Riz Ortolani

Mondo Candido

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If you have to ask who the great Riz Ortolani is, then you've obviously never heard "the" greatest cult soundtrack of all time, the score for the film Mondo Cane. Ortolani, the classically trained composer and orchestrator, was formerly head of the state-run jazz orchestra, and well known for his scoring of television programs. His first -- and biggest -- hit was Mondo Cane with its outrageous blend of jazz, exotica, and schmaltzy classical music. Based on this, he became an overnight sensation in Italian film and was employed consistently by the production/direction team of Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi for over half a dozen films. Their collaboration came to an end with the score for Mondo Candido, a thoroughly erotic yet campy adaptation of Voltaire's Candide. If Ortolani knew his meal ticket was about to get punched, it doesn't show here. From the neo-romantic opening theme, to the fantasia of "La Soldatesse," to the '40s Ellingtonian hard swing of "Panglios A New York," where "Take the A Train" is borrowed from liberally as is Basie's bluesed-out brass arrangement on "One O' Clock Jump," to the lounge-cut time waltz of "Svegliati Ragazzo." Like Candide itself, the score is full of excesses, all of them good, all of them so memorable one only need to hear the score once to have its imprint burned onto your brain. For all its risqué notions, Candide was largely a comedy, and both producers and Ortolani understood this; therefore, with the exception of the over-the-top seduction music in "Un Amor Cosi Tenero," humor abounds throughout the work, subtle at times, flagrant in others. Altogether, the score tells a better story by far than the film it accompanied because there are no messy exits or faltering scenes where actors are left wondering what to do next. Ortolani's score is tight, concise, and full of laughter and passion but just off the mark nonetheless.

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