Il Magistrato - Difendo il mio amore - Renzo Rossellini
We proudly present on this CD the world premiere release of two symphonic scores by Renzo Rossellini which had been written for two 1950s melodramas that remained rather unknown outside of Italy and dealt with such themes as tabloid journalism, corruption and unfair jurisdiction.
Il magistrato was an Italian-French-Spanish co-production directed by Luigi Zampa in 1959 and starred Spanish screen idol José Suarez in the title role as judge besides a fine cast of French and Italian actors such as François Périer, Jacqueline Sassard, Massimo Serato, Maurizio Arena and even the very young Claudia Cardinale in one of her first screen performances. Zampa had gained a lot of popularity and critical acclaim in the immediate post-war period with a number of tragicomical films that were regarded as part of the neorealist movement. He couldn‘t quite repeat this success during the 1950s, but remained true to his principle of mixing drama and comedy and to address contemporary social issues with bitter and incisive irony. Despite some compelling sequences, his Il magistrato movie remains a somewhat uneven effort as the film is very talkative, changes its tone quite often and also tries to tackle too many topics at the same time.
The film is structured around various flashbacks which are narrated by the young judge Andrea Morandi (Suarez). Upon his arrival in the seaport town of Genova he gets involved in two tragic stories which together offer a highly pessimistic vision of life. As a judge he is called to prepare the process against the transport worker Orlando (Arena) who, in sheer desperation over getting no work at the port, had attacked an oily and dishonest works manager. Badly hurt, the man dies some time later in the hospital. In the course of the investigation the judge comes across the code of silence which reigns among the other dock workers and which prevents them from testifying in favour of the murderer.
At the same time the judge in his private life witnesses the tragic decline of a lower middle-class family whose lodger he is. The father Luigi Bonelli (Périer) loses his job at the insurance company for which he worked, and his wife reproaches him with his low ambitions. Their 17-year-old daughter Carla (Sassard) falls in love with the judge, but her mother has other plans for her and wants to marry her off to the son of one of the wealthiest families in town. However, also this plan is doomed to failure. In the meantime, the corrupt schemer Ugo (Serato) procures a profitable job for Luigi which is connected to smuggling and tries to seduce his daughter. Soon the police get on the track of these affairs, and Luigi, who sees no other way to escape disgrace, gases to death his family and himself.
The disgust he feels with regard to all these tragic events happening around him and about which he can‘t do anything, lead the judge to resign. Only a final moving encounter with Maria (Cardinale), the fiancé of Orlando, who reveals her still unflinching love for the defendant, changes his mind again. Andrea now recognises that he has to fight for justice and takes up again the case.
Renzo Rossellini‘s complete score for Il magistrato runs about 35 minutes on the original tapes we have had at our disposal, but to our great surprise at least half of it does not crop up in the film itself at all. Even though the movie at its premiere in 1959 had a duration of 105 minutes of which very soon 12 minutes were cut, this certainly can‘t be the only reason that so much underscore is missing in the film itself. It seems that it was either the director‘s or the producer‘s decision to give the picture a more sober and realistic look by omitting much of Rossellini‘s music which maybe was thought to be too melodramatic and obtrusive for this purpose. It has therefore been very difficult to designate correct track titles for the unused music cues - in a few cases it could be easily inferred from the chronological film sequence, in some others however it was sheer impossible.
The basis for Rossellini‘s orchestral score is a romantic love theme, graceful and nostalgic, whose melody is a close cousin to the love theme which he had written ten years earlier for the famous Ingrid Bergman movie Stromboli directed by his brother Roberto Rossellini. The theme itself is framed in the Main Title (CD 1/Tr. 1) by a sombre progression of upward and downward moving broken triads which already foreshadow the inevitable tragic fate many of the characters in the film will have to endure. Track 4 develops this triadic motif in a delicate and supple manner to express solitude whereas its most sombre elaboration with the motif desperately turning around in a circle appears in the sequence at the end of the movie when Luigi murders himself and his family (CD 1/Tr. 15).
As always, Rossellini‘s musical language is a highly emotional one, he puts a lot of passion and feeling into all the tracks of the score so that there is a direct communication with the audience. The beauty of the melodic line, of the instrumentation and of the timbre are decisive for him. For example, the melodic fluency in track 7 when Carla and the judge walk along the harbour is remarkable: A subdued melancholy theme for strings builds to an impassioned climax and then segues to a wistful rendition of the already familiar romantic love theme when Carla begins to idolize the judge Morandi.
On the other hand, Rossellini also knows how to arouse the dramatic forces of the orchestra with tragic intensity when the dock workers day after day are looking for a job and are held back behind iron bars (CD 1/Tr. 5) or for Orlando‘s fight with the work manager - who then tumbles down a roller track - which is commented by violent string stabs and agitated woodwinds (CD 1/Tr. 6).
