All posts by jonman492000

WILDWITCH.

 

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Movie score media is a label that I always look to for unusual and interesting releases, they always seem to be able to come up with a release that is by a composer I have not heard of, and every time I discover more wonderful music on investigating the composer further. One of the labels most recent releases is for a movie entitled WILDWITCH, as you can probably gather from the title it is something of a mysterious and magical film and one which contains a musical score that is not only attractive and inventive but is also a work that is overflowing with themes and has a rich and alluring musical identity. The score is the work of FLEMMING NORDKROG, a young Danish composer. The soundtrack has been released at the same time as the film is in theatres in Denmark and Germany, WILDWITCH is a family movie but it is still filled with a lot of magical hocus pocus which is based upon the book series by author Lene Kaaberbol. The story focuses upon a twelve year old girl who’s name is Clara.

Gerda Langkilde Lie Kaas som Clara. Vildheks.

 

She lives a normal life until one day is scratched by a black cat. Soon after Clara comes to the realisation that she is able to communicate with the feline, and also discovers that she has a family all of whom are wild witches, Clara and her new found family have a strong tie to the world of animals and also to nature in general. Her Auntie Isa becomes her mentor and together with her and her friends Clara has to face what is coming to her in her life. She starts on a perilous journey as she has to save herself and the entire wild world from the clutches of the evil witch called Bavita Bloodyoung. The soundtrack is an interesting one and the composer fashions some really innovative and haunting moments within the score, his use of voices and half heard sounds within the score is stunning and mesmerising. This is no ordinary soundtrack it is an intelligent and outstanding work which has to it a fragility but t the same time succeeds in making one feel slightly uncomfortable.

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There is a finely tuned and subtle style present within the work, mysterious and organic the music seems to caress and envelope rather than punctuate and underline. Female voice accompanies the central character Clara, which is further enhanced by the use of cello, bass and woodwind giving it an ethereal sound that is wonderfully touching and emotive. The use of various sounds within the score is breathtaking, they purvey senses, moods and atmospheres that are magical. I enjoyed the score very much and I returned to it three times listening out for things I maybe had missed. Certainly one to check out.

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IL GRANDE SILENZIO (THE GRAND SILENCE).

 


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Released in 1968 in Europe THE GRAND SILENCE (IL GRANDE SILENZIO) was directed by acclaimed Italian filmmaker Sergio Corbucci.

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Corbucci was born on December 6th,1927 in Italy. Most of his movies have the reputation for containing copious amounts of violence, but at the same time his films were intelligent and groundbreakingly inventive examples of Italian cinema and in future years influenced several young directors both in Italy and outside of that country. He is probably best known for his work within the Italian or Spaghetti western genre. But he was at home within any genre, several his action films contain social criticism of left-wing politics as Corbucci never hid the fact that he was a communist. The art direction he employed within his films was mostly apocalyptic and surrealistic which became one of the film-makers trademarks and examples of his black humour and quick wit. Corbucci began his career in film in the Sword and Sandal days of Italian cinema, or Peplums as they are so often referred to these days and it is probably true to say that he learnt his craft from many Hollywood film directors that had travelled to Italy’s Cinecitta to work on the big budget Biblical epics during the 1950,s and 1960,s. He learnt his craft working as an assistant director on a handful of these productions and then decided that he would contribute several examples of the Sword and Sandal variety to the genre. These included SON OF SPARTACUS, which although was nothing remotely like the original SPARTACUS, was an enjoyable adventure romp which introduced some quirky but interesting touches.

 

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In 1965 he directed MASSACRE AT GRAND CANYON, which was a spaghetti western of sorts, by this I mean it certainly belongs to the genre, but really contained none of the trademarks that we now so readily associate with the Italian produced sagebrush sagas, which can also be said for movies such as GUNFIGHT AT RED SANDS etc. In the same year he worked on MINNESOTA CLAY again an Italian western, but one which still contained many of the clichéd trademarks of the Hollywood produced western and starred an American actor Cameron Mitchell in the lead role. the film was also sadly overshadowed by the success of Sergio Leone’s first foray into the western arena, A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS.

