And from his wife, Maria, partner of a life and first filter for any of his creations.
Dozens of times Morricone threatened to leave a project if his creative independence was not respected. When Pier Paolo Pasolini offered him some musical inspiration for Little birds and little birds, he flatly refused. He did not play other people’s works: he wrote his own. “Do what you want,” the filmmaker surrendered. And to Dario Argento, who offered him several albums as examples of what he was looking for, he blurted out: “Tírelos”. Sergio Leone, who knew him from school, ended up doing just the opposite: he filmed Once upon a Time in America when he already had his friend’s soundtrack, and molded some montage cuts to his notes. It further arranged that the master’s symphonies will sound through the public address system, during filming.
“I always have the music in my head. They say I seem very quiet ”, admits Morricone before the camera. Shy, too, but firm. Even grumpy, which earned him a reputation as a difficult interviewee. Although the only thing that really mattered was his outsized talent. In the documentary, it is said that the teacher composed even without touching the notes. He was able to imagine an entire orchestra just in his head. Created the arrangements of phoning, a song that Mina performed with great success, while on her way to “pay the gas bill.”
Because, beyond the cinema, Morricone composed everything. Songs as famous as Flavor of salt; symphonic, chamber and orchestral music. The creator himself recounts in the documentary that he spent years dealing with a certain inferiority complex: classical composers, starting with their teacher, Goffredo Petrassi, saw soundtracks as a minor genre, a betrayal. Perhaps some spoke out of envy. But the truth is that the rejection of his sector weighed on the shoulders of the genius. “At first I thought it was a humiliation. Now i think music for cinema it belongs with full merit to contemporary music. And I do not regret it ”, he explains in Ennio.
The public, on the contrary, could not be more grateful. His long love affair with the screen began with the French horn, which he played in Fabiola, by Alessandro Blasetti, in 1949. With The federal, by Luciano Salce, in 1961, he signed his first soundtrack. And two years later he made his first western music, Gringoby Ricardo Blasco, although he used the pseudonym Dan Savio. Sergio Leone saw that movie, and sensed what they could do together. So what For a bunch of dollars, their first collaboration, neither of them liked. Little by little though, the legend began to be forged. The specialized web Imdb attributes 524 jobs to him, also adding television. He collaborated with Brian de Palma, Oliver Stone, Bernardo Bertolucci, Liliana Cavani, Terrence Malick, Pedro Almodóvar, Lina Wertmüller or Gillo Pontecorvo. Elio Petri warned him that he never repeated with a composer. From then on, however, Morricone put music to all his films.
While the whole world applauded him, only the Oscars turned their backs on him. Five times he was nominated, and as many times he left empty. The honorary award, in 2007, came as a kind of apology. The teacher, before the microphone, thanked his wife: “Maria loves me very much, and I love her too.” In 2016, the Hollywood Academy finished paying off its debt, with the statuette for the best soundtrack for The Hateful Eightby Tarantino. It was also a reward for persistence. The creator confesses in Ennio that each decade he considered leaving the cinema. Luckily, it never happened. “If you offer a soundtrack to 10 composers, each one will make it different, which shows its difficulty. My torment is that there are many options to get to the result ”, he adds in the film. In the end, hers was always the best.