JUMANJI THE NEXT LEVEL.

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As we are all aware film music recently, especially scores from Hollywood have had to them a sound that is very much the same, as in there seems to be a lack of any real inventiveness or originality to them. I cant say that I have heard much in the past five years or so that I thought was particularly innovative, but there again the movies that are being produced nowadays too seem to be overrated and samey. So, JUMANJI:THE NEXT LEVEL. Is probably not a good score to select to listen to see if things are maybe picking up a little in the quality depart. But, hang on wait just a second, this isn’t that bad, in fact I rather liked what composer Henry Jackman has served up here. Ok, it may not be that original or out of the ordinary, but it certainly is entertaining to listen to. It is filled with cues that are fast paced and energetic, and at times these do have about them a sound and style that could be compared with that of Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams and Alan Silvestri, so not a bad thing me thinks. What I liked about this score was the lack of those awful drone like sounds that have dominated film music in recent years and also the  presence of any Zimmer like connections,  in fact there were even little references to the romantic film scores of the 1940’s with Jackman at times delivering, Steiner/Waxman-esque richness and melodic interludes. This is a soundtrack that contains actual music and it sounds to me as if it is fully symphonic, or at least the majority of it is, with the odd piece of support from the synthetic section. Jackman creating an eerie sound at key points that sends a shiver down ones spine. The composer has penned a powerful work, and also one that that is entertaining away from the images and keeps the listener interested, with its definite nods of acknowledgement to the action scores of the silver age. Its not a score I can wax lyrical about, but it does the job perfectly for the movie and also is something that I have to admit I did not skip through, check it out, it’s a pleasant surprise.

THE SPANISH PRINCESS. SEASON 1.

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Composer Samuel Sim is in my ever so humble opinion a rare and gifted talent within the film and television music community. His scores for mainly the small screen have always been richly melodic and are a wonderfully attractive and alluring part of any production that he is involved with. His music becomes an important and also an integral part of the whole film making process, the composer producing atmospheric and innovative pieces of music that not only enhance the storyline but have the ability to take on the form of an unseen actor within the movie, thus enriching and supporting this he performances and the scenarios that are being portrayed and purveyed upon the screen. Sim has collaborated with composer Chris Egan for one of his recent projects, THE SPANISH PRINCESS I think must be one of his most interesting scores, the composers creating beautiful and at the same time rather apprehensive sounding musical poems and sections, that have to them a vibrant and highly emotive sound. I am particularly fond of the string sections performances throughout and the use of both percussion and fleeting cymbalom, which are laced with haunting and at times icy sounding harpsichord. Sim and Egan fashioning a hypnotic theme for the cue entitled BORN TO LOVE YOU, which contains a heart breaking cello solo, that is supported and given more impact via the placing of little harpsichord flourishes, which although brief are effective, the cello is also given more of an emotive and poignant persona when punctuated by the delicate touch of harp and cymbalom, which the composers utilise to great effect in many of the other cues on the score. I think it is the simplicity sometimes that is the attraction, and the sheer emotion that is purveyed through Egan and Sim’s beguiling yet, uneasy sounding compositions. There is a tense atmosphere present in the majority of the tracks, but the composer’s collaborative gift for fashioning melodic and tantalising thematic material shines through and even when these moments are short lived, they are still affecting. The last cue on the soundtrack, REMEMBER WHERE YOU CAME FROM is a must listen, from a subdued and even slow start the cue builds and grows into something that is not just grandiose and imposing but also into a piece that is proud and inspiring. With strings, choir and brass combining and being supported and driven forward by timpani which has to it a martial and forthright style. This is a special soundtrack an inventive and gripping score, and a work that you should really own.

DISCOVERING A COMPOSER. Gregoire Hetzel.

 

 

Thanks to the internet and also because of digital platforms such as Spotify etc, these days we are able to discover more in the way of film music, anyway that’s what I think, the other week I had a bit of time and decided to scroll through Spotify (other digital platforms are of course available). Anyway, I discovered a few names that I thought sounded interesting, so I explored them and their music, in 70 percent of cases I was pleasantly surprised, we will not discuss the other 30 percent as they are irrelevant as we will not be talking of them (ever again).