 

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In 1966 Corbucci began to shape the style and blueprint of the western all’Italiana with RINGO AND HIS GOLDEN PISTOL which was one of the earlier real spaghetti westerns, containing a gimmicky storyline, but still having some connections with the Hollywood version of the western. It was DJANGO an ultra-violent western that he also filmed in 1966 that was to be the directors first major break into the commercial film market, the movies leading actor was Franco Nero who was to be the leading figure in many of Corbucci’s later movies.

 

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The film became an instant hit in Italy and also a cult film throughout Europe, it was and still is notorious for its scenes of violence and also the amount of killings it contained, which led to it being banned in the UK for some 20 years, receiving its first screening on the BBC as part of a series of films introduced by Critic and filmmaker Alex Cox. In many ways it was a more brutal version of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. With Ku Klux Clan and Mexican bandit’s taking the place of the Rojo’s and the Baxter’s and the mysterious Django character being stuck in the middle playing both sides off against each other. In the same year Corbucci directed NAVAJO JOE, another ultra-violent example of the genre which was a vehicle for the young American actor Burt Reynolds, but it was the success of DJANGO that put Corbucci firmly on the filmmaking map, after this success Corbucci went onto become a director in demand and made numerous other westerns during the period from 1966 through to 1971 that remain to this day original and iconic examples of the Spaghetti genre.

 

 

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THE GREAT SILENCE which was perceived to be so violent that it too was banned from several countries was one of these and is now considered to be the directors most accomplished example within the genre of the western. The movie had two endings shot, one being happy and upbeat where the good guys triumphed, and everyone lived happily ever after, the other being more down to earth gruesome and dark, with the villains being the ones who walked away from the shootout at the end of the movie. Other westerns that Corbucci directed include, A PROFESSIONAL GUN, HELLBENDERS, THE SPECIALIST, COMPANEROS, BANDA J AND S and WHAT AM I DOING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE REVOLUTION. Corbucci became the most successful director in Italy after Sergio Leone. When the genre of the Italian western had run its course and the ideas for the genre had been explored fully and exhausted by filmmakers, Corbucci concentrated mostly upon comedies which was a genre that he also excelled in. These movies often starred the singer/actor Adriano Celentano. It has been said that Corbucci’s contributions were not important examples of Italian cinema at the time of them being produced, but over the years he has become an extremely significant and highly regarded figure within the world of film making. Sergio Corbucci died on December 1st, 1990.

 

 


IL GRANDE SILENZIO, is for me personally one of the great Italian made westerns, everything about the movie is polished and it is in my humble opinion probably the best non-Leone made western that has been produced within this genre. Unlike so many Italian made westerns THE GRAND SILENCE a French-Italian co-production was filmed in Italy in the Dolomites and not in Spain, it is set in a snow-covered landscape rather than an arid and dusty one or the mud laden location as in Corbucci’s DJANGO.
The cast is impressive with the lead being taken by French actor Jean Louise Trintignant who plays the part of mute gunfighter named Silence. The movie also starred Klaus Kinski who as always was excellent as the villain LOCO the leader of a band of bounty hunters. The love interest was provided by actress Vonetta McGee who made her debut in the movie. Plus, there were some familiar faces in the form of Frank Wolff, Luigi Pistilli and Mario Brega. Trintignant’s character is pitted against Loco and his killers as he defends a group of outlaws who are hiding out in the hills and a vengeful widow played convincingly by McGee.

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Corbucci not only directed the film, but co-wrote the story and screenplay, it is said that the story was inspired by the deaths of both Che Guevara and Malcolm X. The story is set just prior to the Great Blizzard of 1899 in Utah State USA. The movie was distributed in most places by 20th Century Fox, but received a luke warm reception upon its release, but like so many of the directors films, its popularity grew and it has attained cult status.

