Ennio director Giuseppe Tornatore on the portrait of an emblematic composer
Italian filmmaker Giuseppe Tornatore’s (“Cinema Paradiso”) documentary “Ennio” about the late music composer Ennio Morricone, features a pantheon of commentators influenced by the maestro’s scores, from Bruce Springsteen to Hans Zimmer – not to mention the music.
Morricone is a two-time Oscar winner who has composed over 500 film tracks, including a slew of Sergio Leone films, like “The Good The Bad, and The Ugly.” Morricone died when Tornatore was editing the documentary in July 2020. The 150-minute film will premiere out of competition at the Venice Film Festival on Friday.
“It didn’t change the content of the film but it changed my vision,” he told reporters during a panel discussion, speaking through a translator. “The editing of the scenes gave the impression that he was still there. That he hadn’t really left.
Some of the talking heads who would have been obvious interviews for a Morricone movie are no longer with us, including Leone. “One thing I had to do…was look for archival footage of these filmmakers who are no longer alive. I would look for pictures where they were talking about [Morricone]. Sometimes I found it. Sometimes I didn’t,” he said.
But anyone who could still open their arms to Tornatore. “Quentin Tarantino was shooting his last movie but he invited me on set, did the interview and then resumed filming,” he said.
Dario Argento and Barry Levinson were also interviewed for the film, but Tornatore said he wasn’t just interested in big names.
“I didn’t just want famous filmmakers and musicians, but also lesser-known people who had a relationship with him. I wanted to create a three-dimensional perspective, like talking to the electrician as well. It’s a sign of affection that so many people wanted to talk about him,” Tornatore said.
What the film didn’t feature was Morricone’s son, composer Andrea Morricone (“Liberty Heights”). “I wanted to focus on his work,” Tornatore said. “I intentionally decided not to talk to Andrea because I decided not to dwell on Morricone’s private life. Also, I couldn’t get the rights to the material that I would have liked to include.
“Ennio” was not made in one sequence. “It was a bit episodic. We would work on it. We would do interviews for a few days. Then we would stop and think about who we were going to interview. Only the editing was done in one fell swoop. That allowed me to make choices about who to interview next, also based on what others had said,” Tornatore added.
Tornatore said he discovered Morricone’s music as a child. “I was maybe 8 or 10 and I wanted to watch a western and I watched ‘For a Few Dollars More,'” he said. “I particularly remember the music. A few days later, I was at the beach. It was the era of jukeboxes. One of them started playing the “A Few Dollars” soundtrack. I was so impressed that film music could live without film. Since then, I have been interested in Morricone.
The composer, however, was a complex artist. He didn’t necessarily have an inferiority complex, explains Tornatore, but he was “tormented” and it didn’t resolve until the end of his life.
“It’s one of the things that explains why his music is so rich,” said Tornatore. “There was no moment where he felt calm. There was this conflict between creating the music and also trying to make it understandable for people. Finally, he understood that film music is contemporary .