MALOS HÁBITOS – Daniele Luppi


Original Review by Alan Rogers (First uploaded at maintitles.net)

Malos Hábitos (aka Bad Habits) is a 2007 film from Mexico and is notable for being Simón Bross’ directorial debut. Originally a successful director of commercials in Mexico, Bross skilfully brings to the screen a harrowing story centred around a family’s obsession with food, particularly with Elena, an anorexic mother who punishes her plump daughter for being fat. Elena’s husband is turned off by his wife’s thinness and seeks solace in the arms of student who enjoys her food…and sex…and sometimes, both together time. To complicate matters, the plump daughter’s communion is approaching and one of the nun’s of the local church also has food issues. Matilde is a nun who, believes that when she was a child she saved the life of her father by reciting the Lord’s Prayer when he choked on some food at a family gathering. She feels that by starving herself or only eating disgusting food she can cure the sick and stop the incessant rain that’s causing floods and leading to the death of hundreds of Mexico City inhabitants. Bross and co-writer Ernesto Anaya interweave these various threads into a harrowing chronicle that’s melancholic and gloomy, an over-riding mood that’s perpetuated by relentless rain featured throughout the film.

Composer Daniele Luppi was tasked with scoring this feature and everything that I read about Luppi, together with director Bross’ commercials background did nothing to prepare me for the score for Malos Hábitos. Luppi has constructed a score that mirrors the melancholia and gloominess on-screen, using the barest of instrumentation: nothing more that solo piano supported by strings in low register. Three or four thematic ideas are used time and time again supporting the overall feel of the scene just as much as representing the characters. Bedded in the simple, sometimes off-kilter piano lines in only a couple of situations does the score rise above the melancholia: firstly, although still using solo piano as the basis of the theme, “Gordibuena” (and its variations) features a lighter piano theme and is heard when Elena’s husband escapes to the arms of his student lover (and the associated enjoyment of food). Interestingly, the second main occasion where the score features more than just piano – in fact here there is little use of piano – is when we see Matilde eating scraps from bins or eating food to which she has added excessive amounts of salt to make it inedible. Here the score aches with a large string section, sounding at the same time both uplifting but gloomy. Luppi’s writing is to keep it simple but to instil the music with an emotional complexity.

I mentioned earlier that I was not prepared to hear such a score from Luppi. Luppi came to prominence in 2004 with a debut album – “An Italian Story” – that featured tracks influenced by the soundtracks of the swinging Italian films of the ’60s and ’70s. And more recently, Luppi has worked with a number of contemporary musicians including John Legend and is set to co-produce an album with Danger Mouse for release towards the middle of 2011. I was expecting to hear something a bit more upbeat. But having now seen the movie, an upbeat score would have been inappropriate. Luppi supports the movie very well, adding a dimension to what is a very polished film – I was drawn into the film even though I saw the film not understanding a word of it. Both visuals and music provide the dialogue, the emotion. The score, released on the Ipecac Records label towards the end of April 2011, certainly benefits from having seen the movie as it places Daniele Luppi’s music in context: it’s not a particularly feel good listen in isolation and can seem a bit repetitive as it features several reprises of themes with only slight variations in orchestration, but listening to it again after having seen the film I can better understand the composer’s ideas. I would certainly recommend this and would encourage people to hunt out the movie to fully appreciate Luppi’s music.

Audio samples can be found HERE and then click on blue arrow next to running time for samples of entire album or individual tracks.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  1. Despues del Desamor (0:59)
  2. Titulos (Primer Milagro) (1:03)
  3. Gordibuena (1:24)
  4. Lluvia (2:01)
  5. Malas Noticias (2:08)
  6. Flan Paraiso (0:51)
  7. Primera y Segunda Penitencia (1:05)
  8. Gordibuena (Amor Despues del Desamor) (1:45)
  9. Tercera Penitencia (1:22)
  10. La Lluvia No Para (1:44)
  11. Casarse Con Dios (1:17)
  12. Cuarta Penitencia y Segundo Milagro (2:12)
  13. Gordibuena (Reprise) (1:24)
  14. Cumpil (1:08)
  15. Comunion (2:16)
  16. Malas Noticias (Reprise) (2:53)
  17. Quinta Penitencia (1:04)
  18. Gordibuena (2nd Reprise) (1:44)
  19. Titulos (Ultimo Milagro) (2:15)
  20. Gordibuena (Piano Solo) (2:05)

Running Time: 32:50

Ipecac Records (2007)

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