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  • Composed by Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschke
  • Sony Classical / 2016 / 49m

An Awards-friendly film if ever there was one, Lion tells the true story of a man who – as a five-year-old boy in India – lost his brother, stayed on a train to faraway Calcutta, got taken into an orphanage and ultimately adopted by an Australian couple.  As an adult, he starts looking for his birth familiar online.  (I guess you know the ending, else they wouldn’t have made a film out of it.)  The score is by Australian one-time piano prodigy and now composer Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschke, a nom-de-plume of German composer and pianist Volker Bertelmann.  The pair are actually friends – though director Garth Davis didn’t know that when he hired them – and the original plan for them to score the two halves of the film separately soon evaporated and they worked on the score collaboratively.  Given the composers’ backgrounds it perhaps isn’t a surprise that the piano has a role to play, but their music is for the most part rather straight modern orchestral dramatic film music with electronic enhancement – what makes it rise above the crowd to an extent is that the orchestral writing is generally very interesting, with all sorts of textures – often quite dreamlike – extracted acoustically in a way you know a lot of film composers would struggle to achieve.

The score is generally quietly dignified, at its best in its delicate main theme, an emotional piece for piano and strings, heard fully in the opening score track “Lion Theme” and in an exquisite variation later in “Orphans”.  There’s deliberately no ethnic tint to the music – the composers viewed this as a human story and his Indian origin was irrelevant.  I do wonder though whether that would have given it a bit of flavour that it generally lacks – it’s all very pleasant, the album is perfectly nice to listen to, but it doesn’t leave much of a lasting impression.  I lose interest in the less melodic, moodier portions, but thankfully there’s not too much of that, and it’s certainly nice enough as far as it goes and at its peak it’s very good.

Rating: *** | |

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  1. Jules (Reply) on Monday 30 January, 2017 at 09:11

    Hey James. I’ve been reading your reviews for a short amount of time and I really appreciate your subtle critical approach. Our opinions often differ greatly, but its still fantastic to hear your thoughts.

    You’re probably familiar with the temp-tracking phenomenon (it was made popular by an Every Frame a Painting video on Youtube, which you should definitely watch if you haven’t already). I was listening to this album and kept getting struck by the chordal similarities (even stuff like melodic contour) between this and Interstellar. It wouldn’t be the first time someone ripped off Zimmer, haha. What do you reckon?

  2. Jules (Reply) on Wednesday 1 February, 2017 at 09:29

    Any thoughts on La La Land yet? No idea if that’s your style or not…
    Hurwitz created some fantastically memorable themes, and the jazz stuff is just so fun. I’m not even a jazz guy.

  3. ANDRÉ, Cape Town. (Reply) on Saturday 4 February, 2017 at 21:25

    Jules, way back in the 1960s French director, Jacques Demy, helmed ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ and ‘The Young Girls of Rochefort, both musicals scored by MICHEL LEGRAND [I personally loathed his music, but others loved it]. And those musicals inspired both La La Land’s director and his composer—especially the jazz influenced music for ‘Young Girls of Rochefort’. To see why La La Land garnered 14 Oscar Nominations I forced myself to sit through almost two hours of uninspired choreography and listen to an equally dreary score and songs (I was so tempted to exit the Cinema). The predictable storyline plays out across four seasons, another Jacques Demy device that enabled him to utilise the Colours associated with each season. I was raving about Ryan Goslings dancing moves [No, he’s not a Bob Fosse or Fred Astaire] until a friend dampened my enthusiasm for Gosling’s skill by mentioning Graham Norton’s interview with the actor…the show featured archival material of a very young Gosling participating in DANCE Competitions! And, he was a very impressive competitor. There I was, hoping Gosling would be handed the Oscar, not just for his acting ability, but for the effortless way he moved through the dance routines. There is a love theme comprising a lot of the score…from a tinkly piano solo to arrangements for chamber orchestra – and very reminiscent of French composer FRANCIS LAI’S music for movies of the 1960s. Hollywood has endorsed the crazy hype surrounding La La Land, as its future focus is a glut of musicals (in preparation at various Studios) for movie lovers. Maybe, in another alternate Universe, the young men who rave about Sci Fi, Horror, Thrillers and Psycho Characters might add musicals such as ‘Mary Poppins Returns’…’The Little Mermaid’ & ‘Belle and the Beast’ to their bucket lists. But here, on a Planet ravaged by climate change, wars and Right Wing Leaders, I think NOT. Audience-preferences today, are different to those during the years of World War 2 and after — the era that epitomized the Hollywood Musical.

