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Film Music Review (Volumes 1-7)





  Special Merit 


Music composed, orchestrated and conducted by Alexandre Desplat

19 Tracks (Playing Time = 54:35)


Produced by Alexandre Desplat.

Music recorded in Praue at The Dvorak Hall, July-Augus 2006. Music mixed at Dtudio Guillaume Tell in Paris.Music recorded and mixed by John Timperley. Music Editor: Peter Clarke. Assistant Engineers" Cenda Kotzmann and Ivan Zbral.

Deutsche Grammophon 477 6552

Rating: ****


This seems to be the breakout year for Alexandre Desplat. He has scored two prominent films in 2006: THE QUEEN and THE PAINTED VEIL.

Recently Desplat received a Golden Globe for his score to THE PAINTED VEIL. And a CD compilation of his music for films by Jacques Audiard has been released by Silva Screen. Also my fellow reviewer, Steve Kennedy, has named him as Top Composer of 2006.

I must say that his score for both THE QUEEN and THE PAINTED VEIL are effectively done, but I would give the nod to VEIL because of its romantic exoticism and subtle eroticism. The score just overflows with watery motifs which is highly appropropriate to the film's story taking place mostly in the heart of ancient China.

The watery thematic music begins with the lovely opening title track (3:19), with its shimmering pianistic passages, beautifully played by Lang Lang. He also plays the simple sounding yet strangely compelling "Gnossieme No. 1" by French composer, Erik Satie (1866-1925).

There follows several more subdued themes, including the elegant "River Waltz" (track 4, 2:24) and the delicate "Kitty's Theme" (track 5, 3:08). The waltz theme returns again as a piano solo on track 14 (2:27). When we arrive at "The Water Wheel" (track 7, 6:21)-- the longest cue on the soundtrack CD --it is also the most rhytmically pulsating, like the flowing water over the wheel. For me it is the most satisfying cue on the soundtrack. Another highly effective cue is "Cholera" (track 16, 4:23), which sounds somewhat like Philip Glass, but with a harder edge and fine playing by Vincent Segal on electric cello. Another effective cue is the somber "The End of Love" (track 17, 4:34) with a drumbeat solemnly playing along with slowly evolving strings.

The Prague Symphony Orchestra plays extremely well under the direction of Desplat.

The CD booklet is atrractively designed with a lovely cover film shot and as you open it, you see the two main characters, played by Naomi Watts and Edward Norton, each looking out a window. Inside are the track titles and credits but no comments about the film or the composer. Desplat does add some brief remarks about the pianist Lang Lang, the director John Curran. Desplat has dedicated the soundtrack CD to John Timperley, who died shortly after this soundtrack was completed.

It is disappointing how much space is spent on photos with film music soundtracks these days. They replace any background on the film or the music. It is as if they the record companies don't think anyone cares about the film's story or background on the composer is necessary. But in this case the film photos in the booklet don't detract and provide ample clues to the beauties of this film score. Still, I would have liked some background on the composer and the score.

This is one of the most beautiful film scores of the year and provides a most enjoyable listening experience.

THE PAINTED VEIL is a first class soundtrack by Alexandre Desplat.

-- Roger Hall, 22 January 2007


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