The video on this page was an undercover project, I learn, at Ebertfest 2012. Most of my Far-Flung Correspondents and Demanders were there in person, and those who couldn't be contributed their voices via audio files. The idea originated with Kevin B. Lee, who did the audiotaping and editing. It was the inspiration of Michael Mirasol to use the foreign languages of those who spoke one.
Nino Rota by Fellini
It was the middle of the night in Artena, Italy, a small hill village outside of Rome. Franco Zeffirelli was preparing to shoot the balcony scene of his "Romeo and Juliet." In the gardens below an old stone wall of the Palazzo Borghese, carpenters were hammering on a platform that would the camera to film Romeo's climb to Juliet's balcony. Prop men scurried up and down Romeo's path, planting strategic flowers and picturesque shrubs.
A small, bald man came threading through the trees. It was Nino Rota, Zeffirelli's composer. "I thought I'd find you here," he said. "I want you to listen to this." He began humming a tune.
I had been talking with Zeffirelli, and now I followed them, forgotten, as Rota hummed and the two men walked and swayed in time with the music. There was a full moon. I said to myself I would never forget that night, and you see I haven't.
I believe Nina Rota was the greatest composer in the history of the movies. Who else wrote scores in the 1950s and 1960s that are in print and selling well today? I have seven of them on iTunes. It is impossible to remember a film by Fellini without recalling the score.
Recently, in a review of "Nine," the musical inspired by "Fellini's "8 1/2," I noted one of its problems: It was less memorably musical than the original film. Then this sentence came from my fingers: I could watch a Fellini film on the radio.
Play these clips with your eyes closed:
la dolce vita
What do you think of while you listen to classical music? Do you have an education in music, and think of the composer's strategies, or the conductor's interpretation? Do you, in short, think in words at all? I never do, and I suppose that would make me incompetent as a music critic. I fall into a reverie state.
Q. Didja notice "Bummy's Diner" in "Changeling" (where the kid to be exploited as Jolie's "son" is first seen with the drifter in DeKalb)? I just about cried when I saw that most appropriate of tributes -- and better yet, it's vintage 1920s signage on an exterior set that is itself a tribute to Bummy's school of authentic design. All of which makes this moment (see photo) one of the happiest encounters of my lifetime. Just under eight months later, Henry was gone.
"Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert," just published by the University of Chicago Press, achieves a first. Though the Sun-Times film critic remains the dean of American cineastes, his essential writings have never been collected in a single volume until now. "Awake in the Dark" surveys his 40-year catalog, including reviews, essays and interviews. The following is an excerpt from the book's introduction, and for the next five weeks we'll publish excerpts here from the collection's highlights in each decade, from the '60s to the '00s.
Romeo and Juliet were upstairs asleep in the castle, and Franco Zeffirelli kept the night watch alone. He sat cross-legged on the old stone wall of the Palazzo Borghese and sipped brandy from a paper cup. Behind him, the wall fell 100 feet into the valley. Above him, the little town clung to the hillside, each house stacked above the last. And on the other side of the castle wall was the secret garden where the families of the Borghese had doubtless spent their afternoons 400 years ago.