La Dolce Vita: The Music of Italian Cinema

Italian Films to Remember

Photo by Chris LeeThe music of 13 Italian films spanning the 1960s to 1980s is performed by the New York Philharmonic in La Dolce Vita: The Music of Italian Cinema. Five films are by Federico Fellini, one is a shock-value exploitation film (Mondo cane), and several won Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language film. To refresh your memory of these classic films, here they are in alphabetical order with some fast facts.

Composer Nino Rota at the age of 11 in 1923

Composer Nino Rota at the age of 11 in 1923

8 1/2 (1963)

Director: Federico Fellini (1920 – 1993)
Stars: Marcello Mastroianni, Anouk Aimée, Claudia Cardinale
Score: Nino Rota (1911 – 1979)
Awards: Academy Award Best Foreign Language Film;
Academy Award for Best Costume Design, Black-and-White
Italy’s Nastro d’Argento for Best Score

Fast Fact: Composer Nino Rota wanted to create happines with his music. He said, “When I’m creating at the piano, I tend to feel happy; but – the eternal dilemma – how can we be happy amid the unhappiness of others? I’d do everything I could to give everyone a moment of happiness. That’s what’s at the heart of my music.”

Amarcord (1973)

Director: Federico Fellini
Stars: Magali Noël, Bruno Zanin, Pupella Maggio, Ciccio Ingrassia
Score: Nino Rota
Award: Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1975

Film fact: Vincent Canby of The New York Times called the comedy “extravagantly funny” and Roger Ebert praised Fellini’s “absolutely breathtaking filmmaking.”

The Anonymous Venetian (1970)

Director: Enrico Maria Salerno (1926 -1994)
Stars: Tony Musante, Florinda Bolkan, Toti Dal Mont
Score: Stelvio Cipriani (b. 1937)
Award: Italy’s Nastro d’Argento for Best Score

Film fact: More prolific as a film and stage actor, Enrico Maria Salerno did the voiceover for Clint Eastwood in the Italian version of Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy films.

Ennio Morricone at Cannes 2012. Photo by Georges Biard.

Composer Ennio Morricone at Cannes 2012. Photo by Georges Biard.

Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Director: Giuseppe Tornatore (b. 1956)
Stars: Philippe Noiret, Enzo Cannavale, Antonella Attili
Score: Andrea and Ennio Morricone
Awards: Academy Award Best Foreign Language Film; Italy’s Nastro d’Argento for Best Score

Film fact: This is the first score that Ennio Morricone wrote for director Giuseppe Tornatore and he has since scored every one of Tornatore’s films.

City of Women (1980)

Director: Frederico Fellini
Stars: Marcello Mastroianni, Anna Prucnal, Bernice Stegers
Score: Luis Bacalov

Film fact: The cartoon character Little Nemo, created by American cartoonist Winsor McCay, inspired Fellini’s creation of this dream-like film.

La Dolce Vita (1960)

Director: Frederico Fellini
Stars: Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimée
Score: Nino Rota
Award: Academy Award for Best Costume Design, Black-and-White

Film fact: The film was condemned by the Vatican, but it was not banned in Italy. It was banned in Spain until the death of Franco in 1975.

Il Postino (1994)

Director: Michael Radford
Stars: Massimo Troisi, Philippe Noiret, Maria Grazia
Score: Luis Bacalov
Award: Italy’s Nastro d’Argento for Best Score

Film fact: Massimo Troisi (1953 – 1994), the lead actor who played Mario Ruoppolo, died 12 hours after filming finished. He had a serious heart condition that stemmed from a childhood illness.

Incontro (1971)

Director: Piero Schivazappa
Stars: Massimo Ranieri, Florinda Bolkan, Claude Mann
Score: Ennio Morricone

Film fact: The film starred pop singer Massimo Ranieri (b. 1951), who became a teen idol in 1969 when he sang “O Sole Mio” on live TV in Italy.

Juliet of the Spirits (1965)

Director: Frederico Fellini
Stars: Giulietta Masina, Sandra Milo, Mario Pisu
Score: Nino Rota
Award: Golden Globe Award Best Foreign-Language Foreign Film

Film fact: This was Frederico Fellini’s first feature-length film in color.

The Leopard (1963)

Director: Luchino Visconti
Stars: Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon, Claudia Cardinale
Score: Nino Rota

Film fact: Burt Lancaster also starred in Visconti’s Conversation Piece (1974), Visconti’s penultimate film before he died in 1976.

Mondo cane (1962)

Directors: Paolo Cavara, Gualtiero Jacopetti
Stars: Rossanon Brazzi as himself; Yves Klein has himself
Score: Riz Ortolani and Nino Oliviero

Film fact: The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Music, Original Song. Monde cane inspired a new genre of documentaries — “Mondo film” — that focused on shocking subjects.

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

Director: Sergio Leone
Stars: Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Claudia Cardinale
Score: Ennio Morricone

Film fact: Portraying a villain, Henry Fonda was cast against type in this film. It was a financial flop in the United States when it was released in 1969, but today is revered as a masterpiece.

Profuma di Donna (Scent of a Woman) (1974)

Director: Dino Risi (1916 – 2008)
Stars: Vittorio Gassman, Alessandro Momo, Agostina Belli
Score: Aramando Trovajoli (1917 – 2013)

Film fact: The film was nominated for Italy’s Nastro d’Argento for Best Score. It was remade in 1992 by Martin Brest and starred Al Pacino, Chris O’Donnell, James Rebhorn, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Gabrielle Anwar.