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Gli Occhiali d’Oro
  • Composed by Ennio Morricone
  • ScreenTrax / 35m

Based on the novel by Giorgio Bassani, Gli Occhiali d’Oro (The Gold-Rimmed Spectacles for its international release) is about a gay doctor and a Jewish student facing persecution in Italy in the late 1930s (where being either gay or Jewish was not a lucky hand to be dealt). Starring Philippe Noiret and Rupert Everett, the film was very well received and won various awards.

One of its awards was a David di Donatello for Ennio Morricone’s sumptuous score, almost inconceivably the first one he won (as late as 1988). He did go on to win nine more, but still, it does seem rather odd that it took so long. This was his tenth of twelve collaborations with director Giuliano Montaldo, a collaboration that stretched from 1967 to 2007 and included some important scores like Sacco e Vanzetti and Marco Polo.

Ennio Morricone

I’ve always thought that the very beautiful main theme has more than a hint of John Barry about it, with its opening hook and gorgeous piano melody. It glistens not just with the gold of the title but also with romance, warmth and general goodness. The following piece, “Nora e Davide” is even more romantic – the melody has something in common with the classic “Addio Monti” from I Promessi Sposi and was perhaps the inspiration for it a year or two later.

Typical Morricone melancholy abounds in “Persecuzione storica” – there’s still beauty there, buckets of it, but now also sadness. The way the melody gradually swells up seems to be representing some sort of inner strength; but then there’s no mistaking the tragedy in “Tensione sentimentale” with a saxophone solo playing an offshoot of the main theme in fragments, tense strings and piano filling in the pauses.

A much sunnier interlude appears in “A cena con i ragazzi”, a piece of light music not exactly sounding of the period, but not far off. It ends on a note of tension though, a bluesy few bars of the main theme. That theme then gets a full reprise in a much smokier variation than its opening form (Morricone again showing his skill at adapting a theme to fit different moods).

The “Addio Monti”-like theme is reprised in “Nodi di nudi”, and is breathtakingly beautiful again. In “Ricordo del ghetto” there’s incredible sadness again as the score’s third theme (from “Persecuzione storica”) is reprised – the range of colours with which it’s painted is even greater this time. “Ultimo dialogo” opens with an arrangement of the main theme for strings before the warmth of the piano returns for the first time for this theme since the opening cue. The album concludes with two pieces of light jazz – “In treno” reprises the music heard earlier before there’s a different melody in a similar style in “1938 La Festa”.

Gli Occhiali d’Oro is a little-discussed, seemingly little-known but very lovely album. There was, unusually, no album release at the time – it didn’t appear on disc until 1996 and is now very hard to find (and there’s no digital release). It’s an extremely elegant score with a broad emotional range and well worth seeking out.

Rating: ****

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  1. Kalman (Reply) on Monday 17 August, 2020 at 20:00

    Thanks for the review, James – and all the other Morricone reviews too! I think the Maestro composed some of his most beautiful and best scores for little known movies such as this one, and Italian TV movies like Il cuore nel pozzo, Cefalonia, or Perlasca, just to name three of my favourites.