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  • extreme_closeupComposed by James Horner
  • Intrada Signature Edition ISE 1034 / 2009 / 37:45

James Horner’s working relationship with director Edward Zwick mysteriously ended a few years ago, but was extremely fruitful while it lasted.  Sandwiched in between the sprawling (and brilliantly-scored) Glory and Legends of the Fall was the Zwick-produced tv movie Extreme Close-Up, shown in 1990.  It sounds like typically mawkish tv movie material (boy falls apart after his mother dies and then becomes obsessed with watching old home movies he made of her) but according to the liner notes it was extremely well-received at the time.  The score (obviously) is nothing like the others written by this composer for this director – possibly for budgetary reasons, but probably not, it’s performed entirely on piano with subtle synth pad accompaniment and can therefore be considered as one of Horner’s most intimate, small-scale works.

It begins very promisingly, with an attractive theme; but such is the nature of the music, it’s pretty hard to see the album through even though it’s relatively brief.  I’m sure it works perfectly in context, but for the most part this is wretchedly downbeat music, a portrait of absolute misery and depression – it would have taken an incredible amount of skill on Horner’s part to produce music like this which avoids any hint of sentimentality, but it’s hard to imagine that too many people would actually choose to sit and listen to it.  It’s very repetitive: little piano figures are repeated over and over, which produces a kind of hypnosis which is highly effective.  The notes describe it as a kind of minimalism.  It’s interesting to hear for someone like myself who is such a big fan of Horner – given that he’s sometimes criticised for being over-manipulative with his music, here’s a score where he clearly strived to avoid exactly that – but for anyone apart from Horner obsessives, it would be a very tough sell.  **

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  1. Jon (Reply) on Saturday 21 November, 2009 at 03:03

    I thought it has a touch of The Spitfire Grill about it. Nice enough, but as you say certainly one for the Horner obsessives only.