Posted by Alan Rogers on May 30, 2012
Original Review by Alan Rogers
Director Benh Zeitlin’s Glory At Sea is an award-winning short film from 2008 set in a post-Hurricane Katrina Louisiana. It’s a fantastical story of a community coming together, drawing on their spirit, hope and determined faith (their own faith rather than the restrictive faith of the church) to aim for a goal that seemingly is unattainable. Featuring local and little-known actors, Jake (Geremy Jasper) is a man deposited from the sea into the arms of a barely-functioning community who are mourning the loss of their loved ones to the recent storm. Jake is determined to build a raft and return to sea in order to save his lover, Tess (Meggy Tucker), one of the many souls condemned and trapped on the seabed. Jake refuses to believe the community’s preacher when he tells his remaining congregation that their loved ones have been taken by the sea for a reason. It is this refusal to accept this that leads Jake on his quest to save Tess. Gradually, the rest of the community join Jake in building his boat, hopeful that they too can save their loved ones.
Benh Zeitlin’s visually arresting film is complemented by an equally striking score composed by the director himself in collaboration with fellow-composer Dan Romer. Centred around a small ensemble of musicians, Zeitlin and Romer’s score features mainly strings (plucked and bowed) with additional colours coming from carefully placed piano, brass ensemble and additional instrumentation. The score has a strong emphasis on rhythm particularly with the use of string-ensemble ostinato figures. The choice of instrumentation, musical style and close miking all add to produce a very memorable – almost hypnotic – listening experience (even though the score has a running time of barely 20 minutes). Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Reviews | Tagged: audio clips, Benh Zeitlin, Dan Romer, Death To The Tinman, film music, film score, Glory At Sea, Reviews, Soundtracks | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Alan Rogers on May 29, 2012
- Kings Row
- Erich Wolfgang Korngold
- Varèse Sarabande / 1991 / 48:10
According to Korngold’s son, George, thousands of filmgoers wrote to the composer to express their enjoyment of his score. And listening to this re-recording from Charles Gerhardt/The National Philharmonic Orchestra it is easy to hear what all the fuss was about. Right from the outset, Korngold’s fanfaric theme grabs the attention immediately and for me it is Korngold’s themes and leitmotifs contained in this score that is the attraction.
This version (subsequently, Film Score Monthly have gone on to release the original soundtrack recording – that I have yet to hear) has been arranged as a couple of symphonic suites and the quality of Korngold’s music means that this is not a problem.
As well as the main theme (that many have said has similarities to John Williams’ theme from Star Wars, though I did not notice this until it was pointed out to me) there’s a beautiful, rather romantic theme that’s very European in style to my ears and Korngold’s skill is to take these themes (and others) and adapt them into a whole myriad of forms.
The score can be a bit melodramatic in places but, again, Korngold’s themes are some of the best he composed and mean that this score goes to the top of the pile for 1942 in my view.
Posted in Favourite Scores | Tagged: Erich Wolfgang Korngold, favourite score, film music, film score, Kings Row, Soundtracks | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Alan Rogers on May 28, 2012
Original Review by Alan Rogers
Rouge In Love is a 10-minute YouTube video directed by Evan Jackson Leong and Michelle Phan, starring Michelle Phan who plays a girl visiting Paris where she comes to the aid of an unknown guy who falls at her feet after having been seen fleeing from an unknown peril. What then transpires is the usual boy meets girl, boy loses girl and then boy trying to find the girl again. At its heart, the film is a love story and it calls for an effective, romantic score particularly as – save for one single word – the film has no dialogue. The directors turned to talented composer George Shaw, who succeeds in giving the film an emotional heart with a lushly romantic score for string ensemble and piano that is based around a strong main theme.
