Category Archives: Reviews

FRIDA VIVA LA VIDA.

FRIDA

Released as part of the five CD set, ART FILM MUSIC, FRIDA VIVA LA VIDA is a documentary film directed by Giovanni Troilo and produced by Ballandi Arts and Nexo Digital. And produced in collaboration with the SKY ARTS channel. The musical score is by the highly talented Remo Anzovino, who has in recent times also written to a number of documentaries that focus upon art and the artists who create it. It is quite amazing when listening to the music of Maestro Anzovino just how varied it is, as a composer for film he seems to be able to alter and tailor his style or his sound to each individual project with ease. For FRIDA his music adds a tantalising and enthralling persona to the engrossing film about the life of this Mexican born painter. The music like the artist and her creations is innovative and haunting. Frida Kahlo is probably discussed more now than she was when she was alive, her paintings have made an everlasting impact upon all generations and have also been instrumental in the influencing of many artists that followed her. She has become a figure head or a symbol that stands for freedom and also for emancipation and many say she is entering into the realms of becoming a legend. Remo Anzovino has written a varied score for the documentary, and one which includes vocals as well as instrumental score. There is a presence within the score and an aura that surrounds it that makes it attractive and alluring, the music is delightfully haunting and at times becomes mesmerising and highly emotive. There are darker sections to the score, which are in keeping with the life and experiences of FRIDA, But again the composer has fashioned a soundtrack that not only ingratiates and enhances the film for which it was written, but it also has a life that extends past being film music, it is also a collection of musical themes and passages that will entertain and interest many without seeing the film, such is the style and overall sound that has been realised here by the composer. As I said, the soundtrack is available as part of a five CD set ART FILM MUSIC, but it can also be heard via digital platforms as a stand alone film score, but my advice would be to check out the ART FILM MUSIC compilation, and savour more of the composers elegant and poignant music.

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POP BLACK POSTA, L’UOMO DEL LABIRINTO, OLIMPIA and LANDSCAPE OF LIES.

 

POP

Marco Werba is a composer who I have followed over the years, and what strikes one straight away about his music is that it is a fusion of styles, it encompasses the melodic and at times quirky and experimental style that has been employed in numerous Italian made movies by the likes of Ennio Morricone, Bruno Nicolai and Francesco de Masi to name but a trio of Maestro’s and it also has to it a solid dramatic and intensely affecting persona which I for one associate with composers from both the Golden age and the Silver age of film music in Hollywood. One can identify little nods of acknowledgement to Jerry Goldsmith and Bernard Herrmann for example, Werba, being able to fashion tense and dark sounding compositions which still have a glint of a melody or at least a hint of a theme or leitmotiv within them. He also evokes a sound and style that I for one associate with the Golden age of tinsel town as in a sound that references the style of Rozsa and Tiomkin and certainly has to it a film noir aura. One of his latest scores POP BLACK POSTA is a perfect example of the vivid talent and innovative style that this Maestro is capable of. It is an ominous and shadowy sounding work, but as I have already stated the composers at times Herrmann-esque melodies and unsettling compositions still hold the listeners attention simply because they so cleverly written and there is lingering and lurking underneath the darkness a fragment of a melody which manages to shine through the atonal or action fuelled pieces. Listening to Werba’s score for POP BLACK POSTA one can hear all of the different elements that have gone into its creation, the slightly menacing but beautiful piano theme that settles and puts the audience or listener at ease, the swirling sinewy strings that seem to creep up upon you and engulf you in a mist of icy nuances that do I think manage to purvey an air of dread and uncertainty. Then there is the inventive use of percussive elements, that are present within the majority of the cues on the score, the composer combines these with strings that are edgy and driving, and also from time to time hiss and stab. It is a score I will recommend to you, it has so many atmospheres and layers of textures and musical colours, and I have to say probably one of the composers most accomplished works. Piano solos are the work of Rea Bisha and the cello performances are courtesy of Christo Tanev.
Available from Plaza Mayor on all digital platforms.

