Sunday, March 12, 2006

Spaghetti Westerns

Ennio Morricone, "The Big Gundown"

Ennio Morricone, "The Ecstasy of Gold"

Ennio Morricone, "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (main title)"

Ennio Morricone, "The Theme from A Fistful of Dollars"

Ennio Morricone, "Man With a Harmonica"

During the 1960s and 1970s (1960-1975), a wave of films came out of Europe and did the Western again, but with a darkness and minimalism that the old John Wayne films would never have had the balls to do. They were ambigous movies, filled with violence and death, free of moralizing (that might be the defining aspect of all art that I love?). Because many of them were Italian productions, they became known as spaghetti westerns.

You can't talk about the spaghetti western without mentioning the triumverate that created the greatest of them all: director Sergio Leone, actor Clint Eastwood and composer Ennio Morricone. The three worked together as a unit, creating some of the greatest movies I've seen, becoming synonymous with the genre. Three of them, The Man With No Name trilogy, created this amazing world of sundrenched deserts, minimal aesthetics and steely killers. For A Few Dollars More, A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly should be required viewing for anyone who loves the gangster movies of the 30s, those paeons to the anti-hero and violence and money. Or if you like, these are the film noirs of the desert, leaving the city behind and still finding the same moral dilemmas and shadiness in the West's open spaces.

Ennio Morricone played a crucial role in all of this, creating some of the greatest music ever. These songs come off the essential Morricone compilation, A Fistful of Film Music, which covers his entire career scoring for movies. I have chosen some of my favorites, which should give a good sense of the different instruments, the eerie strings, the beautiful sounds that Morricone seemed to put together in his sleep. Go here to buy the 2-disc set used, for a lot of money. We will take a look at his music over the next few days, and I really hope people take a listen to all of it.

-The best resources for more info on the genre is A Fistful of Westerns. Also make sure to check out these two detailed pieces that trace the history and most important films in the canon.

-Next up are some of Morricone's avant garde compositions.

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