Shaw’s theme is first heard right at the outset as a sparse statement in the opening track, “Single Status Update”. It’s a short track (lasting only 20 seconds) but the theme is so strong that it immediately grabs the attention. It is heard again in the next cue, “Win A Trip To Paris”, but this time it is accompanied by a piano countermelody that sits alongside the theme, adding an emotional depth. These two tracks – as it turns out – are not taken from Rouge In Love but are, in fact, from a “prequel” companion film, The Sweetest Thing. This latter film documents how Phan’s character ends up winning a trip to Paris. A quote of the theme on accordion then a full statement on strings and piano signal her winning the competition. Then a statement of the theme on celeste as we see Phan standing by a particularly ornate Parisian building adds a fairy-tale quality to the scene. “Win A Trip To Paris” highlights how Shaw moulds his versatile theme into several different forms by varying both orchestration and tempo to achieve the desired effect. A versatility in the music is particularly important in a film such as this: one that is so heavily reliant on the music (remember, there is no dialogue). However, some may find that, upon viewing the video, the music is a bit over-the-top in terms of signposting what’s happening on-screen (e.g., the appearance of accordion music when we see the Paris competition poster, fairy-tale music for the dream trip to Paris, etc. is an obvious example). Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by Alan Rogers on May 21, 2012
Original Review by Alan Rogers (First uploaded at maintitles.net)
I don’t really enjoy Jerry Goldsmith’s scores for films such as Gremlins/Gremlins 2: The New Batch and The ‘burbs. I state this straight off because, in my opinion, anyone who appreciates scores such as these that heavily feature Goldsmith’s use of synths will enjoy Bear McCreary’s score for Chillerama: Zom-B Movie. Those who don’t enjoy scores such as this may struggle to truly appreciate what McCreary has tried to do in this score. Director Joe Lynch’s Zom-B Movie is a “wrap-around” segment for the anthology movie, Chillerama, a movie that has recently been doing the rounds at various drive-in movie theatres prior to its release at the end of November 2011 on DVD/Blu-ray. Lynch again turns to composer Bear McCreary (their previous collaboration was for the straight-to-video sequel Wrong Turn 2: Dead End) and, from all accounts they had a whale of a time on a project that fits nicely into the Creepshow, Tales From The Darkside and Twilight Zone: The Movie genre of horror anthology movies.
The album begins well with the end credits song “I Don’t Want To Die A Virgin”, a catchy number performed by Young Beautiful In A Hurry (vocals by Bear McCreary’s brother Brendan) that features a great little guitar riff. For the score proper, McCreary has stated that Chillerama: Zom-B Movie gave him the opportunity to expand his musical horizon into the sounds he grew up with, letting him unleash his “inner thirteen-year-old” and to go wild composing for this score. McCreary further mentions that he was inspired by composers such as Bernard Herrmann, John Carpenter, Lalo Schifrin and the aforementioned Jerry Goldsmith for the various aspects of the score. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Reviews | Tagged: Bear McCreary, Chillerama: Zom-B Movie, film music, film score, Reviews, Soundtracks | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Alan Rogers on May 15, 2012
Original Review by Alan Rogers
The Beauty of A Second was an online competition that ran over the course of several months towards the end of 2011. Essentially a method to drive interest in Montblanc’s new chronograph watch, the Nicholas Rieussec, people were invited to “seize the moment” and create a one-second video (using any digital format) on any subject so long as the video highlighted the “beauty of a second”. As well as the individual 3300 videos submitted, people were also invited to choose between 2-60 of the videos and create a playlist (which were also judged). As part of the creative process for these playlists, people were invited to choose music from Montblanc’s audio library. The album The Beauty of A Second features 12 cues composed by German composer Marcus Loeber that were used to accompanying many of the video playlists, as well as during some of the internet-based promotional material (“Nicolas Rieussec (Original Theme)”).
Composer Marcus Loeber’s 20-year experience in composing music for commercials, together with his focus on piano (he has released several albums featuring compositions for solo piano) has resulted in a series of tracks based around piano that quickly establish feeling and emotion. This is necessary since these pieces have been composed to be used in videos that can be as short as 2 seconds or only as long as 60 seconds. The majority of the tracks have a strong rhythmic aspect to them that drives the music forward and gives the videos that they support energy and cohesion. This latter property is particularly important as it glues together clips that can be a bit jarring because of the variety of some of the clips. Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by Alan Rogers on May 10, 2012
- Citizen Kane
- Bernard Herrmann
- Varese Sarabande / 1999 / 52:45
This is a difficult choice for this year as there’s not one that really stands out for selection. Herrmann’s score is rightly seen as a landmark score at a time where film in general was being experimented with by innovative directors such as Citizen Kane‘s director, Orson Welles.
I am not expert enough in film history or theory to understand whether Herrmann’s experience in composing for radio put him in good stead for Welles’ directing style for this film, but Herrmann’s use of the short cue that was particularly effective at bridging scenes is a technique frequently in radio.
It’s the moodiness of this score that is appealing to me; the way in which Herrmann creates a feeling with what appears to be very little effort. The slow, off-kilter tracks in particular are highlights. Alongside the highlights there are also tracks that I always skip: up-tempo tracks such as “Galop” I avoid. And I may be in the minority not liking “Salaambo’s Aria”. Although there are parts I do not like, when it’s good it is very good.
For years, Joel McNeely’s version (with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra) was the go-to version. Rumon Gamba’s more recent release of 49 minutes of Herrmann’s score (BBC Philharmonic, Chandos Records) is now the more sonically appealing though I do not like their choice of making 6-7 minute suites from joining together several of Herrmann’s individual cues.
