This is the Oscar-winning score that confounded us all on Film Music on theWeb
(and, perhaps, many others?). Life is Beautiful is one of three 1999
Oscar-nominated scores for films set in World War II, but whereas Saving
Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line treat the tragedy seriously,
Benigni's film (and Piovani's music) dares to look the horror in the eye
and retaliate with comedy - albeit comedy underlined with sensitivity and
poignancy so that it is no less damning of the evil. Not having seen the
film yet, I have to confess that I approached this album with some trepidation,
after all how could it have succeeded against the might of Hollywood - John
Williams's Private Ryan and Zimmer's Thin Red Line, both highly
acclaimed scores. But I, presumably like the music-category voting
members of the Academy, was quickly won over by its charm and enchantment.
The opening cue 'Buon Giorno Principessa' states the main theme - a simple
innocent melody of homely Italian charm with guitar, piccolo, accordion and
mandolin prominent. This theme is then presented as a vivacious tango in
'La Vita È Bella' which follows. 'Viva Giosué' is slower more
romantic with trumpet in Italian town-band style wryly commenting. 'Grand
Hotel Valse' is an expansive quick waltz in the old Viennese style. 'La Notte
Di Favola' is pensive and slightly sad and nostalgic before the tango rhythms
take hold again. With tremolando strings opening 'La Notte Di Fuga' a note
of menace and danger is introduced for the first time - and Piovani screws
up the tension with some interesting orchestration colourings and, mercifully,
without having to resort to synth screechings, hissings and wailings. With
'Le Uova Nel Cappello' the atmosphere warms up again and 'Grand Hotel Fox'
presents the first of several wonderful parodies. This is a foxtrot very
much in the style of the 1920s - one can visualise flappers tea-dancing in
the Palm Court.
'Il Treno Nel Buio' plunges us back into despair - lurking threat and danger
is palpable and made implicit by insistent percussion. 'Arriva Il Carro Armato'
presents the main theme a pomposo as though played by a German military band.
'Valse Larmoyante' is a gentle, elegant but almost regretful slow waltz.
'L'Uovo Di Struzzo-Danza Etiope' is another wickedly funny parody of sensual
Egyptian music complete with the dancing girls' litle cymbals, while
'Krautentang' is a tuba-led take-off of German beer-garden music. 'Il Gioco
Di Giosué' is in the form of a folk dance. The only source music in
the album follows: the Barcarolle from Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffman with
singers Montserrat Caballé and Shirley Verrett.
'Guido E Ferruccio' presents the main theme hesitatingly but most appealingly
- comedy from the trumpet laced by pathos from the remainder of the ensemble
- a lovely track. The album closes with the 'Abbiamo Vinto' cue at first
plaintive but then the main theme emerges strongly and emphatically - life
A different and rewarding film musical experience