Score Season #67
Below are more soundtrack reviews of recent and archival releases.
The Brothers Grimm (Dario Marianelli, 2005) *** A lively brew not content to be complacent nor anxious, Dario Marianelli's The Brothers Grimm requires tender loving care. The time dedicated to such work can yield good results. Frankly, I dismissed The Brothers Grimm at first. Quirky soundtracks might feel oddball enough when going against your expectations. So a little persistence reveals a complex study of darkness. By no means an easy or accessible score, this one features a mercurial personality which offends rather than suspends disbelief. Intrigue hatches quickly through a fascinating trifecta - "Dickensian Beginnings," "Shrewd Thespians" and "Red Riding Hood." From there, regal fanfares, elegiac musings, mystery in stasis, tempting shadows, virgin flutes and elaborate chases frame the action. This resembles Henry Mancini's Lifeforce where the atmosphere defined everything. These are kindred spirits for another reason. Hope appears as the sun breaks through heavy cloud cover.
Don't Go in the House (Richard Einhorn, 1979) * Minus a professional methodology, electronic music can resemble doodling. Experiments become studies in isolation or insulation, mimicking better dreams. Because these tonalities disobey the rules of musical composition, a plethora of reactions should be expected. For some, the effects are hypnotic as represented by Vangelis (Chariots of Fire, Blade Runner) and John Carpenter (Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween). Others might regard the end result as a glorified music box, heavy on repetitious sustains and light on traditional harmonics. With Richard Einhorn's Don't Go in the House, ambitions are limited to one colour fits all. Personally, it's reminiscent of hearing tests in my childhood. All those random tones. After twenty minutes, it's rarely nerve shattering or even mildly pleasurable.
High Plains Drifter (Dee Barton, 1973) Equilibrium lost. That's the mindset and feeling created by Dee Barton's "Main Title" for High Plains Drifter. For 60 seconds or so, we are greeted with dissonance and its unhappy cousin, apathy. When the melody rolls in, it's repetitive, lazy and unimaginative. Now throughout Clint Eastwood's career, there have been strong musical associations. This filmmaker loves jazz and he plays the piano. Regarding soundtracks, there are many favourites from the Ron Goodwin stunner Where Eagles Dare. Then we have the song behind Every Which Way But Loose. Personally, "Quick Draw Kelly" from Kelly's Heroes and "Claudia's Theme" in Unforgiven remain defining moments. Let's not forget about the Dollars trilogy for director Sergio Leone. However, High Plains Drifter lacks even the most basic appeal. Seemingly a horror soundscape, there are baffling pitch bends and elongated distortions which don't play to the Western setting at all. These hazy waves tend to alienate more than inspire. From beginning to end, the rhythms felt eccentric, even imprecise. It's an impossible score to meet halfway, let alone partially recommend. The warbling, inebriated tone consistently meanders, especially "Out of Prison," Whipped to Death" and "Dynamite." By contrast, "Dummy Wagon" and "Gunfight in Lago" were hideous in their optimism. Overall, this comes across as a surprisingly bland addition to Intrada's library of classic soundtracks.
Legend of the Lost (Angelo Francesco Lavagnino, 1957) **** What Legend of the Lost ignores thematically it makes up for in atmosphere and intrigue. According to the liner notes, eight minutes of music have been lost, while the bookends were taken directly from the DVD. Meanwhile, composer Angelo Francesco Lavagnino acknowledges the passions in three people who get caught up in treasure hunting and love in the desert. There's little to no whimsy nor parody in his musical presentation. It's very mature, often cutting to the quick at a moment's notice. Exotic strings and woodwinds cast their spell. Although lacking a central hook or motif, Lavagnino navigates intense emotions via dignity, spontaneity and authenticity.
