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The prospect of watching a two-and-a-half hour documentary on Oscar winning film composer Ennio Morricone, directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, an Oscar winner himself with “Cinema Paradiso,” saw cineastes stream into the film’s Friday evening world premiere at the Venice Film Festival.

There was a quiet gathering on the red carpet for Tornatore and friends, who posed for photos as Morricone’s compelling soundtracks played for arrivals.

Even before the film began, Tornatore received a standing ovation as he entered the auditorium, and the film received a four-minute standing ovation at the end of the screening.

Morricone died while Tornatore was editing the film in 2020, but he lives large on the screen, talking about his work between striking images of cowboys from collaborator Sergio Leone’s films, and the stream of interviews with well-known collaborators across the world, who commented on his work in this Italian-language film. Clint Eastwood, Quentin Tarantino, Bruce Springsteen and Barry Levinson were among the English-speaking commentators.

At 150 minutes the film kept a great pace, and remained highly entertaining, revisiting Morricone’s work through the many brilliant films he collaborated on, and through listening to his accompanying orchestral soundtracks, and the voices of the talking heads, mostly his, that made his work come to life.

To accompany images of cowboys, bloody female bodies, deserts and saloon dolls in frilly dresses, Morricone was seen quietly conducting an unseen orchestra in a black tux. Time and time again his orchestral sounds pulled heart strings in the packed auditorium.

But what made his music so great? German film composer Hans Zimmer tried to explain it in the film.

“In the movie Hans Zimmer mentions that many people recognize his music from the first few notes,” Toratore told reporters on Friday afternoon. “It’s not a question of tonality because it’s always different. Even Hans Zimmer couldn’t explain it and he’s a great musician himself.”

As for his musical personality, Tornatore said: “There are some conductors that make great gestures. But Morricone made more human gestures, like he starts whistling the music and makes gestures with that.”

With “Ennio,” Tornatore shows how a lengthy documentary can be so much more than talking heads and make for great entertainment in the hands of a maestro filmmaker.