Nino Rota's Juliet Of The Spirits
Italian composer Nino Rota (1911-1979) created scores for many famous films, perhaps most memorably his waltz that was the theme for The Godfather. Though he studied at conservatory and was acquainted with the modernist tendencies of the art music of his day (even maintaining a long friendship with Igor Stravinsky), Rota favored a much more populist sound. His music was melody-centered and harmonically straightforward, often unabashedly tonal, and he employed largely traditional approaches to rhythm and form.
Rota scored fifteen films for Federico Fellini, including 8 1/2, Roma, and La Dolce Vita, but my favorite is his score for 1965's Juliet of The Spirits. This was Fellini's first color film, and it is evident that he made the most of the technology. The New York Times describes it like this: "Fellini went deliriously and brilliantly bananas with the color to create a rollicking through-the-looking-glass series of tableaus evoking a woman's troubled psyche. These sequences are a zany, surreal jumble of Freudian, Jungian and pagan symbolism segued into a 145-minute head trip."
Rota's score provides an appropriately zany and surreal auditory counterpoint to Juliet's on-screen journey of fantastical self-discovery. The almost circus-like theme presented in the first song on the soundtrack, "Amore Per Tutti", is developed throughout the film in a series of lushly strange and beautiful, breezy orchestrations somewhat reminiscent of an Italian Esquivel on quaaludes, featuring organs, guitars, choral effects, and poppy brass and string sections. It oozes "60's" from every note, but that only adds to its charm. The score is psychedelic, but grounded by a sense that if the fancy orchestrations were stripped away, you would be left with a Italian peasant song that you'd still enjoy hearing.
This record will put me in a good mood more reliably than almost anything else. There's something about its winking, otherwordly tone that says "Everything is ok -- nothing can be wrong because nothing is real anyway, so there is no reason to be sad." If a score can be measured by how well it evokes the sentiment of the film it's tied to, then this one deserves more recognition.
Download full mp3s of the entire soundtrack for Juliet of the Spirits from this helpful blogger, flickhead.
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