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There were a few composers who I explored and thought ok, yes, pretty good then I happened upon Gregoire Hetzel, and I have to really truthful and tell you I was just blown away by his style and also the varied sounds and moods he created on his film scores, I found myself searching further and further back because I was worried I had missed out on so many musical delights, and guess what? I was right, his musical canon is just outstanding and filled with various works for film and TV that are not only superb in every way but are also so varied and wonderfully written and orchestrated. It is rare these days that we as film music collectors get excited about discovering new music or in this case older music that I was not aware of. If you like me have in recent years become slightly disenchanted with the Hollywood film score, or the scores for so called blockbusters, then taking a listen to this composer will be like a breath of fresh sea air, that will metaphorically blow away the cobwebs of so called titanic film composers or giants in the world of film music. So, I thought maybe a review of one of his scores, then I thought why stop at one, let’s see what is there and tell the world about them. (well the MMI readers anyway). Ready, ok let’s start with a score from 2018, L’AMORE EST UNE FETE, which I will not disguise is a work that I just love. The films alternative title was PARIS PIGALLE and was a comedy made in France helmed by filmmaker Cedric Anger.

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What I was so drawn to about this score was that at points within the soundtrack there are certain references and sounds that refer to the Italian produced Giallo scores from the 1960;s and 1970;s as penned by Gianni Ferrio, Bruno Nicolai, Gianni Marchetti and of course Morricone and Cipriani. Plus there are certainly more than just acknowledging nods in the direction of French Maestro,s Pierre Bachelet, Francis Lai, Michel Magne and even Francois De Roubauix, it has that kind of vibe that essence and that persona. With Hetzel purveying a musical homage to it seems all of the aforementioned, but at the same time infusing and adding his own unique musical fingerprint and identity to the proceedings. I am not saying that this is not an original work, because when you hear it you will yourself hear that that is clear.

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All I am saying is that the composer seems to have taken the sound as realised by composers of the 1960’s and 1970’s and given it new life, fresh vibrancy and also added his own original twist. There is harpsichord, lilting woods, smooth strings and also exquisite light and delicate guitar that is enticing and emotive. Piano too features and that is when I thought of Stelvio Cipriani with his haunting themes for films such as THE ANONYMOUS VENETIAN, plus there are a handful of performances that feature a wordless female voice, again akin to the world of the Italian film score as in Morricone’s LOVE CIRCLE or even Fidenco’ EMMANUELLE movie scores, sultry, steamy but always thematic and haunting. What I adore about this score, is that there are so many themes, motifs, nuances and musical passages it is just very hard to take it all in on one listen, in fact I guarantee that once listened you will return to it again and again. This is tantalising and highly entertaining work, which for me personally evokes the glory days of discovering the brilliance of Italian and French film scores, so many years ago. I dare you to listen to track number sixteen, FIN DE TOURNAGE and not think of CINEMA PARADISO or ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA. This is a perfect score a beautiful one and also an affecting one as well. There are a handful of pop songs mingled throughout the original score but even these I was not that bothered by because I knew that another score track was up next, and I knew that it would be superb. I urge you to check this out, you will be in raptures.

