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CD: Uomini E Uomini No / Men Or Not Men (1980)

Review Rating:   Very Good
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November 13, 2007

Tracks / Album Length:

12 tracks / (45:04)


Composer: Ennio Morricone

Special Notes:

8 page colour booklet
Comments :    

This brief but memorable score by Ennio Morricone deals with the WWII Italian Resistance movement against the Nazis, and while built around one theme split between a formal march and a slow, cautious rendition for full orchestra, there's enough variation among the twelve cues to lessen the level of repetition.

The lengthy opening cut, “Fucilazione” (6:32), contains both orchestral and march versions, and serves as a mini-concert of the score's dramatic highpoints, and touches upon the harshness of wartime life for civilians, the brutality of the military via the march, and the persistence of resistance fighters.

Not unlike Bill Conti's stellar wartime score for The Formula (1980), the sweeping orchestral intro similarly sets up a bleak world full of tragedy and ruin, and introduces the film's primary theme which, when set against some of Morricone's other wartime scores – such as A Time of Destiny – is less rhapsodic, and his unadorned melody – brief, economical, and quite direct – establishes a world under military duress.

The quirky march which Morricone returns to throughout the score is structured around interrupted beats that invoke a skulking resistance movement dodging omnipresent danger, and the short melody runs a weirdly circuitous path, treading step-like in whole notes and trills before veering to a different octave, and repeating the formula again, mimicking a live target running zig-zag patterns to avoid getting struck by enemy fire.

“Il Capitano Enne” emphasizes plucked bass, and uses a similarly complex texture of rhythms and intersecting phrases as Morricone's Untouchables theme: here's it's slowly paced and less urgent than the CD's opening cue, and features an eerily unsettling mix of steady ostinato, singular woodwinds dueling melodic and cascading parts, and discrete muted trumpet and harpsichord at the stereo peripherals.

A chamber version for flute, strings, and piano offers a wholly different mood, and features some fine examples of flawless orchestrations that fuse separately performed segments of the main theme: you have the flute playing the first bars, after which solo violin glides over the same note and continues forward, then recedes for soprano sax, then flute, and violin – essentially carrying on with the step-like construction as the melody and cue's dramatic structure forges into more emotionally varied terrain.

The only qualms with this score are the brevity of many cues – some quickly fade out or end abruptly – and the regular flipping between march and melody, and little else. The lack of diverse variation and additional themes could simply be due to a deliberate design meant to evoke the two main opposing factions within the film's drama, and the tragic chamber & orchestral versions used to support the romantic segments.

Only the longer cues – “Amara Repressione” (6:58) and the titular “Uomini E No” (5:32) offer a better selection of additive elements, where Morricone shifts tempi, adjusts rhythmic intensities, and adds menacing shading from gliding strings and harsh piano hits, much like the variations of his Untouchables theme.

The cues have been mastered from decent source tapes, and while lacking the dynamic range and warm analogue qualities of some of the label's prior Morricone scores, it's still a cleanly mastered CD, with concise notes on a one of many Italian productions scored by the composer that never received broad international distribution.

This excellent CD was released alongside DigitMovies' second Morricone album, Milano Odia” la polizia non puo' sparare / Almost Human (1974).


© 2007 Mark R. Hasan

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