  4. Jules (Reply) on Sunday 5 February, 2017 at 04:29

    I’m not entirely sure what you’re trying to say. You thought La La Land was derivative – I agree with that and think it was definitely an intention of Chazelle. Then you say that the choreography and score were lacking, only to mention that you thought that Gosling should have won an award for his dancing and the score reminded you of older classics? But apparently his dancing is less impressive because he had dancing lessons in his younger years?

    And are you decrying the imminent wave of Hollywood musicals? You say that the Golden Age of musicals was a great thing, but then express distaste at the chance that it may be revived again?

    Even more confusing is your endorsement of future cash-grab musicals like the Mary Poppins sequel and the Beauty and the Beast/ Little Mermaid remakes. These may well turn out fine, but surely they’re no substitute for original fare?

    I don’t know how old you are, but surely you can’t be so blind as to deny anyone a place among the greats of the past? People have been letting their nostalgia influence critical opinions for centuries now, and it always sounds snobbish and irrelevant. You can’t constantly bemoan modern art for paling in comparison to the past.

    As a disclaimer, I’m not a huge fan of the film. It was clearly a discussion of the cost of ambition in the artistic industry, and not necessarily a film to be put alongside famous love-story-centric musicals of the past. The score was undeniably well constructed, however. I can sing you the melody of any of the songs, and I haven’t necessarily pored over it. Hurwitz is an exciting composer, and Chazelle a brilliant director. I don’t really care how much Oscar-love it gets – those kind of awards feel strangely irrelevant today. The Academy doesn’t seem to get it.

  5. James Southall (Reply) on Sunday 5 February, 2017 at 14:29

    I’ve not seen the film, nor heard the music, yet.

  6. ANDRÉ, Cape Town. (Reply) on Monday 6 February, 2017 at 23:33

    No Jules, there’s nothing obscure or contradictory about my comments–maybe you’re easily confused or, were just feeling contrary and confrontational. It might help you to grasp my narrative if you activate Wikipedia [maybe you’re of an age where you prefer thumbing through your well-worn, trusted dictionary] for functional definitions of CHOREOGRAPHY and DANCING/DANCER. Acually they’re NOT synonyms for each other and, hopefully, you’ll now grasp how Gosling’s dance moves impressed, although the movie’s overall choreography didn’t. You ‘quote’ me for saying “the Golden Age of musicals was a great thing” and “remakes are no substitutes for original fare.” Really, I said that?? They’re actually YOUR opinions – and very succintly expressed! I’m NOT a devotee of musicals, but am curious as to which Audience is being targeted for big box- office returns, from screen musical revivals. The Millenials aren’t interested, and neither are the App Generation whose preferences are SciFi, Horror and Octane Thrillers with lots of psycho characters…AND, according to demographics, those are the groups who are targeted by commercial Studio Producers to swell the financial profits.// FRANCIS LAI will be honoured to have his film scores elevated to CLASSIC status by you – Yes, ‘A Man and a Woman’… ‘Love Story’ and ‘Bilitis’ fared well, both commercially and critically when they were released decades ago. Oh, well done Jules…you’re able to sing your fave La La Land’s vocals without even resorting to repeated playbacks! Congrats. The songs were obviously easy to assimilate. I’m wondering if you belt out the numbers while doing an effortless soft-shoe shuffle routine – GOSLING style?? // I saw two movies Monday evening > ‘The Space Between Us’ – a young man, born on the Planet Mars, returns to Earth and heavy physiological complications arise. The writers decided to also include a romantic interlude as one of the complications. ANDREW LOCKINGTON’S restrained score was interspersed with songs. PAUL HASLINGER provided thunderous synthesizer music to underscore a ravaged Earth peopled with mutants, a vicious A.I. who holograms as a child, multiple violent clones and nonstop action. Definitely NOT Art Nouveau fare, but enjoyable escapism if you’ve already seen most of the other movies currently on circuit.