The Italian-French co-production Difendo il mio amore was made in 1956 with a notable cast of both French and Italian actors in the leading roles including Martine Carol, Vittorio Gassman, Gabriele Ferzetti and Charles Vanel. Martine Carol had been typecast as French cinema‘s voluptuous sex symbol during the early 1950s - until Max Ophüls dismantled the myth of the star in his masterpiece Lola Montez in 1955 -, but the part she plays in Difendo il mio amore is a departure from that image. Here she is an innocent and loving mother who gets wrongfully accused. The picture mixes up motifs of the American film noir - it seems that above all Billy Wilder‘s cynical reporter drama Ace in the Hole from 1951 at least partly served as a model - with narrative elements of the maternal melodrama which was still very popular in Italy at that time and whose true master was director Raffaello Matarazzo. It is quite fitting therefore that Matarazzo apparently directed (uncredited) the final scene of the movie after the film‘s actual director Vincent Sherman had already gone back again to the USA. Sherman, who had established a notable reputation as a woman‘s director already during the 1940s with Warner Bros. melodramas starring Bette Davis, Joan Crawford or Ida Lupino, was hired by the Italian Titanus production company in an attempt to lend a new international character to the melodramatic current that had been very successful on the domestic market. For the Italian version Sherman only got a credit as a supervisor whereas the official director credit went to the rather unknown Giulio Macchi, but according to the most reliable sources this was done only for legal and bureaucratic reasons within Italy.
The story of the film revolves around a callous journalist (Gassman) who is working for a daily newspaper in Milan and on the search for scandal to attract the attention of the public and to boost his paper‘s ratings. He digs up an old story about a young woman named Elisa Leonardi (Carol) who during the war had been the personal secretary of a rich business man, who in turn had murdered his wife. In the meantime she is married to a banker (Ferzetti) and has three children of whom Angela, the oldest one, who suffers from polio and has been lodged in a sanatorium, was born out of wedlock. The journalist now supposes that Elisa had been the mistress of the nobleman Dosti for whom she had worked as a secretary - although a former investigation had already proven her innocence - and that Angela is the man‘s daughter. Although Elisa explains that the child‘s real father, her former fiancé, had been killed during the war, this does not prevent the reporter from publishing his invented tales. As a result, even Elisa‘s loving husband Pietro slowly begins to doubt her so that the revival of the Dosti scandal threatens to destroy the harmony of their marriage. Their lives change dramatically when Angela is run over by a truck while trying to escape from some sensationalist photographers. At the end Elisa and Pietro become reconciled at the bedside of their daughter who is gradually recovering, whereas the impudent reporter is sacked by the chief editor of the newspaper.
As with Il magistrato, Rossellini´s score is highly romantic and melodramatic in the best sense of the word and gives further proof of his tasteful elegance and his melodic lyricism. The human being, in this case the character of Elisa played by Martine Carol, lies at the center of his interest so that the music empathizes with her feelings, her remembrances and her sufferings. The music appears only in selected sequences, but always makes a strong impression there. Rossellini‘s training as a classical composer is particularly evident in his handling of the longer music cues which are in most cases not formless, but have a fine self-contained structure which makes them a real delight to listen to also on their own without the images of the film. The Main Title immediately introduces the memorable and bittersweet love theme which weaves in and out of the score in many guises. It gets its most heartfelt rendition during the early love scene (CD 2/Tr. 5) when Elisa and Pietro embrace and he thereupon confesses his love for her.
A playful scherzo for strings where flute and oboe engage in a kind of mutual question and answer game accompanies the scene when Elisa gets home and serves her two children their meal (CD 2/Tr. 2). As soon as the first suspicions about Elisa‘s past transpire, Rossellini‘s music gets more threatening and builds up agonizing tension with muted trombones, nervous wandering strings and scurrying flutes - all of this centred around an obsessive descending musical motif which gets repeated again and again and which mirrors Elisa‘s inner turmoil (CD 2/Tr. 3, 4, 6).
A solemn adagio with a new theme, at first almost pastoral, then with passionate and tragic outbursts of the entire orchestra, underscores Elisa‘s memories of the wartime and of the birth of her first child (CD 2/Tr. 8). Here as well as in many other tracks of the score a characteristic trait of Rossellini‘s style comes to the fore: Although his music is often lush with full use of the string section, he has a particular knack for highlighting subtle woodwind solos so that his orchestral textures always retain a wonderful transparent quality. The same goes for the moving music for the scene where Pietro begins to doubt about the words of his wife: An almost impressionistic beginning with arabesques of a solo flute turns into splendid operatic intensity until a soothing statement of the love theme brings the piece to a close (CD 2/Tr. 9).
During the last third of the movie the focus shifts to the fate of little Angela and we get to hear a richly embellished new variant of the main theme (CD 2/Tr. 10, 11). It gets beautifully developed during the final reconciliation scene (CD 2/Tr. 13) which is almost scored like an opera aria full of touching lyrical warmth and interspersed with poignant flute and violin solos until an uplifting version of the love theme signals the film‘s happy ending (CD 2/Tr. 14).
This double CD release of the two excellent symphonic scores for Difendo il mio amore and Il magistrato offers another rare opportunity to rediscover the splendid music of a fascinating and unfortunately nowadays almost totally neglected composer of Italian cinema‘s Golden Age.
We have included a few alternate and source music tracks of the two scores in the bonus sections of each CD and added some excerpts from the original recording sessions as an interesting historical document.
CD 2 closes with two suites from our two previous Renzo Rossellini CDs Montecarlo and Le legioni di Cleopatra.