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Le Ruffian
  • Composed by Ennio Morricone
  • GDM / 60m

A French-Canadian action/adventure film, Le Ruffian (released in 1983) stars Lino Ventura as a gold prospector in northern Canada, although not all is as it seems and he ends up going off on a series of adventures with Bernard Giraudeau and Claudia Cardinale. Directed by José Giovanni, the film was dismissed as being rather silly and has been largely forgotten now.

Ennio Morricone often worked on French films through his long career – most famously on crime thrillers starring Jean-Paul Belmondo like Le Casse and Le Professionnel. It is fair to say that Le Ruffian couldn’t be much more distant from the sound of those scores – often comic in tone, it is a light score.

Ennio Morricone

There are no fewer than eight different themes. The most memorable is “Western”, which is – well, it sounds like a western. A great harmonica solo by the redoubtable Franco de Gemini is the highlight – it’s an energetic, driving piece of action music which is highly entertaining.

“Ricordo rosa” is a beautiful love theme, though it’s not quite as memorable as usual; then “Amici come pochi” is a very silly piece of comedy music, typical of Morricone’s approach to that sort of thing. “Sotto le rapide… por l’oro” is a bit different, with some suspense opening the piece before it takes a dramatic turn into quasi-religious organ music.

The harmonica is back in “L’oro come pericolo”, which maintains the suspenseful feel. De Gemini’s work is again wonderful – it’s not a hummable piece but it’s memorable, with little touches of flair from flute, banjo and guitar giving it a trademark quirky feel (again it could easily come from one of the composer’s western scores).

“Viaggio in 4” is a breezy piece of instrumental pop which is really lovely (the pick of the themes after “Western”). In “Sporco ma distinto” we are again firmly implanted in western territory, with an easy-going saloon feeling from the banjo, guitar and honky-tonk piano accompanied by comic flutes. Finally comes “Le Ruffian” itself, which features a complex set of overdubbed harmonica solos – it’s suggesting something multifaceted and deep about the main character but really it’s just great to sit back and listen to de Gemini do his thing.

Morricone’s days of scoring westerns were behind him by this point and so it’s fascinating to hear him do a quasi-western score for this film, but it’s a very minor work when compared against a lot of the real ones. The CD releases add a load of variants on the themes to pad the album out to an hour but really you only need the eight tracks to experience what the score has to offer. It’s entertaining for sure but (unusually) perhaps a bit disposable.

Rating: *** | |

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