Pino Donaggio owes his entrance into the cinema world to a causal encounter with producer Ugo Mariotti, one morning at 6am on the Grand Canal in Venice. In that occasion, Mariotti asked him to compose the soundtrack for a film about parapsychology. Donaggio immediately won a prize for Don't Look Now, even beating Paul McCartney who was the runner-up for the soundrack of Thunderball. At this year's Torino Film Festival, the composer has received the Turin Grand Prix. He has just completed his work for the upcoming Brian De Palma's film, Domino. Among his future projects, a film on the life of Enzo Ferrari starring Robert De Niro, and one by Daniele Ciprì.

What can you tell us about Domino?

The plot is easy: after the killing of a policeman in Copenhagen, his colleague friend go chasing the killer all around Europe. He gets involved in a number of situations, including one with Isis terrorists, but he will find the murderer eventually. The film has a great final scene taking place during a bullfight.

What kind of soundtrack did you realize for Domino?
Quite a classic one, with its own orchestral impact. There are woodwinds, trumbones, and trumpets, so let's say it's quite dark. Contrarily to the soundtracks of Carrie and Blow Out, there's not a strong main theme here.

How has your relationship with De Palma evolved since your collaboration on Carrie in 1976?

For the first films we did together, I used to go and meet him, he was showing me the film and then we were discussing using a translator. He was giving me some suggestions, so I could go back to Venice and work. When I was done, he was listening to the music played by an orchestra in a theatre. Since Passion though, he started to listen to the soundtrack via the internet, and he asks for changes through it. I usually work a lot on his films, because he grants me more time than other directors as he wants me to work quietly.

Your encounter with horror films was random. What's your relationship with this genre?

I was coming from the singing world. I knew Hitchcock's but I would have never thought of writing music for cinema. It was just the fate, in which I strongly believe, as it changed my life three times. At the beginning I was a violinist, but wanted to be a soloist. Master Abbado chose me to play with his group in Milan although I wasn't graduated yet. As I had some free time, I wrote some songs and ended up under contract. Then I went to the Sanremo Festival and started a career that lasted 18-20 years. It was just by chance that I started to work in cinema and I immediately won a prize for best soundtrack. I made my fourth film with De Palma who, after the death of Bernard Herrmann, was looking for a composer.

Do you miss writing songs? In that way, you were on the spotlight.
No. In the end, Carrie's soundtrack includes two of my songs, despite De Palma didn't want them at first, but I managed to convince him eventually. When I have the chance, I always include them, also in TV series.

How was your experience with Dario Argento?
Very good. But only in Trauma I managed to remain coherent as I use to do with De Palma. Argento skips from pop music to jazz improvisation. He has an idea and just exit from the soundtrack line.

Which directors you had difficulties working with?
Those we change their minds every day and put you in the condition of not knowing what to compose anymore. I should name some female directors in this regard, so it's easy to guess who they are as I worked with an American filmmaker, with Cavani and Gagliardo.

Is there anything that you brought from light music to cinema?
In Blow Out I used disco music at first. That musical experience was instrumental for the themes. Although a great Italian composer says that writing a soundtrack is all about technique and not inspiration, I always wait for inspiration instead, both  for the film themes and the songs. I love to relax the audience, so I tend to write these kind of open, broadening musics.

Is there any rule or non-rule that you dictate to yourself when you work with different film genres?
When I work on a horror movie, I try not to repeat the clichés. I'm lucky enough to be a violinist and, within an orchestra as well as in the dodecaphonic music, the violin is the instrument who gives the melody. In the horrors, I avoid the bad effects.


TFF 2017