I shouldn’t have been 10 years old when I sat on the couch in the living room to watch “Three Men in Conflict”. It was a session in the early hours of Globo, and I shared a bucket of popcorn with my father (a westerns enthusiast) and my grandmother (a Clint Eastwood enthusiast).
The film started, I found it amusing how the original title came about – “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, punctuating the performance of its performers. In my childhood innocence, I expected a wild Western, like the ones I checked on that same TV on many afternoons after homework.
What I didn’t know was that, almost three hours later, I would be on that sofa, gaping, still not understanding the impact of what I had seen. In fact, it would take a few more years to absorb everything. Far from shootings and horseback riding, what had unfolded before my eyes was a study of human nature, reflected in the shadow of the American civil war.
Clint Eastwood in ‘Three Men in Conflict’
The story, however, would not have a tenth of the impact if it were not for the omnipresent soundtrack, reverberating in my ears with themes that evoked a mixture of emotions, from sadness to joy, culminating in one of the determining scenes to set my passion for art to build stories with light and sounds.
In a strangely circular cemetery, the Good (Clint Eastwood), the Bad (Lee Van Cleef) and the Ugly (Eli Wallach) fight the climactic duel, in which the exchange of fire is replaced by a suffocating, more and more closed assembly in the eyes of its protagonists. The whole story, and the infinite range of emotions experienced by the characters, is narrated by the chords of a master. He was Ennio Morricone.
With almost five hundred compositions for cinema and TV in his summary, Morricone, who died in Rome last July 6 at the age of 91, irrevocably changed the way of creating music in cinema. In “For a Handful of Dollars”, his first partnership with director Sergio Leone, his childhood high school classmate, he gave up a traditional orchestral arrangement by incorporating atypical elements in the arrangements, such as guitars and harmonicas, influencing the “sound” used by other composers in the genre.
His partnership with Leone, by the way, has become one of the most celebrated in history. Like Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann, Federico Fellini and Nino Rota, Steven Spielberg and John Williams, and Tim Burton and Danny Elfman, there was a real symbiosis between director and composer, intertwined as a single storyteller.
That was Morricone’s role when he took the soundtrack to a film: to raise emotions with the precision of a surgeon and the passion of a poet. Westerns were certainly their window on the world – the “Once Upon a Time in the West” soundtrack mirrored the film’s commercial success. But he never shied away from trying other genres and other songs.
He brought the spirit of adventure to Roland Joffé’s dazzling “The Mission”. He underlined the political non-conformity of “The Battle of Algiers” and “Queimada!”, Both by Gillo Pontecorvo. It was great in Warren Beatty’s “Bugsy” and exciting in Brian De Palma’s “The Untouchables”. He made the world cry with Giuseppe Tornatore in “Cinema Paraíso”.
Incensed in Europe, Morricone was snubbed in the United States throughout much of his career. He was nominated for an Oscar five times before being awarded an honorary statuette in 2007. Finally, the master was recognized by the Academy in 2015, for his work on Quentin Tarantino’s “The Eight Oddities”.
Director Sergio Leone and composer Ennio Morricone
The industry’s laurels, however, paled in the face of a career started as a trumpeter in jazz bands in the 1940s, a career that flourished in the following decade before he and Sergio Leone changed the face of the western in the 1960s. impresses less than its constant quality in translating the range of emotions printed on celluloid into chords.
Which goes back to his absolutely brilliant and profoundly influential work in “Three Men in Conflict”. Few compositions are recognizable in mere seconds as the score for Leone’s masterpiece. “Il Triello”, which frames the climactic shooting, still affects my soul with the same intensity as when I discovered your chords.
Film music had already impacted me emotionally before, especially with “Star Wars” and “Superman, The Movie”. But I had not realized how much it was an inseparable part of the narrative until I followed the journey of three men in search of a hidden treasure of gold. Ennio Morricone had made the separation between the story on the scene and its impossible soundtrack.
At the end of that session on the couch at home, I was still trying, ashamed, to hide the tears that stubbornly wet my face. I knew that something had changed in my perception of cinema, but it would be a few more years before I processed the show I had just seen. My father noticed my reaction, smiled and, before leaving me with my thoughts, summed up that moment well: “Filmão, right?”. I just shook my head. Art, believe me, shapes character.