La Grande Bellezza — The Great Beauty

If you’ve seen the Oscar-winning movie from Italy La Grande Bellezza, you’ve heard the remarkable soundtrack. It captures Rome’s sacred and profane traits as the city falls to ruin in a moral, religious, political and social degradation. You know you’re in for a rough ride into the fractured Italian psyche when your guide, Jep Gambardella, tells you he’s a sensitive writer, a frustrated aging cynic, looking for a muse. The soundtrack gets you through it beautifully.

In an interview with film critic, Jean A. Gili, the director of La Grande Bellezza Paolo Sorrentino says, “… from the start, the idea came to me of using sacred music and Italian popular music.” Lele Marchitelli who is credited for the film’s music and whose work is featured in the film, knits together a stunning array of artists and compositions.

The soundtrack features medieval sacred music “Beata Viscera” performed by Vox Clamantis and modern compositions like “Water From The Same Source” by chamber ensemble Rachel’s, and “The Beatitudes” by Vladimir Martynov. Tunes by Annie Lennox, Antonello Venditti, and the Studio Allstars with “We No Speak Americano” also make the cut.

Pulitzer Prize winner David Lang’s choral piece “I Lie” opens the film as a tourist, overtaken by Rome’s beauty, dies of a heart attack on the Gianicolo Hill. The scene shifts to party-goers pulsating to the contagious rhythm of Far l’amore (To Make Love). It’s a Bob Sinclar 2011 remix of Raffaella Carrà’s 1976 hit, A far l’amore comincia tu (You Start Making Love) from her album Forte Forte Forte.

Discarded by York Public LibraryAlbum cover

The song takes me back to the dog days of disco. A friend who was into the gay club scene, heard Carrà’s music on the dance floor and gave me the hit album which she picked up in the sale bin at the York Main Library up on Eglinton and Northcliffe. The album is a real find; it has a sticker on it from Al Musichiere, a record shop at Eglinton and Dufferin back in the day. Even with its catchy refrain “My Heart is Bursting, Bursting, Bursting” (Scoppia, scoppia, mi scoppia il cuor), the City of York Public Library discarded the album a couple of years after its release.Al Musichiere

The Italian queer community loved Carrà and she was also big in the Spanish-speaking world. Her music was a rare find in Toronto, except in Italian-Canadian homes and gay clubs like The Carriage House. Today, the 70-year old Carrà is a judge on The Voice of Italy and it’s her voice on electro-techno DJ Bob Sinclar’s remix.

Far l’amore, a remix of the remix

The official video of the remix, Far l’amore,  was released in 2011, ahead of La Grande Bellezza, and it was a big summer hit in Italy. The video features Bob Sinclar in a taxi with Italian actress Caterina Murino. They’re going to a party for Sinclar at Gold, Dolce & Gabana’s real-life Milan restaurant. The duo has a cameo in the video.

The cabdriver says that he’s new to the city and doesn’t know the way to Milan’s Piazza del Risogrimento. (Is it because he’s Oscar Farinetti, the Turin-based founder of Eataly? At the time, the CEO of the Italian slow food conglomerate had announced the opening of his Eataly Milan store. Its theme is dedicated to Music.) Not to worry, the cabbie reassures them, he’ll get them there. Of course, he doesn’t and a big argument follows.

In La Grande Bellezza, Sorrentino recreates the scene with a couple arguing in the car as they drive to Jep’s birthday party – an update of the party scene in La Dolce Vita. The scene is a remix of Sinclar’s remix. Sorrentino’s images of sad dancing Fellini-esque characters clash with the expectations of the fun, self-mocking Sinclar video remix – which never hits my favourite part of the song – the exuberant refrain “My Heart is Bursting, Bursting, Bursting.”Album songs

The Soundtrack for La Grande Bellezza

I Lie (David Lang) – The Torino Vocal Ensemble
World to Come IV (David Lang) – Maya Beiser
My Heart’s in the Highlands (Arvo Pärt) – Else Torp and Christopher     Bowers-Broadbent
Time, from the score by Lele Marchitelli
The Beatitudes (Vladimir Martynov) – The Kronos Quartet
Dies irae from Requiem for My Friend (Zbigniew Preisner)
The Lamb (John Tavener) – The Temple Church Choir
Symphony in C Major: II. Adagio (Georges Bizet) – The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
River Flows, from the score by Lele Marchitelli
Symphony no. 3: III. Lento (Henryk Górecki) – The London Symphony Orchestra w/ Dawn Upshaw
Beata viscera (Magister Perotinus) – Vox Clamantis
Far l’amore (Club Mix) – Bob Sinclar and Raffaella Carrà
More Than Scarlet – Decoder Ring
Take My Breath Away – Gui Boratto
Brain Waves, from the score by Lele Marchitelli
Everything Trying – Damien Jurado
Parade – Tape
Color My World, from the score by Lele Marchitelli
Forever – Antonello Venditti
Surge of Excitement, from the score by Lele Marchitelli
Water from the Same Source – Rachel’s
Settembre non comincia, from the score by Lele Marchitelli
Ti ruberò – Monica Cetti
Trumeau, from the score by Lele Marchitelli
Que no se acabe el mambo – La Banda Gorda
We No Speak Americano – Studio Allstars
Discoteca – Exchpoptrue
Mueve la colita (2012 Remix) – El Gato DJ
Ramona, from the score by Lele Marchitelli