 

DJANGO

 

Like DJANGO it was refused a cinema release in America, and did not receive an actual release in the States until 2001, when the DVD was made available. Eleven years after the release of the DVD THE GREAT SILENCE got its theatrical premier and was then re-released in 2017. The movie is a bleak and somewhat unforgiving one, that is dark and violent but at the same time because it is so well directed and purveyed by the cast it comes across as sheer perfection within this at times quirky but interesting genre of films. The musical score too is impressive, Ennio Morricone’s rather soft and highly themeatic approach also supports and elevate the films storyline, and again we have the scenario where a softer sounding soundtrack is instrumental (forgive the pun) in making the moments of violence even more shocking and affective.

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The composers opening credits theme in-particular is soothing and calming RESTLESS theme accompanies Trintignant as we see him riding through the snow-covered landscape as the credits appear on screen. Strings, Choir and percussion combine to create a haunting melody that is given various outings throughout the movie in differing arrangements. Apart from ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST and GIU LA TESTA. IL GRANDE SILENZIO is probably one of Morricone’s more melodically themed scores for a western and considering the amount of violence and bloodshed within the movie the score works well with the desolate and unwelcoming snow filled locations, there is a easy sounding persona to many of the compositions within the score and as always Morricone fashions haunting and attractive melodies that linger in the listeners mind long after they have finished listening to them. There are also some interesting chorale performances via Alessandroni’s flawless IL CANTORI MODERNI, who’s performances bring an almost celestial sound to the work, Alessandroni also performs Sitar within the score, which is an unusual instrument for a western soundtrack, but this is the genius of Morricone we are dealing with, Sitar, harp and choir combine at times to create stunning fragments of themes that are a delight.

 


Don’t get me wrong there are an equal amount of raw and savage sounding pieces within the score, but it is the fragility and melodious moments that attract and make an impression. The score was released on LP and then given a re-issue also on vinyl as a special collector’s edition in the BEAT records Gold Series. The score then made it to compact disc and finally was re issued with a few extra moments of music.

 
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Henry Pollicut is a corrupt banker and a self-appointed justice of the peace in Utah. Pollicut has a man and his wife killed by Bounty Hunters and to prevent their son telling anyone they cut his throat making him mute. Years on in 1898 the boy has grown into a man and is a gunfighter who is known as Silence. Pollicut is still around and Silence works with the community and a group of men with bounties on their heads against Pollicut and the unsavoury characters in his employ. It is an interesting plot and one that has many twists, turns and ups and downs, but I have always found it to be a rewarding watch. Looking at the film’s alternate endings, I personally prefer the one that allows good or at least the antihero of the piece to triumph and looking at these endings there is also I think a link with Sergio Leone’s A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, with Silence’s metal gauntlet maybe being a reference to the stranger’s metal breast plate. An interesting western well directed with solid performances and a great musical score.

 

 

THE WITCHER 3. WILD HUNT & BLOOD AND WINE.

 

 

 

I have been collecting film music for many years now, in fact too many years I think at times, but in the 5 decades that I have been adding soundtracks to my collection I have seen many composers come and go and many genres come into fashion and go out as quickly as they arrived. However as a collector of music for film I suppose nowadays we have to include music not only for TV and motion pictures but also music for video games etc, many collectors of soundtracks do I know dismiss the medium of video or computer games, but when you investigate and explore the music for these games they are in fact movie scores, and many of them are grand and symphonic and have to them a fully lush symphonic sound. I decided that I would start to explore these scores more and have had some wonderful listening experiences doing so. I think the first game score I fully appreciated was CASTELVANIA as it was so atmospheric and was a soundtrack of powerful and epic proportions, it also contained themes, which is something that is discussed a great deal these days amongst film music fans, or at least the lack of said themes in movie scores.
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Maybe composers have become to reliant upon the synthetic and sample options and because of budget in many cases directors and other film makers go for a slightly cheaper way of getting the music or the sounds that they want for their movies. However, I was told many years ago by Maurice Jarre that a synth score can at times be more expensive route than a conventional soundtrack. I recently went online and just randomly selected a couple of video game scores, which I am pleased to say turned out to be first class choices, these were both from the WITCHER 3 series of games which contain some of the earthiest and near operatic sounding scores that I have heard in a while. So, where better to start than WITCHER 3-BLOOD AND WINE which was released in 2016. My initial thoughts on this score were it could be Woljeich Kilar but written in a more contemporary style, it is epic and powerful driving and commanding and the main parts of the score are by Polish born composer, Marcin Przybylowicz with contributions from Mikolai Stroinski and Piotri Musial, the collaboration obviously works because the music is constantly good throughout and the style to is similar each cue complimenting the other.

