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La Mula
  • Composed by Oscar Navarro
  • MovieScore Media / 2013 / 53m

Sounding very much like a Spanish War Horse, La Mula is based on Juan Eslava Galán’s novel about a mule discovered on a battlefield during the Spanish Civil War, and his subsequent travels.  Spanish cinema has produced some wonderful film music in recent times and seen some exciting new composers emerge; and now we can add the name of the classically-trained Oscar Navarro to the list – this is his first score, and it’s a peach.  The lush, romantic main theme which opens the album (“Love Story”) sets the tone of things to come, a gentle guitar strumming introducing a track which rises to the kind of orchestral proportions one might associate with Maurice Jarre (and there’s a hint of Jarre about the melody, too).  “Castro and Conch” is a more melancholy theme, gentler too – this time perhaps just a hint of John Williams in his latter-day drama scores.

The tone is surprisingly upbeat through much of the score and the third cue, “The Turntable”, is a fabulous (unmistakably Spanish) scherzo which will no doubt inspire a few olés from listeners.  “Friendship” is a lovely little piece, a duet for violin and piano, which tugs at the heartstrings and won’t let them go.  The first action music arrives in the brief “I am not a Slave to Anyone”, with ingenious use of guitar and castanets in an unexpected setting (it’s a bit of a shame Navarro didn’t have more chance in the score to explore that style).  “The Earrings” begins much as the earlier “The Turntable”, but develops into a more overtly comedic piece – in the nicest possible way, it’s hugely old-fashioned – you can imagine it being in a Charlie Chaplin film.  This, surprisingly, becomes almost the dominant style through the body of the score (though the other elements already mentioned to make reappearances throughout) – there’s a chance that some people will find it harder to connect with that style than the others on display, but I hope that doesn’t put people off.  Generally this is elegant, beautifully-written music that’s built from a core of excellent themes – it’s a pleasure to listen to and is one of the most impressive soundtrack albums of the year; Oscar Navarro is clearly extremely talented and I look forward to hearing more from him in the future.

Rating: **** | |

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