Spaghetti Westerns

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Once upon a time, Hollywood was king of the Western and the idea of anybody over in Europe making a movie about the American Southwest as successful as something like High Noon was laughable. Italian-produced films about the west, or Spaghetti Westerns, were largely low budget knock-offs where fading Hollywood stars went to die after their careers had peaked. But the work of Sergio Leone changed that viewpoint. His “The Man With No Name” trilogy wasn’t just a worldwide financial success upon release, the films have gone on to be seen as some of the greatest Westerns produced anywhere, throughout the history of film. And the final installment of that series, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, has especially become an important part of the fabric of pop culture. More than any other Western I can think of, it’s stood the test of time and achieved a level of awareness that rivals any other classic film in any other genre. Often it’s referred to as not just the definitive Spaghetti Western and Leone’s masterpiece, but as the definitive Western, period. That’s all fine and good, because I think The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is largely a great film; but I think he actually improved two years later when he made Once Upon a Time in the West, my pick for the greatest Western of all time.

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There’s no way to write this without pointing out how tangential it is to the world of film. On the other hand, it strikes the movie world right in the heart of a classic genre. So take your pick. Either way, it’s good music. Acclaimed producer Danger Mouse has teamed up with Italian composer Daniele Luppi to create “Rome,” an album that’s inspired by the scores of Spaghetti Westerns. Normally, a theme or influence for an album wouldn’t be movie news, but in this case, Danger Mouse and Luppi brought together many of the original musicians who recorded the scores for Ennio Morricone and Alessandro Alessandroni – including the iconic Cantori Moderni (which is perhaps best remembered for The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly). Jack White and Norah Jones lend their competing vocal styles to the project, and NPR has a first listen that’s just about good enough to blow a few minds. It absolutely captures the spirit of the genre, and there’s a good chance it will act as a surge of nostalgia for times when quiet strangers shot clean through the nooses of men dangling from trees. Both Morricone and Alessandroni are still alive (and in their 80s), but it doesn’t seem like either were available to whistle for the project. None the less, it’s some great music that would have made a hell of a film score.

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