VENICE 2021 Out of Competition Ennio: The Maestro (2021)
by Jan Lumholdt, Cineuropa 13/09/2021
VENICE 2021: Giuseppe Tornatore’s tribute to Morricone is a gargantuan, occasionally exhausting, homage, taking in an exceptional musical journey
Ennio is a well-rounded portrait of Ennio Morricone, the most popular and prolific film composer of the 20th century, the one most loved by the international public, a two-time Oscar winner and the author of over five hundred unforgettable scores.
The first frame of Giuseppe Tornatore’s homage to the genius of Ennio Morricone, titled simply Ennio and premiering out of competition at the 78th Venice International Film Festival, shows a metronome clicking into life. This trick, seen in many a music documentary, is far from original, and neither is the denomination of “genius”. For the next 168 minutes, though, one can live with it.
Address him as “maestro”. Refrain from the expression “spaghetti western”. These were two of the (ahem) fistful of instructions conveyed to those few chosen ones given an interview appointment with Ennio Morricone. They would be received in his renaissance palace home, a stone’s throw from Piazza Venezia in the heart of Rome, surrounded by a cacophony of traffic.
In this stately oasis, he created his own cacophonies, mainly for the cinema. In the world of film, he scored soundtracks throughout seven decades, for titles such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Danger: Diabolik, A Lizard in a Woman's Skin, 1900, Days of Heaven, The Mission, Once Upon a Time in America, The Untouchables, The Hateful Eight and some 400-500 others. The very last one, Correspondence, was directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, who, after 13 Morricone-scored films, would give the maestro one more task: to receive him in his own home, filming him telling him about himself and his work. This constitutes the foundation of Ennio, a gargantuan tapestry, abundantly quilted with film and sound clips taking in a musical journey, some will claim, on a par with Bach, Mozart and Verdi, “but in his own time”, as is declared by at least one voice here.
From the music side, there’s Joan Baez, John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Bruce Springsteen, Pat Metheny and Quincy Jones. Some, like Metheny, who aside from his career as a jazz guitarist also scores films, provide interesting thoughts, while others add little more than a repetition of the “g” word. Missing, regrettably, are Burt Bacharach, whose own musical journey may be the closest of all to Morricone’s (and vice versa), as well as, more understandably, those no longer alive, not least that most iconic fellow worker Sergio Leone.
Being an Italian film about an Italian artist, many a compatriot shows up, among them pop singers like Edoardo Vianello, whose early 1960s hits like “Abbronzatissima” and “Guarda come dondolo” sported some gorgeously innovative Morricone arrangements. Throughout this occasionally exhausting multitude of eulogising heads, the maestro himself remains comfortably seated in his armchair of choice in his renaissance palace, where he calmly, with as sharp a memory as they come, revisits the exquisite minutiae of his compositions, humming, chirping and “whau-whauing” his way through an exceptional treasure trove. “I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like his music,” says Eastwood. Yup, one can live with the “g” word.
Ennio is an Italian-Belgian-Chinese-Japanese production staged by Piano B Produzioni, Potemkino, Fu Works, Terras, Gaga and Blossoms Island Pictures, with sales overseen by Block 2 Distribution.