Sunday, 26 March 2017

CrimeWaves: part 5

Title: Un uomo da rispettare (The master touch)
Year: 1972
Composer: Ennio Morricone

A heist film about a retired master thief committing one last job in London received another cleverly written score by Maestro Morricone. Quartet Records luckily reissued the old, out-of-print album in 2017 which hopefully makes some new people discover its greatness.

The score begins with its highlight cue which is almost a kind of miniature symphony of at times smooth, at times sinister atmospheres. It’s designed intelligently and forms a perfect arch. The beginning introduces icy-cold piano motif which forms the basis to the muted trumpets’ melodies. These are performed on top of a layer of whistling sounds utilized previously in Maestro’s giallo scores. Next enters Cicci Santucci’s cool-sounding flugelhorn which provides a little comfort with more laid-back tunes. However simultaneously the cue starts to slowly grow into its highpoint which is a sweeping crescendo for the whole orchestra with large brass section, and loud ‘urban’ sounding chords Maestro usually features in his scores depicting cityscapes. The rest of the cue plays the previous material in reversed order beginning with the solo flugelhorn and ending with the same cold atmosphere which opened the track but this time with cooing urban brass chords playing in the background. The reprise of the opening is a more beaten-down version of the more urban aspects of the cue but it still ends the score with a sense of brooding tension.

No matter how cold the opening piece was, the following Un tempo infinito takes things to a completely new level. It consists entirely of noise produced by hissing, rattling and beeping electronics which might work within the film but on the album are completely unlistenable. The suspense of the opening returns in Colpo parallelo which is by far the creepiest piece on the album because there is a constant feeling of unresolved tension made especially by the whistling choir and drum set fills. It’s even more admirable when you actually break down how little the cue has going on, yet how incredibly effective it is. L’incarico begins with a short burst of suspense before turning into a noir jazz club scene with a laid-back flugelhorn solo and the urban brass chords making a more subdued return.

Against the bleak tone which most of the tracks have, there is another theme which is more romantic in nature. It’s introduced in Prima di lasciarla which builds into a rather nice romantic crescendo towards the end. The melody itself doesn’t remind me of other Morricone themes but the chord progressions follow a familiar pattern. Nevertheless the sweet nostalgia the theme possesses is once again a real delight to listen to. A Florinda begins similarly to the previous cue but it ends with the bare accompanying chords. Its reprise is an introverted version for soft strings and solo piano which is just stunning with its fragility. There’s also a short piece of 70s party-music, 18 Pari with groovy keyboard and flute solos carrying the cue forward.

It’s incredible how much anxiety Maestro Morricone has been able to craft with so little. The overall mood is however rather unforgiving and at times even bone-chilling which might be difficult to handle for listeners not familiar with Maestro’s similar writing. Luckily the couple of romantic cues help to relieve the despair momentarily before returning back to the bleak cityscapes.

Rating: ****1/2

Title: Senza movente (Without apparent motive)
Year: 1971
Composer: Ennio Morricone

Senza movente is a film about a marksman murdering the elite of the city of Nice one by one. Over the years this relatively short score by Maestro Morricone has been paired up with many scores from different genres and I think the reason might be because it has its own sound that is somewhat hard to place to one specific soundtrack genre.

The main theme is reminiscent of Maestro’s secondary theme to Una lucertola con la pelle di donna from the same year. There’s a simultaneous feeling of whimsy and ambiguous threat which is created by the odd harmonies and creepy rattling percussion and electronic sounds which lurk underneath. Hence it’s very hard to figure out whether to feel discomfort or joy while listening to it, but nevertheless it’s still 100 % Morricone. No other composer could emulate his voice which shines through from the piece. The trademarks presented here include the whistling by Alessandro Alessandroni straight from Maestro’s spaghetti westerns and a solo mellophone providing a sort of call-answer -type dialogue with the whistling. Unfortunately the theme is a bit too overplayed on the album but it still gets some nice variations throughout. The best version is track 15 where the melody is first reprised with just the whistling and slowly having more and more instruments appearing into the mixture. There’s also some fun stabbing string writing and constant low piano crashes which burst from underneath in a disturbing way. Track 17 has some chilling atonal string chords.

The rest of the score consists of a series of more or less suspenseful cues. Sospensione folle continues the similar electronic noise heard in Un uoma da rispettare over sparse string chords which soon take over completely crating a typical Morriconean dark atmospheres. Il movente begins with a dramatic bell toll and stabbing strings before reprising the main theme in a subtle fashion before the groovy drumbeat changes the atmosphere into a more upbeat direction. Ricerca apparently plays over an investigation montage and has a very in-your-face attitude which becomes almost unpleasant or annoying with its building intensity. The only real action track is In pieno petto which starts with the wandering strings before switching the mood completely to nauseating swirling strings and rumbling rhythmic action writing for low pianos and bass. The reprises of these tracks offer some new variations but nothing worth to mention.

The score is a minor one by Maestro’s standards but nevertheless leaves an impression with its unmistakable style which is somewhat unique compared to his other crime flick scores. There’s a struggle with darkness and light here which creates a disturbing yet intriguing combination of constantly changing moods.

Rating: ****

1. Un uomo da rispettare (11:34) *****
2. Un tempo infinito (04:19) *
3. Prima di lasciarla (02:36) *****
4. A Florinda (03:04) ****
5. Colpo parallelo (03:46) *****
6. L’incarico (02:01) *****
7. 18 Pari (03:16) *****
8. A Florinda (02:43) *****
9. Un uomo da rispettare (02:45) *****

10. Senza motivo apparente (04:20) *****
11. Sospensione folle (02:35) ***
12. Il movente (02:28) ****
13. Ricerca (02:10) ****
14. In pieno petto (02:23) *****
15. Senza motivo apparente (2) (05:04) *****
16. Ricerca (2) (02:29) ***
17. Senza motivo apparente (3) (01:58) ****
18. Sospensione folle (2) (01:40) ***
19. Senza motivo apparente (4) (01:20) ***
20. In pieno petto (2) (01:41) *****
21. Il movente (2) (02:27) ***
22. Senza motivo apparente (5) (02:29) ****

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