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Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

Ennio: The Maestro (Ennio)

Director – Giuseppe Tornatore – 2021 – Italy – Cert. 15 – 156m

****

Documentary Ennio: The Maestro looks at the career of Italian film composer Ennio Morricone – out in cinemas on Friday, April 22nd

It’s difficult to know where to start with Ennio Morricone, whose career in film music covers some 70 years. Tornatore adopts the chronological approach, starting with his early life. The composer’s father was a trumpeter who pushed young Ennio to learn that same instrument, leading to entry into Rome’s Santa Cecilia Conservatory where he studied both trumpet and composition. His father had raised him with a strong work ethic – using the trumpet to feed your family – and much of his early work was as a trumpeter on movie soundtrack sessions, including Othello (Orson Welles, 1951).

His wife secured him a brief stint at TV channel RAI where she was working, but on being told that he wouldn’t be able to perform anything recorded there anywhere else, Morricone quit almost immediately. Inspired by seeing experimental composer John Cage perform live, he formed the Nuovo Consonanza Improvisation Group to experiment with what he called “traumatic sounds”. This approach would inform a number of his later soundtracks.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Three Floors (Tre Piani)

Director – Nanni Moretti – 2021 – Italy – Cert. 18 – 117m

***1/2

Various personal crises beset three families occupying the separate floors of a three storeyapartment block – out in cinemas on Friday, March 18th

This drama is based around the lives of three families, the occupants of three floors of a three storey residential block in Rome. On the ground floor is a couple with a young daughter, on the first is a woman whose husband is frequently away on business, on the top are are married couple who are also judges.

In the course of its narrative it runs through in greater or lesser detail the subjects of birth, drink-driving, dementia, child sex abuse, seduction, jealousy, financial fraud, and flight from the law. It divides neatly into three sections, each five years apart, by means of two ‘Five Years Later’ titles. Most of the story’s surprises occur in the first section, with the two later sections providing time for the consequences of these events to be explored in the long run.

It adapts a novel that was originally set in Tel Aviv, here moving the action to Rome.

Frames from “Tre Piani” . Director Nanni Moretti DOP Michele D’Attanasio

It is (to say the least) a challenging film to review – or for that matter to sell – without ruining it in advance for audiences, containing, as it does, a number of major plot twists which completely redefine what happens afterwards, one of them occurring in the opening minutes.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Gladiator (2000)

Director – Ridley Scott – 2000 – US – 15 – 155m

*****

UK Release 12th May 2000.

Initiated by screenwriter David Franzoni (Amistad, Steven Spielberg, 1997) at DreamWorks, this picked up definitive cinematic stylist Ridley Scott, who created the seminal futuristic cityscape of Blade Runner (1982). Elsewhere, Scott’s downside is that his visuals notoriously swamp character and plot. Thelma & Louise (1991), his best film in the interim eighteen odd years, sidestepped precisely this pitfall. Gladiator, however, is more like Blade Runner. The plot is fine as far as it goes – which is far enough to deliver a halfway decent, engaging dramatic potboiler – but far more importantly it gives Scott the perfect peg upon which to hang another superlative cityscape. In short, Ridley Scott does ancient Rome.

Set-up, plot resolution, characters and even the leading man’s look are borrowed wholesale from The Fall Of The Roman Empire (Anthony Mann, 1964). Russell Crowe (looking remarkably like the original’s Stephen Boyd) plays Roman general Maximus, unhappy that the late Caesar Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) has been succeeded by his unsatisfactory son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). Treachery is afoot as Maximus is sold into slavery as a gladiator to compete in Commodus’ lavish games at Rome’s amphitheatre.… Read the rest