Life is Beautiful
Composed, Arranged, and Produced by:
Orchestra Dell'Academica Musicale Italiana
LABEL & RELEASE DATE
Regular U.S. release.
Winner of an Academy Award and nominated for a Grammy Award.
Buy it... if you appreciate the lightweight and carefree attitude
of Italy's fairly standard romantic comedy sound and want to introduce
a Nicola Piovani entry into your American-centered collection.
Avoid it... if you expect the score to meet the hype generated by
its Oscar win, for while it's easy to appreciate and enjoy in parts,
it's more likely to underwhelm you with its restrained depth,
stereotypical rhythms, and marginalized drama.
Life is Beautiful (La Vita e Bella)
Piovani) In the process of becoming the most nominated foreign language
film in the history of the Oscars (at the time), Life is Beautiful
popular Italian comedian Roberto Benigni to international mainstream
cinema. The concept of the film would be bizarre to the point of being
offensive if not for Benigni's keen ability to actually make it work.
After a first half of the film in which the director/writer/actor
cleverly woos a woman using his lovable wit and charm, their family is
sent to concentration camps in the final days of World War II. To shield
his young son, Benigni creates a fantasy world in which the boy can
consider the concentration camp to be a vacation and a game being played
by adults. The concept seems horrific, and in an effectively tragic way,
the film uses this awkward premise to a tear jerking conclusion, but
ironically its weaker half is the standard romantic comedy at the start.
The score for Life is Beautiful
presented the challenge of both
matching the upbeat enthusiasm of Benigni's infectious humor while also
being suitable for the film's second half. Composer Nicola Piovani was
up to the task, producing a score rich with Mediterranean sensibilities
that managed to extend its appeal beyond the usual Southern European
market for the plethora of similar music for Italian cinema. Piovani had
already been active in that industry for two decades, writing music that
was sometimes mistakenly assumed to be that of Ennio Morricone (under a
pseudonym). Until Life is Beautiful
, however, he was little known
in America, and there was speculation after the score won the Oscar for
1998 that he could launch a successful international career. That win,
however, sat about as well with film music collectors and some industry
insiders as Luis Bacalov's Oscar for Il Postino
in 1995. Both
small-scale, arthouse Italian scores beat far superior competition in
their respective years, most notably stealing gold statues from James
Horner and John Williams. Not surprisingly, significant resentment
towards Piovani and Benigni lingers, especially for enthusiasts of
Saving Private Ryan
While international flavor is a wonderful aspect of the
world of film music, Life is Beautiful
is indeed only an average
score that rode the success of Benigni to its accolades. Piovani does
admirably achieve that convincing balance of humor and tragedy so deeply
required by the film's character. Two themes highlight the score's
obviously disparate identities. The first is a longing theme of
extraordinarily slow tempo in the opening cue, "Good Morning Princess."
This theme receives the fullest treatment from the somewhat sparse
orchestral ensemble, though the diminished size and honest pacing gives
the theme a genuine heart. A mandolin and accordion offer Italian
accents to already lovely woodwind and trumpet solos that carry the
theme repeatedly. The second theme follows in "Life is Beautiful" and
is, quite remarkably, a perfect reflection of Benigni's whimsically
flighty comedy acting. An attractive light rhythm of almost tango
origins merges light band elements with a catchy theme once again for
woodwinds and trumpet (along with a fluttering mandolin for flavor).
Subsequent cues mostly rotate between these themes, and both "Fabulous
Night" and the concluding "We Won" cues are outstanding summaries of
both ideas. A few notable cues along the way include the pompous waltz
of "Grand Hotel Valse," the pre-War jazzy "Grand Hotel Fox," the gypsy
rhythms of "Ethiopian Dance," and the tense variants of the bubbly
secondary theme in "Train in the Darkness" and "Running in the Night,"
the score's only true suspense cues. A source opera track in
"Barcarolle" is a distracting deviation from Piovani's work. Overall,
the score is much like the film in that the dramatic side is more
commendable stylistically, but the charming comedy side is more
enjoyable for repeat listens. Both parts of the score, however, are
lightweights compared to the standard Hollywood affair, which is often
the case in the mass of understated romantic comedy scores from Italy.
If fans were to open up and give a chance to one of the Italian
Oscar-winning scores of the 1990's, Bacalov's Il Postino
better place to start. While both efforts are repetitive and could
easily bore mainstream soundtrack listeners, Il Postino
more beautiful highlights and is better packaged for mass consumption
with its mix of poetry readings with the music. *** @Amazon.com: CD or
tim - January 30, 2009, at 5:23 a.m.
1 comment (1681 views)|
Patricia Quintero - November 28, 2006, at 2:57 p.m.
1 comment (2293 views)|
Janelle Silva - July 21, 2006, at 5:13 p.m.
1 comment (2369 views)|
Total Time: 41:17
1. Buon Giorno Principessa (Good Morning Princess) (3:29) |
2. La Vita e Bella (Life is Beautiful) (2:46)
3. Viva Giosue (Hurrah for Giosue) (1:19)
4. Grand Hotel Valse (1:57)
5. La Notte di Favola (Fabulous Night) (2:32)
6. La Notte di Fuga (Running in the Night) (3:49)
7. Le Uova Nel Capello (Eggs in the Hat) (1:07)
8. Grand Hotel Fox (1:55)
9. Il Treno Nel Buio (Train in the Darkness) (2:19)
10. Arriva il Carro Armato (The Tank is Coming) (1:04)
11. Valse Larmoyante (2:03)
12. L'Uovo di Struzzo - Danza Etiope (Ostrich Egg - Ethiopian Dance) (1:53)
13. Krautentang (2:46)
14. Il Gioco di Giosue (Giosue's Game) (1:45)
15. Barcarolle* (3:54)
16. Guido e Ferruccio (Guido and Ferrucio) (2:26)
17. Abbiamo Vinto (We Won) (3:03)
* excerpt from Jacques Offenbach's "The Tales of Hoffmann,"
performed by Monserrat Caballe and Shirley Verret
English translations in parentheses added to track listings
The insert contains a short note from director/writer/actor Roberto Benigni in Italian.