Monday Notes

Amanti, Ella FItzgerald sings Manuel De Sica’s A Place For Lovers

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[Monday Notes no. 133] A Place For Lovers is a song written by Manuel De Sica as the soundtrack for the film Amanti directed in 1968 by his father Vittorio De Sica. This is not one of the great director’s masterpieces, while the music is definitely worth mentioning. I have therefore tried to analyse how the soundtrack is used, also to better understand how film music works.

A Place For Lovers is sung by none other than Ella Fitzgerald, we can hear her performance in full at the beginning of the film. The piece has the traditional AABA form, typical of American jazz standards from which Manuel De Sica was evidently inspired, but the sections have an unusual length, part [A] measuring 14 bars.

A place for Lovers - Manuel De Sica parte A

Harmonically, the piece moves between the starting key of D major and that of F major. The two tonalities are quite far apart, yet they share a common kinship with D minor, which is a parallel minor of D major and a relative minor of F major. Part [B] has a duration of 10 bars, which is unusual in the jazz repertoire.

A place for Lovers - Manuel De Sica parte B

The piece differs from the typical American repertoire also because in jazz standards usually the [B] section introduces a different melodic motive and a new key, whereas in A Place for Lovers the key of [B] is the same as [A] and the section does not present any particular new elements. The [B] part seems rather a kind of interlude, not too important, preluding the reprise of the main motive [A].

Melodically, we observe that the piece has a rather wide extension: from the E on the first line at the beginning of [A] to the D above the staff, the highest note, which arrives in the middle of [B]. Ella Fitzgerald has such an even and beautiful vocal timbre that the wideness of the register goes unnoticed.

During the movie, the theme returns several times but only in an instrumental version, performed by various instruments: sax, flute, trumpet, piano, strings, trombone. We can only hear Ella Fitzgerald’s voice again and the theme sung at the end credits. Who knows whether the choice was the director’s or the musician’s, the father Vittorio’s or the son Manuel’s.

Marcello Mastroianni e Faye Dunaway
Marcello Mastroianni and Faye Dunaway

Amanti is a narcissistic film that relies on beautiful images, including those of the two splendid human beings who occupy the scene: Faye Dunaway and Marcello Mastroianni. The story is a bit flimsy and so the actors are unable to put their talents to good use, but beauty certainly does not fail them. It is therefore a film to watch and listen to, the images and music are superlative, the story not so much.

Between Manuel and his father Vittorio, the latter was certainly the most important and well-known. However, Manuel De Sica worked very successfully as a soundtrack composer, always writing interesting music. In this case, it is the music that saves a fairly insignificant film in itself, while the theme of A Place For Lovers and the voice of Ella Fitzgerald are absolutely unforgettable.

Until next Monday

Download the lead sheet of A Place for Lovers

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