Wednesday, October 13, 2004:

Leone and Morricone

Ennio Morricone -- The Man with the Harmonica
I watched The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly last night and, aside from not thinking that the Good was particularly good or that the Ugly was particularly ugly, I thought it was a good film. I liked it much more than when I last saw it, about ten years ago, but I still don't think it was better than Once Upon a Time in the West--in my opinion that entire scene around the bridge is bunk, though the rest is very good. I didn't have any crisis of belief watching Once Upon a Time in the West.

Throughout the film, there's this man with a harmonica--played by Charles Bronson--who's one of several men after this merciless killer who's after a woman who, in my first guess, will be killed before she has enough time to figure out what's going on. But things don't work out exactly as expected. I kept wondering why Bronson's chracter had the harmonica and why he was after the killer (played, oddly enough, by Henry Fonda--quite the difference from that unshakeable noble juror in 12 Angry Men). This track is part of the theme that plays throughout, culminating at the climax, when all you can do is sit back and say "holy shit." It's wicked, in the truest sense of the word; it's almost too much to believe but the music pushes it through. It wails, it screams, it moans: "it's all true, every bloody last bit of it."

The track starts with the harmonica, lone and haunting, then adds in seesawing strings and a distorted electrical guitar, and a brief orchestral section. It sounds like the opening number for the four horsemen of the apocalypse in concert; it's as brilliant and memorable a piece of film scoring as I've heard.
[] Get the re-release, with previously unreleased tracks.

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