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We go from this absorbing work to yet another accomplished and alluring soundtrack that the composer has fashioned and woven, CONVOI EXCEPTIONNEL, is a more recent work and was released in 2019, this is a edgy and maybe a little more contemporary sounding in certain areas, but, definitely posses a sound that is influenced by Ennio Morricone for one, is this a bad thing, is it a negative, no I don’t think so, I think its ok for a composer to be influenced by another composers work, after all unless you are a complete genius or a teller of untruths you cannot say that you have never been influenced or inspired by someone else’s work, whether it be music, writing, painting, sculpture or acting. I love the way in which the composer moulds a smooth yet at times quite raw sound for this project, and I know I did say it does have moments that are more of a contemporary sound, there are also passages of percussion which act as a backdrop for electric guitar and breathy sounding woodwind, the composer too employs a bass guitar which lays down a rhythmic backing to which is added strings and punctuated by percussive elements, the sound realised being in the same school as soundtracks such as THE SICILIAN CLAN and THE UNTOUCHABLES by Morricone and WILD EYE by composer Gianni Marchetti, with little nuances and flourishes that although brief or even just fleeting add to the work an atmosphere and mood that shouts 1970’s. It is a score that is at times dark and driving, but also contains tender and melodic interludes. Another great score from this gifted and uber talented Maestro.

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The next score is totally different from both of the previous works, released in 2016, AGNUS DEI or THE INNOCENTS as it was entitled outside of France where it was produced, set in Poland in 1945, the movie is a hard hitting drama set in the last days of WWll, where a doctor from the red cross is asked to help Nuns at a convent, where it soon becomes evident that several of the Sisters are pregnant, raped by Russian soldiers. The composer contributed a handful of cues for the soundtrack, the remainder and lion’s share of the score being made up of various classical pieces by Handel etc, and also choral performances. But, the few cues that the composer did contribute stand out and add greater depth and create a more pronounced atmosphere. They are quite subtle in their make-up, mainly a small string section that is enhanced and supported via woods and piano, that at times are punctuated by fragile use of chiming effect. I hope that this brief look at three of the scores penned by Hetzel, and I am of the opinion that once you discover one of his scores you will want to explore everything that he has written, Hetzel is a composer who is HEAR to stay.

LE RETOUR DU HEROS.

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LE RETOUR DU HEROS. Is a funny, fresh and entertaining movie, which I caught late after its initial release in December of 2018. I was surprised I had not heard more about it because It certainly has an original plot that is at times comic, tragic and contains a few unexpected twists and turns within the storyline along the way. The acting is from all the cast members is inspired and superb with the direction by Laurent Tirad containing moments of brilliance. The film, which is set in 1809, tells the story of a French Captain Neuville, who is due to be married to his beautiful fiancée but is called away to war. His future wife is heartbroken and inconsolable, so her sister decides that she will write letters to her sibling which are supposedly from the Captain, she does this in the hope they will make her happy. At the time the ploy works, and her sister becomes less upset by the absence of her love. But, when the Captain returns from the war, things begin to go wrong and the deceit of the letters starts to unravel. The musical score is just as entertaining as the storyline that is unfolding on screen, composer Mathieu Lamboley fashioned a dramatic yet melodic sounding score for the movie, which at times evokes the style of Morricone and Delerue, it has to it a classical sound but this is at times enhanced and given support by striking and lush sounding thematic material that lingers in ones mind long after it has ceased to play. The orchestration I thought was interesting, at times the composer utilising solo trumpet, female voice, choir and an assortment of percussion and strings. One of the cues, EPOPEE (track 2) is wonderfully thematic and almost anthem like in its make up and also its performance, with driving strings that are combined with martial sounding percussion and Morricone-esque sounding male choir punctuating and also pushes the composition forward, the use of solo trumpet and what I think could be harpsichord within the cue is breath-taking and is further embellished by the flawless soprano which becomes more developed and strong as the track progresses. But the entertainment value is not restricted to just this one track, the entire score is a rollercoaster of musical textures, colours and styles, all of which combine to compliment and give one another support.


The composer also employs a whistler on the lovely light and jaunty track, LA CHANSON DE BADAUD, which is a bristling and fresh piece that lifts the listeners spirits and oozes comedic brilliance. The work also contains some truly mesmerising and beautiful melodies that are performed on piano which are affecting as well as effective within the movie. But, for me it is the use of soaring soprano combined with choir, up-tempo strings and percussion that send the chills down my spine, it is as if the composer has penned a score that is a salute or homage to the epic film score, the romantic soundtrack and the works of the great composers such as the aforementioned, Morricone, Delerue with nods of acknowledgement to the likes of Francois De Roubauix,  Jerry Goldsmith, Francis Lai and at times, Michel Polanareef and Michel Magne. It is a vibrant and inventive work and one that entertains and transfixes the listener throughout. LE DUEL track number eighteen is a personal favourite, if only for its brief homage to the gunfight music of Morricone in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.