The Time Machine (Klaus Badelt, 2002) **** I had mixed feelings about the film starring Guy Pearce. Apart from the core concept, it felt removed from H.G. Wells' creation. Plus, Pearce tends to excel in certain dramas, especially L.A. Confidential and Memento. With The Time Machine, he comes across as a place holder, losing all personality in the special effects. Regarding Klaus Badelt's score, he struck a tone adventurous and proud... more in line with Wells' original thesis. Now, I've read complaints about him copying modern maestros quite heavily for this effort. Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner were mentioned. No matter the influences, Badelt's music flows with a vibrancy which seems more ambitious than the final film. A vast canvas opens before us, while he makes effective use of space, tone and emphasis. Also, an improvisational quality can be detected in the woodwinds. Check out "Stone Language." So much air and life. But not too much. He hardly ever indulges in his craft in order to milk ideas beyond their fleeting intentions. Simultaneously hair raising and dastardly, "Morlocks Attack" assimilates fine habits denoting the action symphony. This transforms into a wave which storms, conquers and then departs. As Yoda might say, "A score highlight this is." For "What If?" the orchestra assaults the objective like raiders sensing sweet plunder. Meanwhile, "The Master" ventures deep, and I can guarantee that no two listens will feel the same. Adding to which, the theme proves first-rate. The choral section could be considered a precursor to one of James Horner's Na'vi motifs in Avatar. Thus, surprises await newcomers. I like The Time Machine very much.
Escape from L.A. (Shirley Walker and John Carpenter, 1996) *** Afflicted by the industrial soundscape, Escape from L.A. carries a few bad habits. The clanging and abrasive textures throughout "Motorcycle Chase" resemble a poorly assembled robot trying to dance. Most of the underscore seems downright obnoxious, although "Decapitation, Game Time, The Game" boasts a gruff, clunky charm. Between the main theme, the latter part of "Weapons - Snake's Uniform" and "Submarine Launch," there's enough quality to overshadow these shortcomings.
Time to rhyme:
World on the brink of a cyber attack
Snake Plissken strikes back.
Harmonica and metal guitar riff
Pull back from the cliff.
"Submarine Launch" felt daring
Thanks to gifted sharing.
Even Bruce the Shark
Earns a quotation mark.
It's not the Jaws theme
Only notes from a good composing team.
Both Carpenter and Walker
Perform as friend and fellow talker.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 (Tyler Bates, 2017) *** A poem:
With its hesitation to move,
There's room to improve.
Still the time passes quick
A mildly diverting flick.
This Guardians of the Galaxy
Conveys depth and majesty.
Even the choirs work well
As motifs lean back and swell.
Despite flaws, it's a keeper
A rare and significant sleeper.
Rapture (Georges Delerue, 1965) **** A poem:
The human condition in Rapture
Proves difficult to capture.
Georges Delerue nails the idea
Presenting a fine galleria.
The woodwinds sting and weep
From emotions held deep.
A mood tumultuous and idyllic
Good thoughts by this critic.
Salome (George Duning, 1953) ** Another poem:
By the numbers tuning
For composer George Duning.
Characters climb the walls
And bellow within great halls.
Dramatic with a touch of mellow
A bold adventure turns yellow.
Good for a single try
With no reason to buy.
I prefer 1001 Arabian Nights
A score of numerous delights.
Salome rarely glimpses such treasure
Or offers much in the way of pleasure.
SCORE OF THE MOMENT
The Boy Who Could Fly (Bruce Broughton, 1986) ***** I have agonized for years over which title might earn "Score of the Moment" for the year 1986. Despite my love for several contenders, all fell short of the intended mark. Then along came Bruce Broughton's The Boy Who Could Fly. I didn't take much notice of the themes at first. Long story short: I soon fell in love with this wonderful and distinctive score.
A poem to celebrate:
The Boy Who Could Fly
Dropped in to say "hi."
A theme in the homegrown tradition
Need not feel like sedition.
Made with passion and care
Broughton took this on a dare.
With the contrasting sorrow
Things look good for tomorrow.
Experience the wonder of flight
Consumed by melody and light.
Flutes to make you stutter
Devoid of time wasting clutter.
A canvas surprisingly vast
Offers atomic blast.
The clearly defined hook
Engages as a good book.
An end to the search
The light of a new church.
Set to longest play
Like beautiful blossoms in May.
This completes all "Score of the Moment" selections for the 1980s. Here's a recap:
1980: Altered States (John Corigliano)
1981: Dragonslayer (Alex North)
1982: The Beast Within (Les Baxter)
1983: Octopussy (John Barry)
1984: The Terminator (Brad Fiedel)
1985: Silverado (Bruce Broughton)
1986: The Boy Who Could Fly (Bruce Broughton)
1987: The Living Daylights (John Barry)
1988: Scarecrows (Terry Plumeri)
1989: DeepStar Six (Harry Manfredini)