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The use of solo vocals both performing songs or performing wordless and soaring passages within the score is stunning and gritty making them a compelling listen, add to this creative use of percussive elements driving strings and powerful utilisation of brass’s woods and choir and we have the makings of an inventive and innovative sounding work that would certainly not be out of place in any block buster movie. The composer or composers also throw into the mix ethnic instrumentation which adds another dimension and gives the score a more depth and credibility.

 

 

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BLOOD RUN (track number 4) is a favourite of mine, and although brief it has an unworldly quality that evokes memories of Kilar’s DRACULA score the dark and the light textures fusing becoming one eventually to purvey an atmosphere that is filled with tension and apprehension but underlined with a sense of melancholy and romanticism. Then we move to track number 6, I CANNOT LET YOU LEAVE which could be out of a Morricone western score from the 1970.s forthright percussion and sharp dark string stabs act as a background to chanting female voices that create an affective piece that stands out. The score also has some less upfront pieces within its running time and again the use of wordless female vocalising and lush strings in track number 7, THE BANKS OF SANSRETOUR, for example is breath-taking. The cue being melodic fully romantic. This is a score you must check out, NO, this is a score that you must own. The only thing is if you add this to your collection, you will after listening to it be craving more of the same, so why not also investigate, THE WITCHER 3- WILD HUNT, which is a score that is of equal stature and quality, again the work of more than one composer which with video game scores can be the norm.

 

 

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This is a more vocal score as in choir and solo performances which are given centre stage and surrounded by thundering percussion, dark and ominous strings and raw and rasping brass. There are however softer moments which although fleeting are beautiful and haunting, these have a richness and dark lavish sweeping persona that again command that you stop and take notice, the composers utilising low strings and sorrowful cello to infuse a sense of melancholy and loneliness, these two scores will I think keep any discerning film music collector happy and occupied for many a day, each time one takes a listen you find little pieces that maybe were not there before or if they were you did not hear them. These are scores of a high quality and works that are incredibly potent. I dare anyone who listens to them not to be impressed. Recommended.

FIRST MAN.

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I will say at the start of this review that I think that  FIRST MAN will be a movie we will be hearing a lot about and seeing a lot of it too. My focus is of course the music and when a big movie such as this is announced one always wonders who will score it, what type of music will they create etc. Well when I heard the composer would be Justin Hurwitz, I sort thought, OK! I do not realy know anything about the composer apart from his work on LA LA LAND, and that is I am ashamed to say is my full extent. So, what would he do, how would he approach it, what would the result be. I am pleased to say that I am not disappointed one little bit, the score is inventive for one and is majestic and innovative. I did hear little samples of the score before it was released officially and the two cues that came my way stuck with me and when listening to them I was thinking cool sound, great orchestration, and yes there are themes. So, I think I am going to highlight one of the cues that I was sent first which is THE LANDING. This is slow burner at first, with strings creating a sinewy but at the same time melodic sound that is apprehensive and brooding, the strings are joined by little hints of percussion and more strings are brought into the equation giving the cue more substance and creating a tense atmosphere which continues to build slowly, the composer adding piano and giving the percussion or more pronounced role as the strings bring the piece to a crescendo that turns into a working of the theme via the brass. with trumpet, horns and trombones all taking a hand to concoct a lumbering but at the same time haunting musical persona that just simple relies on the ebb and flow of its sound and the repetitive but interesting foundation to create so much atmospheric electricity.

