Just one piece of music accompanies Francesco Rosi's 1972 film, The Mattei Affair, a prescient mixture of corporate-governmental conspiracy and Carlos-esque (or Film Socialisme, for that matter) Mediterranean globetrotting, a film propelled by the murky ambitions, ideologies, crimes and accomplishments of the man put in charge of the Italian state's oil and gas company. As seems typical for Rosi (whose cinema I'm just now starting to explore, through a travelling retrospective that has landed on my doorstep at the BAMcinématek and which continues through the weekend), the narrative is refracted into pieces that only hint at facts, and conventional audience expectations for such things as psychological legibility and motivation or concrete events and evidence are consistently repulsed by the filmmaker, who collects cinematic documents (of real spaces where events took place, the use of participants as actors, meticulous historical research) only to assemble them in a way to suggest the immutable obfuscation of complex human evilness.
But we're here to talk about the soundtrack, are we not? The film has but one piece of music and it was composed by Rosi's regular musical collaborator, the great Piero Picconi. What particularly struck me about this theme, which stood out amongst many other terrific Rosi-Picconi collaborations, was the ambivalent malevolence suggested by its electronic throbbing. Sinister and consuming, it nevertheless has a patterned rhythm which negates sentience or dynamic evolution of the score. It simply, awfully, expands. At the same time, with its early-electronic rhythm, the theme, by its mid-way point, attains a true beat, becoming almost techno-like and darkly danceable. It's almost as if the blackness within its sonic contours, in its hypnotic, alien repetition, becomes inviting and seductive.
What you are listening to:
(1) Piero Picconi's theme music for Francesco Rosi's The Mattei Affair (1972)