Latest reviews of new albums:
Nocturnal Animals
  • Composed by Abel Korzeniowski
  • Silva Screen / 2016 / 34m

The second film from fashion designer-turned-director Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals is a psychological drama adapted from Austin Wright’s novel Tony and Susan. Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal lead an ensemble cast as a former married couple – he writes a violent novel as an allegory to their failed marriage, which becomes a film-within-the-film. Also starring (amongst others) Michael Shannon, Isla Fisher and Armie Hammer, the film has been met with a positive response, in particular (perhaps not surprisingly) for its arresting visual style.

Like Ford’s previous film A Single Man, the music comes courtesy of Abel Korzeniowski, scoring his first Hollywood movie in quite a while. It’s an elegant, classically-informed work which takes a journey from outward beauty to inward terror, doing so while sticking largely to a small thematic base, the composer cleverly developing and even inverting his main theme as the drama moves forward. That theme is introduced in the opening track “Wayward Sisters” as an opulent piece of romance but only two tracks later in “Restless” it’s already started on its journey into something completely different, sounding here (and even more so later) very much like Bernard Herrmann’s indelibly brilliant “Scène d’Amour” from Vertigo.

Abel Korzeniowski

Abel Korzeniowski

In between those two pieces is “Exhibition”, with an unsettling (and overtly sexual) female vocal straight from Ennio Morricone’s giallo scores; and after them is a gorgeous piano-dominated piece of classical beauty, “A Solitary Woman” (which clearly recalls the composer’s previous score for the director).  The tension starts getting ratcheted up in “Off the Road”, simple string figures playing off each other cleverly; then becomes more stark (and the Herrmann influence more pronounced) in “Revenge”. You ain’t heard nothing yet though because “The Field” goes all the way into Vertigo – it’s brilliant music but the familiarity rather takes me out of the moment, by design I guess but it is what it is (and what it is is Bernard Herrmann).

“Crossroads” is an effective piece of suspense, an unusual effect running through it underneath the shimmering strings (really very creatively).  In “Mothers” the minimalist techniques the composer often employs are used very effectively, the cellular structure of the piece seeing a sustained building of tense atmosphere.  “City Lights” offers a brief reprise of the main theme before the piano returns in the gentle, delicate finale “Table for Two”, which actually gets towards the kind of melodrama Elmer Bernstein managed to achieve in his scores for similar films (it’s the album’s best piece).

There’s a lot of impressive music on this short album and Korzeniowski very successfully manages to delve beneath the surface of the characters.  What stops it being top-notch for me is that it doesn’t really make the emotional connection that would make that killer blow when he does get to that stage – because the opening is deliberately superficial, the listener doesn’t get as invested in it and so when the chills start coming they aren’t as stark as they could have been.  But really, it’s very refined music and even if that emotional connection isn’t really there, it’s not hard to be drawn under its spell.

Rating: *** 1/2 | |

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  1. Visakh (Reply) on Sunday 27 November, 2016 at 15:47

    A nice one from Abel Korzeniowski. Thanks James for the review. Waiting for your review on Penny Dreadful.

  2. Costas Chrysanthakopoulos (Reply) on Saturday 3 December, 2016 at 07:45

    Was wondering on the lack of more reviews on other Korzeniowski works (Penny Dreadful, Romeo & Juliet), as well as significant works by other composers (Mimic, Jobs, Cloud Atlas, Iron Man 3, The Last Days, Gernika, Crimson Peak, A Monster Calls Hellraiser 1&2, a.o.)

  3. ANDRÉ, Cape Town. (Reply) on Sunday 4 December, 2016 at 23:25

    My parcel of scores eventually arrived from Screen Archives via the World…just under 3 months of stressing that the CDs had been stolen by a barbarian who would loathe the music, and trash the albums. James, two compilation CDs are just stunning and, I’m sure, would give you great pleasure reviewing. The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra tackles JERRY GOLDSMITH’S Complete Blue Max score with, among others, Concert Hall Suites of The Mummy (lots of exquisite Middle Eastern GOLDSMITH), The Chairman (I don’t stop replaying the Main Title – it’s addictive listening with ethnic instrumentation), The Sand Pebbles featuring the Original Overture with the Oriental Love theme, rather than the revised one with the Americanised love cue. It’s exotic and sumptuous. The Prague Orchestra also does wonders with MAURICE JARRE’S Is Paris Burning? and Concert Suites of other gorgeous scores. Another highlight album is GEORGES DELERUE’S truly beautiful themes, including Renaissance dances, for a Son et Lumiere PARK (magnificent music for a PARK?? — that’s how professional DELERUE was). Some disappointments include ALEX NORTH’S Spartacus: The Complete Album Masters…the original album (one of my favourites) is enough! The expanded tracks just don’t fulfil the expectations I had for the additional themes. The other disappointment was the collaboration of HANS ZIMMER and RICHARD HARVEY for The Little Prince. The three sample tracks I downloaded were lovely – but those not sampled were just bland…ordinary. Looking forward to your critiques James.

  4. James Southall (Reply) on Friday 9 December, 2016 at 20:55

    Costas – to be honest, it’s just a lack of time. I wish I had time to do them all.

  5. Victor Field (Reply) on Tuesday 24 January, 2017 at 05:45

    Impressive music, although not entirely sure about the movie…

    • Giggler (Reply) on Tuesday 10 October, 2017 at 05:32

      How dare you sir, how dare you. Movie is BOSS.