Listen – Nino Rota – Cadillac (from La Dolce Vita OST) – MP3
Listen – Nino Rota – Cadillac (from 8 1/2 OST) – MP3
Listen – Nino Rota – Cimitero (from 8 1/2 OST) – MP3
When I left you at the beginning of the week, I promised that I would return with something unusual. I don’t like to disappoint, so here we go.
Is there anyone among us who doesn’t know the name Federico Fellini? The man was one of the greatest directors of the second half of the 20th century, and thanks to his wild vision his last name has become a far reaching adjective (Fellini-esque) used to describe all things surreal. The music I bring you today was written by someone who’s name is likely unknown to most, yet without his contributions Fellini’s cinematic vision might not be as well regarded.
During his 40 year career, the master wrote and directed several films rightly remembered as classics, and for most of that time the soundtrack for those films – absolutely crucial to their artistic success – was provided by Nino Rota.
Rota’s unique melodic palette, mixing classical music, pop, jazz and the sounds of the circus has become by and large inseparable from Fellini’s larger reputation, existing as a kind of invisible character in his films.
Oddly enough, as much as many of Rota’s Fellini themes have entered the larger consciousness, he is best remembered for his theme to ‘The Godfather’.
I first watched Fellini’s films as a pretentious adolescent, convinced that they would lend me a veneer of hipness. That I found the movies at first confusing and largely impenetrable failed to deter me. I’m pretty sure that I assumed that this was how it would always be, convinced that it was enough to have watched the movies, allowing me to drop the name ‘Fellini’ with impunity.
Some years on, when I actually began to “get” movies like ‘8 ½’ and ‘La Dolce Vita’. Finally discovering that they weren’t nearly as dense or confusing as I first thought, what I really fell in love with was the music.
Nino Rota was capable of composing themes that were romantic and mysterious, infusing the images on the screen with extra layers of depth and meaning. One need only watch ‘La Strada’, and listen to the music to realize how perfectly Fellini and Rota worked together.
The tunes I bring you today hail from the soundtracks to ‘La Dolce Vita’ (1960) and ‘8 ½’ (1963). Ironically, though I’d seen both of these films before, the theme of ‘Cadillac’ didn’t jump out at me until I heard it covered by Combustible Edison in the early 90s.
I spent the next few years scouring the “soundtrack” bins of record stores for Rota’s Fellini scores, at first settling for a couple of CD compilations, and eventually finding copies of many of the albums.
Rota was well known for recurring themes in his scores (he was denied an Oscar nomination because it was discovered that the ‘Godfather’ theme recycled an earlier tune), and it’s interesting to hear the two different versions of ‘Cadillac’.
The first, from ‘La Dolce Vita’ is a livelier snapshot of swinging Rome with hints of rock’n’roll, rhumba and jazz. The mellower take on the theme from ‘8 ½’ reflects the change from chaotic nightlife to the reflective, autobiographical world of the latter film.
The third piece of music is one of my favorite parts of the ‘8 ½’ soundtrack. The theme ‘Cimitero’ is haunting and almost ambient. It’s a fantastic example of how Fellini used Rota’s music to give a spooky edge to a seemingly normal scene.
Sadly, many of Rota’s full scores for the Fellini movies are still only available as imports. Most of the soundtracks were released domestically in their day, and though they don’t turn up all that often, when they do they aren’t very expensive.
I hope you dig these sounds, and that you have a great weekend.
See you on Monday.