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But having said that there is also an original and alluring sound and style present which can only be that of Mathiue Lamboley, the composer has written a number of film scores, but I truly believe that we will be hearing a lot more of this gifted and innovative Maestro in the not too distant future, at least I hope we will.

SISTERS IN ARMS.

 

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Released in October 2019, SISTERS IN ARMS is a French war drama which is based upon events that took place in the middle east. Directed by Caroline Fourest, it tells the story of two young French women (Kenza and Yael) who decide to go to Syria to fight with the Kurdish forces that are battling the Islamic State, who are attempting to dominate certain areas of the country. Whilst there they meet another young woman Zara who is a Yezidi survivor. The film shows that although the women are from vastly different cultures they become united because of the fight they have undertaken and gain strength from each other whilst at the same time managing to not only set their ghosts of the past to rest but also because of their new found friendship and growing strength strike fear into the hearts and souls their enemies. The movie was originally entitled RED SNAKE, and features the acting talents of Dilan Gwyn as Zara, Camélia Jordana as Kenza, Esther Garrel as Yaël and Mark Ryder as Al Britani. The musical score is by composer Mathieu Lamboley, who has created a very romantically led work for a war filled drama. The composer eloquently utilises Female wordless voice in a number of the cues, with the opening track THE RECKLESSNESS ARIA setting the scene perfectly, the composer combining the haunting aural performance with underlying strings that enhance and support the vocal performance wonderfully. For me there is a stillness and serene quality to this opening piece, which not only entertains but hypnotises. In many ways it evokes the haunting and enthralling performances of Italian soprano Edda dell Orso, but in this case it is I think rather more subtle and has to it a lilting and more fragile sound. Track two, TRAGIC DAY, opens with a rather more tense fashion, but this then melts away as strings underline a melancholy cello performance that itself introduces a darker and more unpredictable style, which is not only apprehensive but has to it sinister atmospherics. Track three, THE CAGE, is also a darker affair which strings creating an uneasy mood, again the sense of tension is masterfully purveyed by the composer. Track four is a vocal performed by Bobbie, which is entitled SISTERS IN ARMS, that is to be fair  not an unpleasant song. She pops up again on the final track which is called SUNRISE IS ON YOU, again a nice lyric and good performance. Track five, THE LIBERATION ARIA is a variation on the opening track, again Female wordless solo voice is dominating the proceedings with strings once again acting as effective support to enhance and also enrich the performance. Track number six, THE FIRST BATTLE is a more percussive performance, with the composer utilising the dark and growling synthetics combined with threatening percussion and driving but not overpowering strings, which together create a musical persona which is edge of the seat material, but midway through alters direction and becomes quite low key and edgy.

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The dark and ominous sounds are again evident in the track THE LAST ASSAULT, but the composer in this case seems to up the tempo and increase the urgency, with strings and percussion that are laced with synthetic sounds to fashion a greater sense of danger. Again, THE LAST ASSAULT alters direction approx: mid-way through and becomes a softer and even slightly romantic piece. Track number seven, ZARA’S LETTER I think is one of the scores many highlights, and is a cue that just resonates with me personally, it is filled with emotion and poignancy, with strings featuring centre stage but the composer then introduces a particularly delicate sounding piano performance which via its fragility creates a mood that oozes sadness and also loneliness. This is a score that I recommend It deserves a listen. Also check out the composers scores for, LE RETOUR DU HEROS, MINUSCULE: MANDIBULES FROM FAR AWAY and GARDE ALTERNEE which like SISTERS IN ARMS are all available on digital platforms. You are in for a treat.