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Crusoe
  • Composed by Michael Kamen
  • Quartet Records / 2013 / 41m

1988’s Crusoe is one of the great number of film adaptations of Daniel Defoe’s classic story, this one starring Aidan Quinn in the title role.  Directed by veteran cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, unsurprisingly the film was praised for looking beautiful, but didn’t do all that well overall.  Michael Kamen had already established himself as a diverse film composer by that point – Brazil, The Dead Zone, Highlander and Lethal Weapon were all behind him, with Die Hard just around the corner.  Crusoe was something different for him and his approach – whether it came from him or Deschanel, I don’t know – is quite interesting in that he didn’t use the score to emphasise the great beauty of the island; he used it to emphasise Crusoe’s desolation, with a lot of contemplative material.

The score begins with a pair of very dark, largely synthesised pieces, “The Slave Escapes” and “The Ship”, which have a certain ethereal quality to them.  “The Storm and the Shipwreck” see the National Philharmonic Orchestra being employed more fully, providing a musical storm full of sturm und drang – it’s a spectacular piece (but still a very dark one).  “The Raft” is one of the more remarkable cues, a lengthy piece which presents the beautiful main theme in a couple of different guises – it’s a wonderful theme, perfectly capturing Crusoe’s longing and loneliness.  A new sound is introduced in “Not Alone”, with some stark percussion and ethnic flutes representing the natives.  The lengthy “Escape” goes through some very different emotions before its optimistic, beautiful conclusion; then the main theme gets a rapturous arrangement for the end title.  Crusoe is an intelligent score, with some vividly expressionistic writing by Kamen, and the soundtrack album (making its début here, in a programme the composer had assembled at the time of the film but which was never released) tells the story vividly.  What prevents it from joining my list of Kamen favourites is that, for one thing, it is necessarily so bleak that especially during its first half it isn’t really as enjoyable as it is impressive; and some of the synthesised sounds (intended to add a bleak realism to the dramatic flow) are rather dated now, which removes some of their impact.  But there’s still much to admire here and most Kamen fans will be delighted that Crusoe has finally been released, 25 years after the film.

Rating: ***

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  1. Jason Farcone (Reply) on Tuesday 20 August, 2013 at 18:34

    as james has said in his review, Kamen’s masterpiece at its best.

  2. mastadge (Reply) on Wednesday 21 August, 2013 at 23:02

    Okay, someone needs to make an Iron Giant/Pacific Rim mashup trailer.