Ennio review: An exhaustive documentary from director Giuseppe Tornatore

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The revolutionary movie composer, who died in 2020 at the age of 91, is rarely off screen in this exhaustive documentary from Cinema Paradiso director Giuseppe Tornatore. Morricone relates using his nocturnal trumpetplaying to help fund daytime studies in composition at a respected musical conservatory. But, after graduating, he horrified his mentors by turning to popular culture.

A long stint writing tunes for Italian crooners led to work composing movie soundtracks. This was regarded as musical prostitution by his classically trained peers. But the maestro would turn the often anonymous job of writing melodies to accompany moving pictures into an art form.

For movie buffs, the most fascinating sections explore his work on Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns. There is fascinating analysis of my own favourite, his theme to The Mission, along with stirring footage of a live concert.

Interviewees describe the prolific composer as quiet and reserved but he boils with resentment as he remembers his hard work on the film being snubbed at 1987 Oscars.

This 168-minute documentary can also feel like a chore. Tornatore assumes his audience has a working knowledge of the Italian pop scene of the 1960s.

Morricone composed at least 500 movie scores and there are discoveries to be made in sections about obscure Italian films which failed to reach international audiences.

But some of the editing decisions feel wilfully quirky. As much screentime is devoted to 1969 erotic thriller Love Circle as the operatic finale to 1966’s The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.

Morricone, it seems, could remember composing every note right up to the end of his life. Musical historians will be relieved that Tornatore was around to capture him in full flow.

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