After watching THE EXORCIST
, Hunter and I (but not Lisa) watched A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS again. Now there is a thoroughly fine movie. Streamlined story. Simple motivations. Not a lot of talk. ("Mister, why are you doing this for us?" "Because I knew someone like you once, and there was no one to help.")
But what makes it a classic? Especially in spite of the Italians playing Mexicans, and the bad dubbing?
The music. The music is fantas
tic. Ennio Morricone's score elevates what would otherwise be an exploitation picture into a classic of cinema.
Spielberg once said, "I can make people cry. John Williams can make them weep."
There's a tendency to shortchange postproduction in low budget movies. Soundtracks get shorted in particular. The money just runs out. But ironically, sound is more important than picture. Proof? Try watching TV with a bit of snow in the picture. So long as the sound is okay, you can watch. The moment the sound gets scratchy, it's painful to watch.
Picture tells the story. Sound goes straight to the heart. (To grossly oversimplify.)
Make sure they don't short your soundtrack budget. The soundtrack makes the dramatic scenes score, and makes the jokes funnier. It makes or breaks the movie. A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS cost $200,000, which wasn't a lot for a movie even in 1964. But a decent chunk of that must have gone to the score.
Just ask Sergio Leone. He knew.
Labels: watching movies
Funny. I just listened to an interview with the director of Kick-Ass. He asked the composer to come up with something like Morricone's music from Fistful of Dollars. The composer told him that people have been trying to copy Morricone's music for 50 years without any luck. So they just used Morricone's music.
I had similar thoughts on rewatching Star Wars yesterday. The sound absolutely makes that movie. Not just the excellent score, but the whole sound design from lightsaber hums to TIE fighter screeches.
If you haven't seen MY NAME IS NOBODY, I highly recommend it ... in addition to being an interesting role for Henry Fonda, Morricone does the music and it's wonderful ...
Well, I think there's no underestimating the value of Morricone's score (in Fistful, and anywhere else - the man is a true genius), but I do think Fistful deserves some more credit than that. The movie reinvented the way popular audiences saw the West. Prior to that, it was all white and black hats, Fistful introduced a moral ambiguity to things. It was less good guys and bad guys as bad guys and less bad guys. Also, the West had always been a backdrop prior, where Fistful put it front and center, and made the harsh terrain an intrinsic dramatic element of the movie, even if subtly. And despite nearly every Western since taking it's cues from it, I still think it's aged amazingly well, it's simple, stonefaced grit still resonates.
If you're into Morricone and Spaghetti Westerns, you should check out my Spaghetti Western Concept Rap album, called "Showdown at the BK Corral." It's basically a Spaghetti Western over 9 tracks - very influenced by Leone and Morricone. I'd love to hear what you think of it! You can download it for free at sunsetparkriders.com
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