LUOMO
Staying with more releases from Plaza Mayor that are all available on digital sites such as I Tunes, Apple, Spotify etc. We move to L’UOMO DEL LABIRINTO which has a great score from composer Vito Lo Re. Performed by the Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestra, this is a tense and a lush theme laden work, with delicate thematic statements and musical interludes that are romantic and fragile. The composer utilises synthetic support to bolster and augment the romantic sound and dramatic atmospheres created by the orchestra and these electronic elements fuse well and seamlessly with the conventional instrumentation to create a score that is filled with an abundance of varied and rich musical moments. There is obviously a dark side to the score, and this is purveyed via both electronic performances and symphonic means, at times the composer utilising a threatening sound created via wood instruments and supported by chilling strings and synthetic sounds. I cannot say that Italian composer LO RE has a style that is akin to any other film music Maestro, because the style and sounds that the composer has fashioned here are all his own, they are inventive and original. I love the way that he employs solo piano, as it creates an uncomfortable mood but weirdly retains a romantic style yet is uneasy and apprehensive at the same time. His score is a perfect fit for the movie and is as unpredictable and as entertaining as the movie it was written for. There is also fleeting but effective use of Soprano which we first encounter in the track BUNNY and later hear it in a more emotive and poignant performance on the track LINDA DIES. This is a score you should own and one you will I am confident return to many times, it is a dramatic work that has to it underlying romantic and at times melancholy sub themes, recommended.

The film which is directed by Donato Corrisi, stars Dustin Hoffman and Tony Servillo and tells the story of Samantha (Valentina Belle) who is abducted on the way to school by a giant rabbit. Some fifteen years later, she awakes in hospital, alive but in a state of shock. A Doctor Green sits with her and attempts to help her remember, to unlock her mind to many things that she seems to have blocked out. Together, they negotiate Samantha’s memories of a labyrinth, which was an underground prison, that seems to have no way out. Where the girl was forced to play games and solve riddles and puzzles. She was rewarded if she was successful but punished if she failed. Also, taking an interest and eager to solve the mystery is Bruno Genko, a private investigator with a surprising talent. He doesn’t have long to live and, as such, Samantha’s mystery could be the last case Bruno work on. A tantalising mystery/horror.

OLIM

Onto another PLAZA MAYOR release, OLIMPIA, which tells us how, among the books in his house, an eight-year-old boy browses La noche de Tlatelolco by Elena Poniatowska. The emblematic book of the Student Movement of 1968 presents in some pages images that were recorded in his memory and forged the social vocation of José Manuel Cravioto, who directs the first fictional film produced by UNAM about such an event. The musical score is composed and also performed by Andres Sanchez – Juan Andres Vergara & Francisco Cravioto, Mexican made movies and also the scores from them have in the past five years or so begun to make their mark and resonate with film music collectors and critics alike. The music for OLIMPIA is no exception, it is a quality soundtrack, well written and orchestrated and contains some stand out cues which are on a parallel with anything that is coming out of the major studios in Hollywood at this time. It is in no way a grandiose sounding work, but the composers make good use of percussion and a sprinkling of varied instrumentation to create a haunting work an d also one that contains so many themes, which is a pleasant change from the drone like soundscapes that we are being served up elsewhere. It purveys tension, hope and has to it an air of comedic attributes, there is a rhythmic and tantalising side to the score also, but in the main it does seem to be drama led and also has an certain amount of intimacy within its overall sound. Another one for your collection. Again, available on most digital platforms.

