In honor of the late great composer Ennio Morricone, who died Monday at age 91, today’s blog is about the magic of “Cinema Paradiso,” and how Morricone’s music contributed to that magic.
I should preface this discussion with the fact that we movie people are hopeless romantics, and if you haven’t seen “Cinema Paradiso,” or you’ve seen it but didn’t like it, this blog probably isn’t for you. Now I don’t speak for everyone, but for the most part, we are nostalgic, emotional, sentimental, and melodramatic. We escape to the movies and find solace in the love stories and sweeping cinematography and scores with the power to transport you.
This was the essence of Ennio Morricone’s music. His scores were romantic above all else – sometimes tender and passionate, other times adventurous and exciting – but always dreamy, always whimsical.
Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in “Cinema Paradiso,” where the nostalgia is so powerful it feels like a punch in the gut (in a good way). The film follows a man as he recalls his childhood and how he fell in love with the movies. As a boy, he would sneak off to the village theater against his mother’s wishes, always pestering the old projectionist, Alfredo, with whom he forms an intimate bond. Alfredo becomes like a father figure to the young Toto, teaching him everything he knows about cinema.
Many of the films screened at the ‘Cinema Paradiso’ are from Golden Age Hollywood, such as “La Terra Trema,” “Stagecoach,” and “Shepherd of the Hills.” Not only is there a deep appreciation for these films themselves, but also for the cinematic experience. The act of moviegoing, sharing a moment with friends and family, escaping life for an hour or two, are all themes embedded into the film.
But how to capture this feeling? A spectacular score, courtesy of Ennio Morricone, and at times, his son Andrea Morricone. The main theme, “Cinema Paradiso” is beautifully bittersweet, and immediately evokes a feeling of longing for the past. Other titles such as “Childhood and Manhood” and “Love Theme” mark Toto’s journey through adolescence as he falls in love for the first time and is faced with the world outside of the cinema.
Marked by effusive wind and string instruments that highlight the melodic motifs, the “Cinema Paradiso” score alone is enough to make me weep. If this all sounds a bit corny and cliché, that’s probably because it is. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
With “Cinema Paradiso,” director Giuseppe Tornatore wanted to immortalize ‘movie magic,’ and remind audiences of what a rich experience going to the theater can be: you will laugh, cry, get angry. Thanks to Morricone, he succeeded. The score is theatrical and poignant, oozing romance and nostalgia, without overwhelming the stunning visuals and beautiful story. So, rest in peace Maestro Morricone, and grazie.