Posted in Favourite Scores | Tagged: Bernard Herrmann, Citizen Kane, favourite score, film music, film score | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Alan Rogers on May 8, 2012
Original Review by Alan Rogers
The French documentary film Le Système Octogon is based upon the thesis formedby two investigative journalists (Fabrizio Calvi and Frank Garbely) who suggest that as World War II drew to a close a significant amount of Nazi gold was hidden away only to resurface – after the war had ended – to help fund the German political party, the Christian Democratic Union and to have further wide-reaching influences within political circles over the decades after the war. A major part of the network, the “Octogon Trust” was a front company set up by an arms dealer and it functioned as the channel for this secret funding. Using archive footage from the remnants of war-torn Germany, plus photos and expert interviews, director Jean-Michel Meurice weaves a narrative that describes the extent of this far-reaching corruption and details the role former Nazis and the Nazi finances played in the whole system.
Contemporary jazz composer Patrice Mestral has provided music for over twenty scores for film and television spanning over 40 years. For Le Système Octogon Mestral has composed an orchestral score that succeeds in adding an oppressive and somewhat bleak quality to the documentary. Scoring the archive, newsreel-type footage, Mestral has chosen to leave the interviews with various experts free of music. Covering the years immediately after World War II through to the building of the Berlin Wall in the early 1960s, punchy brass figures, staccato string patterns, dissonant and discordant passages with unsettling textures all build a sense of unease. Archive film of bombed cities (“Allemagne Année Zéro”), helpless refugees and even footage of anonymous people doing mundane tasks (“Les Nazis Se Recyclent”) are all given a sense of hopelessness with Mestral’s overarching commentary. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Reviews | Tagged: audio clips, Le Système Octogon, Patrice Mestral, Reviews, Soundtracks, TV music, TV score | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Alan Rogers on May 3, 2012
Please head over to maintitles.net and check out my review of Vincent Gillioz’s score for the “psychological horror-drama” Last Breath. And look out for it here in a few weeks.
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Posted by Alan Rogers on May 1, 2012
Original Review by Alan Rogers
Receiving positive reviews when it did the rounds at film festivals last year, Bess Kargman’s debut documentary First Position is now having a (limited) theatrical release in the US and Canada in May 2012 with the prospect of a wider release later in the year. The film follows, over the space of a year, the experiences of six gifted ballet dancers (aged nine to nineteen) as they focus of competing in the Youth American Grand Prix, a youth ballet competition that awards ballet school scholarships to the best young ballet performers of the world. New York composer Chris Hajian, perhaps best known for his scores for several Alex Zamm comedies including Inspector Gadget 2, Beverley Hills Chihuahua 2 and Tooth Fairy 2, continues to add to his portfolio of documentary scores (e.g., Nursery University and Unraveled) with a contemporary score which highlights the emotional highs and lows that accompanies the sacrifices and pressures of disappointment placed on both dancers and their families.
As an experienced documentary score composer Hajian is aware of the need for there to be a fine balance between enhancing the emotions felt by the audience to the film but not dictating the audience’s emotional response. Hajian’s use of small-scale arrangements (e.g., solo piano or acoustic guitar) to support the emotional events on-screen rather than musical devices such as swelling strings finds the right balance needed in a documentary feature. As well as emotion, the composer is able also to convey a tension that must be an ever-present feature of a film of this kind. Hajian’s use of contemporary influences such as prominent drum and synth rhythms as well as string ostinato may be a surprising choice for a film featuring a significant amount of references to classical ballet music and it posed particular problems for the composer as he tried to meld the score with the source music. It’s difficult to gauge how successful Hajian is in achieving this fusion in a pleasing way without hearing his music in the context of the film itself, but comments from those who have seen the film have been positive and seem to vindicate the composer’s extensive efforts at integrating his contemporary score with the classical source music. The contemporary aspect of the score includes the use of the solo instruments heard in the slower-paced, more emotional parts of the score and seems to link these two aspects of the score together. When listening to the score, elements combined seem to musically reinforce the film’s attempt to highlight the children’s commitment to hard work as being the important “take home message” rather than the drive for success (winning) at any cost.
For the purpose of this review I was only able to listen to a few chosen highlights from Hajian’s score. But Hajian’s score for First Position does seem to to complement the film’s subject in a sympathetic way. Although there are a couple of occasions where the limitations of the synth strings can be heard (this is a personal thing where I tend to be disappointed when scores use samples that betray their electronic origins), my overall impression of his music is very positive. A commercial release of Hajian’s music for First Position would be most welcome and hope that a full release of the score will happen as a result of the success of the film.
- The Competition – The Opening (2:06)
- Sacrificing It All (1:47)
- Missing His Family (1:14)
- Trip To NYC (1:49)
- Michaela’s Moment (1:06)
- Epilogue (1:44)
Running Time: 9:48
Composer promo (2012)
Posted in Reviews | Tagged: Chris Hajian, film music, film score, First Position, Reviews, Soundtracks | 2 Comments »