  7. Jules (Reply) on Tuesday 7 February, 2017 at 08:01

    There’s a way to have an argument without trying to come out on top with petty insults. I would hazard a guess you are considerably older than me, so maybe you could act your age. I was asking you to clarify what I thought were contradictory statements, and you did, somewhat. Thank-you. I did make quite a few wrong assumptions, I apologise. I still don’t quite understand your thoughts on a new generation of musicals and/or remakes, nor the generation that will watch them. I do think that you might be underestimating the younger generation, ‘the App Generation’, to use that strange term. In fact, I think that’s exactly why studios keep churning out mediocre content. They misunderstand the demographic. La La Land passed 250 million worldwide the other day, definitely a mediocre total, but compared to its budget, remarkable. I know plenty of people who have seen the musical, and I will admit I’m part of ‘The App Generation’

    I read this article the other day: I found it insightful, perhaps you will too. It certainly agrees with you on the value of the film’s soundtrack:

    On a side note, what is your preferred genre? You’ve condemned thriller, musical, Y.A., sci-fi and horror so far. Are you an Art-film person?

  8. ANDRÉ, Cape Town. (Reply) on Tuesday 7 February, 2017 at 16:27

    A few semantics Jules – you say ‘arguement’ I prefer ‘debate’. You refer to ‘insults’ I to ‘repartee’. I’m confused…you DON’T know my age — so, what age are you demanding I act out?? [and why are you so obsessed with AGE?]. Incidentally, my reactions are always provoked by situations – Never By Age. That would be kinky…weird… mentally disturbed! Take your pick. I will sit through the turdiest of crappy movies just to listen to a recommended accompaning score OR to revel in a favourite composer’s music. FILM MUSIC is one of the most beautiful and powerful art forms of the early 20th Century and I’m obsessed by its emotive energy. Regarding my cinematic preferences, why are you now accusing me of trashing Sci Fi, Horror & Sociopathic Thrillers?? I’ve NEVER REFERRED to my favourite genrés! And they INCLUDE the above. I usually steer clear of MUSICALS – loathe the songs but will endure 90 minutes of wasted time if the CHOREOGRAPHY and DANCING are innovative and physically exciting. I watched La La Land because the advertising was so cleverly beguiling…the Producers having spent more on promoting this movie, than on the Production. Or is that statement just a fashionable Post Truth? Ciao Jules. AND James, thanks for tolerating our nitpicking on your FILM MUSIC site… I’m also hoping that the Movie Wave readers are as ‘allowing’ as you.

  9. Jules (Reply) on Friday 10 February, 2017 at 07:38

    Oh man. I don’t think you have many friends. Please stop being so aggressive, it’s un-befitting of your age.

    Please feel free to delete this comment exchange James; it went absolutely nowhere. What a waste of your community space.

  10. ANDRÉ, Cape Town. (Reply) on Saturday 11 February, 2017 at 13:17

    Hee hee! Jules, you’re such a copycat – continue flattering me. The anonymity of this site allows you to continue pretending you’re a youthful app-generation blogger. In reality you’re probably an aggressive, friendless old man – and loathing yourself to such an extent that you’re projecting that image of yourself on to me. It’s a tactic well known to psychologists. Please DON’T go for counselling…continue making ASSUMPTIONS about the image of me that you’ve conjured up in your bruised mind. They make you tolerate yourself, and they’re keeping me amused!

  11. Jules (Reply) on Sunday 12 February, 2017 at 05:46

    It’s not amusing for me. It’s sickening.

    And yes, I’m sure I’m an old man. I’m also sure you’ve well-versed in psychology and can figure that out from a couple of posts.

    There’s a reason people like Trump are put into power, and it’s because people like you are lonely, power-hungry and aimless.

    And now you’re going to go totally off on a tangent and accuse me of bringing politics into this. But I feel perfectly justified in doing this, especially at a time like this. The world needs to change. I don’t if other people who frequent this website share my thoughts on your attitude, but something is clearly wrong.

  12. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Sunday 12 February, 2017 at 13:54

    Given that Andre lists his location as Cape Town, I doubt (for all his other faults) that he had anything to do with Trump. :p

  13. TDidz927 (Reply) on Monday 13 February, 2017 at 22:15

    Remember when we used to talk about filmscore?

  14. Leandro Cerqueira (Reply) on Sunday 23 July, 2017 at 12:18

    Terrible score!!