A review of LA MULA appeared on this blog/web site some time ago, this was a review based on the promo version of the score that was sent to us by the composer,I thought it fitting to remove this review and replace it with another that is based on the full score version of the soundtrack that is released on Kronos/Movie score media records, and is available now. JM.
Produced in 2012, LA MULA or THE MULE was unfortunately beset by numerous legal problems and therefore the release of the movie did not take place till 2013. The movie which is a comedy/drama love story based upon the novel by Juan Eslava Galan who also provided the movie with its screenplay. The film is set during the closing days of The Spanish Civil War, and focuses upon a soldier who finds a mule on a battlefield and decides to take the animal with him on a journey through the countryside at first as company but then he decides that he will keep the animal and also makes a decision to protect it. It is whilst undertaking his journey that he attempts to make some sense of all the chaos that is happening around him, and all of the senseless suffering that has taken place during the cruel and futile Civil War. The music for this charming, entertaining and delightful movie is the work of Spanish born composer Oscar Navarro; the composer has written an equally entertaining score that contains numerous musical colours and via his varied and enthusiastic approach to scoring the movie has been able to produce a musical soundtrack that encompasses a number of styles and creates a diverse spectrum of moods. Given the subject matter there are some obvious musical references to the country where the story is set, i.e., solo guitar, castanet’s, energetic sounding strings and flamenco type clapping, which give the work a real Hispanic sound and flavour. On the whole this is a fully melodic and symphonic sounding soundtrack that contains a number of jaunty and vibrant passages plus there are as many emotive sounding compositions included within the work, the composer calling upon heartfelt cello on a handful of occasions within the score to bring a sense of melancholy and real passion to the proceedings, its ephemeral but effective presence at strategic points within the work melting the listeners emotions gradually but decisively. The composer also makes effective use of martial sounding music that appears on a number of occasions underlining the central characters involvement with the military, also included there are more plaintive and poignant sounds which come courtesy of solo piano and accompanying strings which create a rich and romantically slanted mood. Solo violin is also a significant emotive feature within the framework of the score the composer employing the instrument to radiate a sense of heartrending poignancy and ingratiate and infuse proceedings with elegance and tenderness. Track one, LOVE STORY,(MAIN THEME FROM LA MULA) is a particularly melodic and rich sounding piece, it begins with low key guitar which is accompanied and embellished by subtle use of strings which are played in unison with fragile sounding woodwind, the string section gradually begins to swell and become the mainstay of the composition with feint rumblings of percussion punctuating, plus harp being present to swell the emotive content plus the composer brings into the equation faraway sounding horns that are most definitely Barry-esque in their sound and placing,the strings carry the romantic theme to a tumultuous and heartrending crescendo which is assisted by the clash of cymbals at strategic points along the way. In a number of ways this did evoke for me personally the music of Roque Banos within his score for LAS 13 ROSAS, it is a sumptuous, poignant and highly melodic theme that I think Max Steiner would have been proud of, it overflows with emotive thematic properties and is a stunning and haunting opening to the score. Track number two, CASTRO Y CONCHI. Is a quieter and if it is at all possible more deeply heartfelt variation on the scores central theme, again it opens with a guitar introduction the central theme from the score being performed on a mournful but emotive sounding clarinet, solo violin then takes on the theme subtly underlined and supported by a scattering of strings adding depth and even more emotion to the short lived but affecting piece.
Track three, THE TURNTABLE is a lighter more robust and up tempo composition, the music posses a real Hispanic sound and is brimming with references that conjure up a Spanish atmosphere, castanets, pizzicato strings and also strong fiery sounding strings combine with cheerful sounding woodwind, brass, solo trumpet and clapping, these components combine to create a composition that has comedic qualities but also remains highly melodic and interestingly entertaining at the same time. In a number of ways the style of music employed here reminded me a lot of the western scores of Maurice Jarre as in BEHOLD A PALE HORSE and also, THE PROFFESSIONALS and VILLA RIDES, by this I mean it is tuneful and at the same time quirky and catchy with infectious rhythmic nuances that delight. The music also has a sound to it that can be likened to that of Elmer Bernstein when that particular composer was in western score mode, i.e. His Mexican flavoured cues from THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. Track number four, FREINDSHIP, is a beautiful and enticing tone poem written for solo piano and two violins, the piano creating a subdued but poetically beautiful introduction which acts as a delicate background to in the first instant a solo violin, this after a short time is joined by a second violin and further supported by the string section and a brief and subdued rumbling of percussion which seems to bring all of the musical elements together in a low key but effective crescendo, heartrending and so sorrowful this haunting composition is for me one of the highlights of the score.. Track number five, I AM NOT A SLAVE TO ANYONE, is a return to a proud sounding Spanish sound with guitar and strings interspersed by brass stabs and flourishes that are them selves supported by castanets and percussion, that posses an urgency and real dramatic fervour. The remainder of the score contains numerous pieces that are of a lighter nature and written generally with a comedic air to them, in fact some do have that certain Mickey-Mousing appeal about them, but every so often we are treated to a sprinkling of pure poignancy and delicate emotion with a melody or brief passage of music that glimmers through gracefully rising from nowhere and creating an air and atmosphere that is near magical and so expressive and sensitive that it is literally heart stopping and stunning. The scores penultimate cue is GRAND FINALE, this begins in a restrained and low key fashion, underlying strings supporting a plaintive violin solo, the supporting strings begin to rise and increase in volume adding greater emotion to an already mesmerising solo violin, guitar is brought into the piece and this then takes on a version of the scores central theme, supported by the ever present string section and discretely placed percussive punctuations, female voice is then given centre stage and the effective is astonishing, with low and unassuming strings acting as a backdrop, the composition then falls into a lull of sorts with harp picking out an eight note motif, that is then passed to woodwind and guitar, supported by very low key strings, the string section then take hold as they rise into pole position and take on the theme giving it a full and richly romantic work out.
LA MULA is a great score, it includes so many powerful melodies and so many emotional and passionate passages that thrill and excite, it has the ability to make one smile, evoke the feeling of being sombre and reflective and even at times relays a real sense of intimacy that gets right to the listeners soul, the music has so much character and variety to it and I know that once heard it will be returned to again and again, My thanks to the composer Oscar Navarro for this wonderful score and his friendship and also to the team at Kronos/Movie score media, for listening to me and hearing the same richness, the same melodious excellence and the wonderful music of LA MULA.