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Moonlight
  • Composed by Nicholas Britell
  • Lakeshore / 2016 / 38m

Written and directed by Barry Jenkins based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play, Moonlight tells the tragic story of a drug-infested life.  In three parts, it follows Chiron as a young boy, a teenager and then an adult.  Attracting near-universal acclaim, the low-budget film has received eight Oscar nominations, including for its score by Nicholas Britell.  The composer’s career has seen him take on various serious films whose critical reception has rather dwarfed their budgets, with Moonlight obviously the most pertinent example and probably the one that will propel him onto higher-profile projects should be want that.  It’s a respectful score, quite a surprising one in some ways, free as it is of the kind of hip-hop sound you might expect: instead there’s a small orchestra, sometimes manipulated, and even a decent theme.

That theme is the score’s heart and soul.  It evolves along with the main character as the film goes on, with its opening “Little’s Theme” full of quiet dignity, the piano melody quite simple but distinctive; violin takes on a more prominent role when it next appears, this time as “Chiron’s Theme”, which also has a slow-paced “Chopped & Screwed” variant (a phrase that will be familiar to younger readers, I guess); finally there’s the very brief “Black’s Theme” variant where it simply oozes sadness.  The other significant cue is “The Middle of the World”, a kaleidoscopic violin fantasy that’s pretty impressive.  There’s very good material in those cues, but they don’t represent a particularly significant proportion of the short album’s running time: in between are various songs, a bit of Mozart, and some very dark suspense scoring – couple this with the very short nature of most of the score cues and you have an album that feels very bitty and not particularly coherent.  Britell tells the musical story well, but on album it doesn’t offer nearly as compelling a musical narrative despite scaling some high peaks along the way.

Rating: ** 1/2

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  1. ANDRÉ, Cape Town. (Reply) on Wednesday 1 March, 2017 at 11:00

    I have yet to view this movie — and all the critics have raved about its visual flair and beauty — so need have to find a cinema screening it. And since its OSCAR win, there’s lots more info about the storyline. Against the hoodish, machismo backdrop is the story of an emerging homosexual relationship between a young gay boy and an aggresive thug. Their relationship spans the ages – from boyhood to manhood and then to maturity. You awarded two-and-a half stars to the score, so need to experience its nuances in a film that explores a violent homophobic brutality that would morph into a love-relationship.