THE BLUE-EYED BANDIT Il bandito dagli occhi azzurri Morricone Jazz #28
This series is inspired by a controversy thread where someone posited the idea that besides THE MISSION and some Sergio Leone westerns Ennio Morricone hasn't written anything great. Rather than making my usual comment that most of Morricone's great scores are from Italy and trying to get Americans to listen to them is like getting them to see movies with subtitles, I decided to take another tact. Since I am at an age where I will only be able to make my case a finite number of times I decided to turn this into a series presenting each great score one at a time, sort of like recordman.
Of the 400 scores Morricone has done there are relatively few quotes from other composers in the main themes. But there are a couple of big exceptions. One is DAYS OF HEAVEN which after seeing the film I can understand why he broke his own rule about not scoring films with temp music. Who could walk away from that breathtaking imagery just because Terence Malick insisted on using Saint-Saëns in the film and as the basis of the score. The other is THE BLUE-EYED BANDIT that is in-your-face Dave Brubeck's Take Five. Since jazz is unstructured and film is always, even the most freewheeling ones, structured, jazz and film have always made an uneasy mix. The best jazz film composers, like Duke Ellington, Elmer Bernstein and Quincy Jones, have managed to impose a framework for that freewheeling style. The story of THE BLUE-EYED BANDIT seems an ideal situation because it involves Lorenzo, a brown-eyed meek crippled clerk in an export firm and lives with his mother who at night becomes a sexy edgy blue-eyed bandit. The meek clerk gets chamber music and at night he gets the Brubeck. It works. Long ago I put both of these scores on the shelf figuring if I wanted to hear them I would take out my Saint-Saëns' "Carnival of the Animals" or Dave Bruebeck's "Take Five" and hear the originals. Years have past and I'm a different man. I've learned all my favorites have quoted and I even have become philosophical about Horner's "borrowings" (except for a couple that are direct lifts). So I pull these two off the shelf and Lo and behold. Like for Sergio Leone, where Morricone took a Woody Guthrie song arrangement that belongs in the California of the Dust Bowl Era and moded it to fit the American-Mexican west of the previous century, he took Saint-Saëns' piece away from the zoo and the Aquarium and smack into the northern mid-west world of Americana. The Academy didn't nominate Saint-Saëns but Morricone filling in all that drama and those twilights in those DAYS OF HEAVEN. And Morricone brought more of an edge and less laid back approach to Brubeck as befitting a bandit:
He also brought in Enrico Pieranunzi, who if you don't know, has been THE jazz pianist in Italy for decades and done a few film scores himself. He has recorded almost 50 albums including many early ones with Chet Baker. He even did two volumes of music of Ennio Morricone music. What he brings to this soundtrack is magical. There is one cut "Per Dalila" that is my favorite, a jazzy literally straight up and down composition. Totally unique. And don't let me ignore Morricone's usually wonderful chamber cues "Esecuzione Radiofonica" and especially "Madre Assente". This needs an expansion. The director Alfredo Giannetti gained notoriety for being one of the writers to win an Oscar for the screenplay to DIVORCE ITALIAN STYLE. This gained him the opportunity to do a momentous TV project 4 movies portraying 100 years of Italian history with the TV debut of the great Anna Magnani, TRE DONNE and CORREVA L'ANNO DI GRAZIA 1870. Morricone scored these and was brought back for a very different type of score for BANDIT.
For me, this falls into the good and enjoyable but not great scores from Ennio Morricone. It is, perhaps, a little too close to Mr. Brubeck's Take Five for comfort. Certainly in the early days I kept thinking it should be that iconic melody and that it was being played either out of tune or off key.
More recently I've found I do enjoy the score in its own right, but with 300+ other EM scores to choose from this one doesn't get close to the top.
I wanted to bump this one, just because it's a real favourite. As well as the fantastic jazz cues, it also has one of those rondos that starts off all baroque* but transforms into a jazz set-piece. The kids love this piece and even tolerate the rest of the score, which is a triumph in my book!
* It may not be strictly baroque, but I know what I mean