A hell of a lot of people have something to say about Ennio Morricone. Dozens of heads express themselves in Giuseppe Tornatore’s documentary “The Maestro” about the man who changed the sound of cinema forever with the call of a coyote and the harmonica. Pop singers with dyed hair, wobbly fellow students from the conservatory, exhilarated jazz guitarists, weighty directors.

You don’t have to know them all and often don’t even manage to catch the name that is briefly displayed with the many tidbits of expression. Sometimes a head like that just says: “He’s a genius!”

He kept wanting to stop making music for the film

That doesn’t sound like a loving, relationship-rich film biography with which one happily spends two and a half hours of one’s life – and would do it again at any time. But Tornatore achieves something magical in his homage: these talking heads, film quotes and parallel montages create music, a polyphonic and incredibly touching one at that.

The director of Cinema Paradiso gives something back here. Morricone had written the music for the then inexperienced young director’s declaration of love for cinema. Now he returns the favor with a sonorous arc of life that culminates in a powerful vocal symphony.

To the movie

Ennio Morricone – Der Maestro (Ennius) Italy 2021. Director: Giuseppe Tornatore. Starring: Clint Eastwood, Quentin Tarantino, Oliver Stone, Hans Zimmer, Bruce Springsteen. 150 minutes

It begins with the click of a metronome. Morricone begins his workday in his sprawling Roman apartment, surrounded by layers of sheet music and CDs. A little gymnastics, then it goes to work quickly, the pencil whizzes across the music paper. Again and again he promised his wife Maria to stop making film music, sometimes it was 20 complete soundtracks a year.

1980 is the end, 1990, 2000. Most recently, on his 90th birthday, Morricone announced that from now on he would only compose for the concert hall, he only had to finish a few things beforehand. At 91 he fell in his apartment, which was his sound archive and workbench, and died a few days later.The daily mirror app The latest news, background information and analyzes straight to your smartphone. Plus the digital newspaper. Download here for free.

To be able to interview Morricone was a dubious luck. The maestro basically only spoke Italian, although he had long friendships with Hollywood stars such as Clint Eastwood and he worked with many directors who did not speak his native language.

When he wasn’t in complete control, Morricone felt uncomfortable, seemed infinitely distant behind his heavily framed glasses, and lectured on acoustic proportionality so abstractly that little remained after the translation.

Feed the family with the trumpet, even if your lips are about to burst

Giuseppe Tornatore not only manages to get Morricone to talk. The shy grand master of emotions that are precise to the second appears to him to be largely unprotected, even vulnerable. His childhood was tough, his father, a trumpeter, demanded that his son do the same as he did: feed the family, even if his lips burst.

At the Conservatory, the poor trumpeter (“He lived on bread, Palestrina and Monteverdi”) was an outsider in Goffredo Petrassi’s composition class, whose recognition Morricone craved. For Petrassi, everything beyond absolute art music was prostitution. And he hit a notch that still hurts even the world-famous, shamefully late Oscar-winning film composers.

“I know you’ll make it up to me,” Petrassi is said to have once said to his gifted student. And you can witness how Morricone’s life story grew from this seed. Without naming names, he arranges hits and gives them something unmistakable through the use of concrete music: a clattering of tin cans, a kitchen glove banging in the dishwater.

Small barbs in pop monotony become his trademark. He smuggles in time shifts and counterpoints into light music, which have an effect unnoticed. Morricone takes part in the Darmstadt Summer Courses, sees performances by John Cage and founds an avant-garde ensemble with which he records improvised soundtracks.

Late revenge on the western genre

The reunion with a school friend turns out to be fateful: Ennio Morricone has a deep partnership with Sergio Leone, from which the musician has to emancipate himself with great effort. Everyone knows the music for “Play me the song of death”, which is why Morricone insists that only five percent of his compositions are Western. He will later call his music to Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight his revenge on the genre.Obituary for the film composer Ennio Morricone Once upon a time in Rome Ennio Morricone’s last concert in Berlin seconds for eternity Over to Trastevere Visiting the most Roman of all parts of the city

He is striving for something bigger, he is looking for a system in which there is no longer any separation into U and E. Something that takes away the pain of just being a poor trumpeter hired to set the mood for a bit. In Giuseppe Tornatore’s wonderful film symphony, to the oratorio sound of “The Mission”, a life that has struggled with scruples and shame and found catharsis in music is rounded off.

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