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Don Juan de Marco
  • Composed by Michael Kamen
  • A&M Records / 1995 / 46m

While I’m sure many people could buy into the idea of Johnny Depp being the reincarnation of Don Juan (particularly those of a female persuasion), Jeremy Levan’s film about it – and psychiatists’ attempts to “cure” him – didn’t find much of an audience, perhaps because it’s a load of rubbish.  The best thing about it are the anecdotes about Marlon Brando, at the time rivalling the blue whale as the largest mammal known to exist, who reportedly spent the entire shoot naked from the waste down to ensure he was never shot below the waste (whether it’s true or not I have no idea but it’s such a good rumour, I just hope it’s true).

Michael Kamen was firmly established as one of Hollywood’s foremost action movie composers at the time, but he was desperate to prove his worth in other genres, which he found much more satisfying; and his ravishing, romantic music for Don Juan de Marco did that in spades.  It was in fact this score (and not one of the action ones) which first made me sit up and take notice of the composer, probably the most underrated of his generation and taken from us far, far too young.  Alongside the film scores he was of course a highly accomplished songwriter, and his song from this film, “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?” sung by Bryan Adams, is one of his best; quite beautiful, with a tasteful arrangement, performed sincerely.  A Spanish-language arrangement which also appears on the album (“Has Amado Una Mujer De Veras?”) is even more beautiful, just a pair of (sadly uncredited) vocalists and some guitars and it features a pure beauty that’s absolutely enrapturing.

Michael Kamen

Michael Kamen

The score itself is a romantic delight, a gorgeous new theme appearing in almost every track.  The opening “Habanera” liberally quotes from Bizet’s “Carmen”, but the rollicking adventurous spirit at its core is pure Kamen.  “Don Juan” plays around with the song melody, Kamen liberally using guitars for a gorgeous sound (no fewer than nine guitarists are heard).  “I Was Born in Mexico” is a more playful theme, full of exuberance and a joie de vivre that again is hard to resist.  After the Spanish version of the song, “Dona Julia” presents a more orchestral arrangement of its main melody, witty and charming, before the second half of the cue goes off into yet another new theme, the most soaring and ravishing of the score.

“Don Alfonso” is no less romantic, but there’s a more serious dramatic air to it, with a gorgeous violin solo played by Christopher Warren-Green and a distant choir adding a lovely touch (the rather famous quotation a couple of minutes into the piece is another nice little nod); by its middle the piece has built up to a frenzy of orchestral adventure and excitement before again pausing for breath, retreating into more serious territory.  Following is a brief diversion into “Arabia”, Kamen combining his romantic hispanic sound with a lovely bit of middle eastern flair.  After the brief “Don Octavio del Flores”, the composer concludes the score with arguably its finest piece, the exquisite “Dona Ana”, which offers a superb summary of all the romantic themes of the score.

Don Juan de Marco is as rich and romantic as any film score of the 1990s, and what I love most about it is that for all its charms, it never once treads over the line into schmaltz.  Kamen demonstrated time and again during the last decade of his life that he was capable of writing the most wonderful, memorable themes; this is certainly his most romantic score and is the best kind of old-fashioned in that it serves as a modern equivalent of all those long-lined romantic film scores of times gone by without actually sounding dated in any way.  It’s gorgeous music, completely heartfelt and irresistible and one of the must-have film score albums of its era.

Rating: ***** | |

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  1. Roman Martel (Reply) on Wednesday 13 February, 2013 at 15:10

    This is one of those scores that I skipped. The main reason was because the song associated with it got so much air play when it was released that I still twitch a bit when I hear it. Ok, I exaggerate a little bit. It’s more of a flinch than a twitch. Anyway, when I heard the score incorporated the song into it, I figured it wasn’t going to work for me. Besides I’m not a huge fan of pure romantic scores.

    But I was at a used CD shop a couple years ago with Jon Broxton, and he happened to walk by as I picked it up. He said something along the lines of “If you don’t have that one, you need to get it. In fact you can’t leave the store till you purchase it.” It was also a ridiculously low price, around 5 dollars if I remember right.

    Long story short (too late), I bought it, played it, and completely enjoyed it. Kamen does a wonderful job with the theme and doing something different in each track with it. The album just flows really well as a listening experience. I even like the Spanish language version of the song. This is certainly a hidden gem.

    So… I agree with your review. I just figured I tell a long pointless story to say that. 😉

  2. Yavar Moradi (Reply) on Wednesday 13 February, 2013 at 19:54

    I for one liked your story and myself picked up this gem used and was pleasantly surprised. Probably on my top 5 Kamen list (Iron Giant is my favorite).


  3. Debbie (Reply) on Sunday 21 July, 2013 at 22:57

    Also picked this up at a second hand store along with Angie by Goldsmith. Both are really lovely and I thank this website for making me aware of this music.

  4. Daryn Andrew (Reply) on Tuesday 30 December, 2014 at 07:37

    An absolute masterpiece! Oh I wish we could have music return to this craft these days…