 

 

The composer also employs synths within the cue which act as wonderfully in tune back up to the conventional instrumentation. It is an inspiring listening experience that is overflowing throughout with a proud and astute style, that is attractive and alluring. In many ways THE LANDING evokes the style and sound of old school film music and boasts richness and many colours and textures that just keep building and growing. Cn I say it reminds me of any one composer? No, I don’t think so as it is after all an original score, although it does have nods in the direction of both Morricone and Goldsmith, so I think you get now where I am coming from. The score is also inventive as in the orchestration, the composer utilising Theremin to great effect, which reminds me of the vintage space or sci fi movies where composers called upon the unusual sound of this instrument to create otherworldly sounds for strange and unfamiliar landscapes. One of the major cues within the score is track number, twenty-six, APPOLLO 11 LAUNCH.

 

 

The composer combines both symphonic and synthetic styles and sounds, to fashion what is initially a tense sounding piece, but it builds into a more themeatic composition as the composer introduces rumbling percussion and electronic echoing effects whilst the central theme is given a down tempo introduction on synths, the percussion is then ushered in giving the cue a more urgent mood whilst the strings begin to rise and add warmth to the proceedings, as the strings become stronger so does the brass beginning to wrap itself around the string performances, until they become one sound and arrive at compositions peak. Track number, 15 THE DOCKING WALTZ is also a nice touch by Hurwitz, as it evokes memories of the use of the BLUE DANUBE in 2001 A SPACE ODDYSSEY, the composer fashioning a Viennese type waltz that is enhanced by the use of some quirky and unusual electronic sounds.  The END CREDITS cue is also stunning and impressive, it has to it a majestic sound and a lushness that is beguiling but also has to it an underlying sound that keeps up a tense and nervous atmosphere.

 

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This is I have to say a stunning score and one that I think could be the Oscar winner for next year in Hollywood. It has all the hallmarks of a quality film score, but it also has all the attributes of music that can be listened to on its own and savoured and enjoyed by all. Check this out you will I know love it. Recommended.

VENOM.

 

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I don’t know about you, but I loved the score for BLACK PANTHER, I also thought that the understated score for the re-boot of DEATH WISH was pretty good as well, so I for one was pleased to hear that the composer who worked on both was to score VENOM. Ludwig Goransson fashioned some funky themes for BLACK PANTHER and fused these up-tempo pieces with some interesting conventional sounding film music. When he scored CREED, he pulled out all the stops and blew me away with his re-working of the Rocky theme and his original material for the score was awesome. VENOM is the latest in the never-ending cycle of superhero movies, Goransson has scored the film and I have to say that there are a few moments which I found original and sections that I considered were ok. However, for the most part the score kind of goes down the route of musical noises or even un-musical noises, the composer relying more upon sounds, pulses or beats to create atmospheres and moods for the picture, yes I realise that this is probably more of a horror film than a superhero movie, but you know I don’t really get the difference sometimes.

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The composer has I have to say disappointed me more than surprised or entertained me with this his latest offering. There are some high-octane powerhouse moments within the score,  as in PEDAL TO THE METAL but these are often, interrupted or overpowered using the electronic and the synthetic never allowing anything vaguely musical to develop. Yes I know this is an action movie, but there should be room for a theme here and there or at least a hint of one. The manufactured sounds or samples are just grating and seem to be more so in this case, working against the remainder of the score, the noises, jolts, starts and frantic chaotic jarring sounds just do not a good experience make. So, it’s a thumbs down for this one, but as you know this is just my opinion, and what do I know? Also dont forget there are two albums, one is the score, the other a song compilation.
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