LIES

 

Composer Lance Warlock is next with the first of three scores he has had released on the PLAZA MAYOR banner. A LANDSCAPE OF LIES is a score that I have to say I liked a lot, for me personally I could hear within it gentle nods of acknowledgement to composer John Barry. Breathy sounding woods or maybe computer-generated woods, that create a tense and slightly nervous mood. The composer also employing a re-occurring theme which is performed on piano, the short piece, which is basically a brief succession of notes, never really seems to develop, thus it remains mysterious and elusive. Warlock underlines this motif with rumbling sounds that also adds a sense of drama to the proceedings. There is a dark and virulent aura within the score, which never erupts or overpowers anything, but it is there in the background, underlining, supporting and punctuating. It is a highly atmospheric work; at times the composer employing just percussive elements and sounds to create an uneasy atmosphere or to establish a mood that is filled with dread and foreboding. However, the composer also manages to lay down some more melodic moments, not in the operatic or grandiose way, but fleetingly there are little gaps within the darkness where the light of a theme or at least a hint of one manages to emerge. Again, I have to say I enjoyed this score and I also would like to recommend his soundtracks from, 24 LITTLE HOURS and THE EVIL both released last year as was A LANDSCAPE OF LIES.

 

https://www.plazamayorcompany.com/ENG

 

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DRACULA 2020-THE SOUNDTRACK

 

DRACA

 

Well the new adaptation of DRACULA has drawn much attention and caused a certain amount of division between old school Dracula fans and followers of the Count in this series of three episodes. Watching all three episodes was something of a task as I became uneasy with the dialogue and the mannerisms that the writers had come up with to update the Stoker novel. Yes there were a number of references to Hammer films and their take on the Vampire Count, and these did not go unnoticed and were appreciated by Hammer devotees. The musical score is by composers David Arnold and Michael Price who collaborated so successfully of SHERLOCK which was a series also penned by Mark Gatiss and Stephen Moffat. After watching the first two episodes I really could not decide if the music worked or fell short of the mark, and in fact I was hard pressed to even notice the music, but was this because I was focused on the imperfections of the series as it unfolded or was it because the music was just so good in enhancing the various situations on screen that I just did not realise it was there, which is a good thing I suppose because it is film music or TV music in this case and that’s what its there for. So I was pleased when Silva Screen sent out the promo of the score for review, it gave me a chance to actually listen to the score without any images, and I realise this is probably not the best way to hear music for film but in this case it worked for me. Arnold and Price have created a score that is in the main quite lush with romantic properties throughout, and in the music I can hear maybe little nods of acknowledgement to composer Wojciech Kilar as in his haunting love theme from his DRACULA score, which I still hold in high esteem. There is in this new score a sense of fragility and also an underlying atmosphere of apprehension and foreboding. It also contains cues that have a near celestial persona, the melodies being haunting and delicate. In the cue HELLO JOHNNY there is a short phrase which took me back to the Kilar score, as it evoked the theme or at least a fleeting moment from Minas theme from that soundtrack. Arnold and Price have fashioned a grand sounding work, which for the life of me I cannot understand why I never noticed whilst watching the series, it is powerful and commanding, driving and dark, but also it has as many poignant and are romantically laced interludes. The track YOU ARE JOHNATHAN HARKER too is effective, with driving low strings acting as a foundation for more sinewy sounding strings and percussive elements, that are punctuated and further embellished by sharp brass stabs, add to this voices and a disturbing half heard solo violin and you have something that is gripping and just a tad frightening.

 

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I would say that this score is on a par with the music this composing duo created for SHERLOCK and at times it is probably more of a developed and inventive work, even the atonal material that raises its head at times is thematic in part. So, an entertaining soundtrack, but one that you might not notice when watching the series. It is a combination of conventional instrumentation, musique concrete and also the duo use an array of samples which they utilise imaginatively to create sounds that are perfect for this tale of horror. The music oozes menace and has a fearsome and unsettling aura to it. Certainly, for your collection, with highlight tracks being, THAT IS EVERYTHING, OUTGROWN BEAUTY and THE FEAR, the latter for me evoking James Bernard’s SCARS OF DRACULA at times. Out digitally on January 10th 2020.

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COUNT DRACULA-2020. part two.

