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Ennio Morricone Tribute at Academy Museum Bridges Italy and Hollywood

Italian cinema is in the spotlight at the Academy Museum in Los Angeles where the screening series “Ennio Morricone: Essential Scores from a Movie Maestro,” programmed in partnership with Cinecittà, is currently playing to sold-out audiences.

The Oct. 6-Nov. 25 event comprises 20 titles, including Sergio Leone’s “The Good the Bad and the Ugly” in a new restored print, “Once Upon a Time in the West” (pictured) and Don Siegel’s “Two Mules for Sister Sara,” plus a selection of other works hailing both from the master composer’s native Italy and the U.S.. Among these are Brian De Palma (“The Untouchables”), Terrence Malick (“Days of Heaven”) and Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight,” for which Morricone finally won the the Oscar for best original soundtrack in 2016.

“Hateful Eight” screened at the museum’s David Geffen Theatre in the 70mm “Roadshow” version with an intermission and an overture.

Cinecittà operates Rome’s recently refurbished movie studios, but also acts as a promotional entity for the country’s film industry.

“We took an approach to the Ennio Morricone series really foregrounding the restorations of Italian films that have been completed by Cinecittà,” said K.J. Relth-Miller, the Academy Museum’s director of film programs.

But, she added, another part of Morricone’s story is his work in Hollywood that came primarily after becoming an established maestro in Italy.

In selecting from Morricone’s body of work, which comprises more than 400 film and television scores, Relth-Miller and Cinecittà tried to expand the horizons of current and new Morricone fans in the U.S. by “opening that door a bit wider” beyond Leone, De Palma and Tarantino titles, “inviting them to experience just how creative and thoughtful and wide-ranging his approach to adding character through a score to a film could be,” she said.

That meant screening Elio Petri’s Oscar-winning psychological thriller “Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion,” starring Gian Maria Volonté and Florinda Bolkan, as a double feature with Petri’s lesser-known thriller “A Quiet Place in the Country,” which stars Franco Nero and Vanessa Redgrave. Another example is Giuliano Montaldo’s political drama “Sacco and Vanzetti,” about the 1927 trial and execution of accused Italian anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, “which had an amazing run on the festival circuit at the time, but didn’t really import stateside,” Relth-Miller pointed out.

Another Morricone-scored rarity in the selection is Lina Wertmüller’s first feature “The Lizards” (1963), which followed the lives of impoverished people in Southern Italy and has not been seen in the U.S.

“This title is not a restoration but we are bringing in the DCP [with English subtitles] from Italy,” Relth-Miller said.

The event’s main series was was preceded on Oct. 1 by a gala featuring a freshly restored copy of Giuseppe Tornatore’s Oscar-winning “Cinema Paradiso,” with the director and Morricone’s two sons in tow.

“The “Cinema Paradiso” screening in L.A. was very emotional,” said Cinecittà CEO Nicola Maccanico, “because it reiterated how contemporary this film is while also showing the quality of the restoration.”

Maccanico underlined that “the promotion of classic Italian cinema, along with new auteurs, is a way for us to draw more attention to our industry at a time when there are several Italian directors who can legitimately aspire to winning an Oscar.”

Case in point is Matteo Garrone’s timely immigration drama “Io Capitano,” Italy’s current Oscar candidate, which won two prizes at the Venice Film Festival in September and is considered among the top contenders for the Academy’s best international feature film statuette.

The Cinecittà chief called the Morricone screening series, which is part of its ongoing collaboration with the Academy, “a bridge between the past and the future that is strengthened today by the fact that Italian cinema has a strong future ahead.”

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