Chinese film music is for many collectors an untapped and virtually undiscovered area of movie music, and oddly has been something of a neglected genre, I think this is partly due to the availability of the soundtracks on compact disc and also because of pre-conceived ideas that some collectors had about music in Chinese productions. The scores for popular Chinese films such as FEARLESS, HERO, HOUSE OF DAGGERS, THE BANQUET and CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON, did manage to break into the soundtrack market simply because the films were high profile, but lesser known examples of Chinese cinema outside of its country of origin such as WARLORDS, BLOOD VAMPIRE and THE EMPRESS AND THE TWO KINGDOMS, have been ignored as far as their soundtracks are concerned, which is a great pity as the music for all three can easily be put into the valiant and heroic category. RED CLIFF, is also an epic production with the directorial reins being undertaken by the flamboyant and prolific Jon Woo, this directors movies have entertained audiences around the world. He has a flair for taking big stories and transferring these to the big screen with ease and creates motion pictures that have presence and ooze excitement. The score for RED CLIFF is not only commanding one, but it is also a highly melodic and thematic work. Scored for large orchestra with additional traditional instrumentation being introduced from Chinese and Asian culture. This is a masterful and entertaining fusion of styles, colours and ethnicity. The opening or central theme for RED CLIFF, is given a full working in track number 1, ‘The Battle Of Red Cliff’. The theme is surprisingly quirky light and fleeting, but is heard at the most crucial and important stages of the movie, it acts as an cement of sorts that holds the proceedings together musically but also acts as a bonding device for the films storyline bringing together all the elements of this at times complex and fast paced action filled violent epic. The composer makes more than effective use of the string and brass sections creating an expansive and exhilarating score that is filled to overflowing with musical excellence. Track number 2, ‘On The Battlefield’, is a highly charged and powerful composition which is profound on the use of percussion and when combined with brass, vociferous sounding strings and flyaway like woodwind this is an impressive and grand composition.
Although the movie is essentially a tale of war, violence and murder it also has its quieter more subdued and romantic moments, the action and high octane central story being underlined by a sub plot of a warm and touching love story, the film is photographed sensitively and looks sumptuous with beautifully shot landscapes and impressively staged battle scenes. The romantic sub plot and more tranquil moments of the movie is something that is reflected in the composers score as he serves up some poignant and highly emotive tone poems. Which are a combination of Chinese and for want of a better description traditional sounding film music. A combination that works superbly and produces a number of haunting and rich melodic themes. Including a noble sounding composition entitled ‘Decision For Justice’ and ‘Precious One’, which is a delicate almost fragile sounding piece for woodwinds that are underlined by understated but warm sounding layered strings. Plus track there is also track number 12, ‘Loneliness’ with its bittersweet almost mournful tender strings, harp and flute. There are also two vocal tracks performed in Mandarin, which are easy on the ear and pleasant to listen to. Overall this is a score that should be in every self respecting film music enthusiast’s collection. Presented well by Silva Screen with numerous stills from the movie within the CD booklet. Recommended.