 Again I stress that reviews are one persons view a personal opinion, and are in no way correct all of the time, so here is my own personal opinion of the BBC 2020 production of DRACULA, part two  which aired on Thursday January 2nd 2020.  

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Well after episode one of DRACULA on the BBC new year’s day night if you know what I mean, I kind of vowed not to return to it, well I lied as I had recorded the series, so as I was up late and had nothing to do the next day and really could not sit through MRS BROWNS BOYS or THE SHOPPING SHOW on the other side. I thought ummmm what shall I do? Play monopoly, no it is no fun when you play yourself, Ah,I know, chess, Yes! Umm no actually can’t do that as I remembered I had lost the black Queen about a year ago… Ummm, I know let’s look for the black Queen,,,, no…Lets watch the Grinch, wait stop what am I saying? I give in, Ok, roll DRACULA part two. Now as much as I was unsure and shall I say a tad negative about episode one I still entered into the viewing of part two with a fully open mind and also with some hope that maybe episode two would outshine episode one, let’s face it, It would not have to be that good to even do that would it? (sorry be positive, be positive). Ok lets see whats going on, right Sister Agnes is with Dracula in a walled room looks like a room or even a cell of sorts in castle Dracula, so hang on how did she get there a why is she still alive? The vampire lord surely has not been merciful, No, of course not he is using her in the same way as he used Johnathan, oops sorry Johnny Harker, living off of her blood, feeding on her and all the time he grows stronger and more Bond like in appearance, so Agnes becomes weaker and gaunt in appearance. Is this right?

 

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I think it is, this I think is a good side to the story line or the adaptation, we see the Count becoming healthier and more agile as he drains a victim of the life force blood, and by the same token the victim, becomes more fragile and less able to do things or even think straight, Agnes even loses a chess game because of his hypnotic charms, (hang on chess game, get the black Queen for me and then I can turn this off). However, Sister Agnes is one mean nun and has an iron like resistance against the vampire’s ways. The Count and the Nun sit and face each other across the chess board, at one time one thinks they are actually friends as things are so civilised. The vampire kind of flirting with his female company relating to the Nun what is or what has happened on the voyage, The second episode of the Gatiss and Moffat penned DRACULA is set onboard a ship, and yes we know in Stokers book there was a ship and a voyage from Transylvania to England, in fact to Whitby, where the Count has purchased a residence in the form of Carfax Abbey.

dracc

In the book the Count methodically and totally wipes out the crew, in this second episode, it is a little different, and why not its an adaptation after all, the clue being in BASED upon Stokers novel, so that’s how they do it they take a classic horror story and then look at it, take bits out add bits to it and even totally change it, if you had come in mid-way through this episode you would have been forgiven for thinking it was a TV series or show based upon CLUEDO or something that Agatha Christie had cooked up, it was basically a Who Dunnit, but a mystery that was not really a mystery, as we as a viewer have the upper hand as we know who the murderer is.( get the attention of the cast)…..psst….

“It’s the tall dark debonair nobleman in the black cloak, who sits in the dinning room but never eats or drinks, obviously he got a package deal and not fully inclusive”.

But seriously, the second episode turned into this farcical mystery, filled with people from all walks of life that eventually discover that it is actually Dracula that has gathered them there, and is disposing of them one by one as a kind of dry (forgive the pun) run for when he arrives in England. But things don’t go all the Count’s way, and he eventually is dispatched by burning at the hands of a Van Helsing, (bond theme riff please). Agatha Van Helsing. So, Dracula is set on fire and he dives over the side of the ship into a fog shrouded sea. So double wammy then vampires don’t like water or running water I am told, or is that something from Hammer rather than Stoker, great that’s it then, all done vampire dispatched let’s go! Umm, No hang on a stake wielding minute. That should be it, that should be the end, but we all know its not, because there is still 30 mins to go.


Again seriously, I mean come on guys really. Anyway its ends up with Dracula returning to the ship, in fact he had never left, he dispatches the Captain, the remainder of the crew have escaped in a lifeboat, and then sets about Van Helsing, but unbeknown to the vampire the Captain lives and both him and Agnes have prepared a surprise for the Count in the form of an explosion that will send the ship to the bottom of the sea. Van Helsing and the Captain are dying anyway, so what have they to lose, too late the count realises that Agnes is attempting to distract him, and the ship explodes and sinks, watched by the remaining crew members in the lifeboat. We see Agnes sinking into the depths and also the coffin of Dracula too heading to the seabed. Then the Count emerges from his coffin and walks on the seabed and eventually makes shore, as he looks around he sees the outline of Carfax Abbey, but it is in ruins, then in a surprise move a spotlight is placed upon the Count as cars screech along the beach and stop in front of him lights flashing and helicopters above him, a female walks towards the Count, “Welcome to England Count Dracula, What took you so long”?

dracu

 

 

It is the familiar figure of Agnes Van Helsing we see, in this twist in the story’s tale. So Gatiss and Moffat have transported Dracula into the present, or at least into a modern-day Whitby. Did you see that coming, no, nor did I. And shades of the end of the Tim Burton version of PLANET OF THE APES. So, Dracula walks among us again, but a word of caution, remember what happened when someone else tried to put the dark lord into a contemporary setting, yes, his reign was short lived.
We will see the outcome tonight my children.

I will mention that the music by David Arnold and Michael Price became more apparent in episode two, and I picked out a few well written and well placed themes. I am looking forward to the release of the score, and also a quick note, the BBC are not the only ones to blame here Netflix too had a hand in it.

PARADISE WAR-THE BRUNO MANSER STORY.

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I think that it true to say that although Gabriel Yared is a multi-award winning film music composer, he is also a composer that I feel is underatted and sadly underused, his score for TROY was in my opinion excellent, and it certainly out shone the re-score by James Horner. Yared, is a talented composer, arranger and conductor and also an artist that can adapt easily to each project he works upon. The composer has the ability to create haunting and lush melodies, but at the same time is quite capable of constructing complex and intricate scores for movies as well as television projects. His style is not one that I would say is instantly identifiable as the composer scores each film with an individual and unique musical fingerprint. One of the composers recent scores is from the movie, PARADISE WAR-THE STORY OF BRUNO MANSER, Yared has fashioned an emotive and touching soundtrack, which is delicate and underlines the fragility of the environment that Manser so dearly loved and fought for. Based on a true story, the film focuses upon the renowned environmentalist Bruno Manser, who in 1984 travelled into the thick and wild jungles of Borneo and discovers the Penan tribe, his contact and connections with the tribe alters his life drastically, and when the existence of the tribe becomes threatened by modern civilization, Manser decides to make a stand against it. He attempts to halt the logging that is destroying the forests, but it is a fight that will cost him dearly. The score by Yared is highly melodic and the composer creates beautifully crafted and hauntingly affective compositions that are at times understated and simple, but because of this simplicity and its subtle style the music is not only affectingly poignant but adds greater depth and emotion to the proceedings. The score is in the main symphonic, with strings and also woodwinds being given centre stage, the combination of these and the placing of faint sounding brass gives this soundtrack a real heartfelt aura, it is a pleasing and gratifying listening experience and for me is a wonderfully melodious and truly thematic experience, both in the movie aswell as away from it. The composer also utilises choir within the score, which purveys a sadness and a celestial sound that is calming. There are also present more action themed cues, as in ESCAPE FROM THE CAR which is dominated by driving strings and brass stabs, that together create a tense and uneasy atmosphere. But for the majority of the work we are treated to gloriously effecting themes, that are filled to overflowing with melancholy and also a real sense of emotive nuances that seem to get right to the heart of the listener. Yared employing boy soprano and light sounding solo piano to achieve a sound that you will not be able to resist.  A great score, and one to add to your collection.   Available as a digital download via all digital platforms, released by PLAZA MAYOR.