Latest reviews of new albums:
  • Composed by Alexandre Desplat
  • ABKCO / 2017 / 68m

Suburbicon is the latest film from director George Clooney, perhaps best known to audiences around the world for the screwball romantic comedy hit Leatherheads starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bernard Hill.  This time round it is Matt Damon’s turn to take the lead (reportedly he met Clooney through his connections with the director’s aunt Rosemary, Damon having captained her bowling team back in the 1960s).  The film was written by the Coen brothers over 30 years ago and follows a small town which gets its first black residents – as you can imagine, uproarious comedy ensues!

This is the third film in a row from Clooney to be scored by Alexandre Desplat, after The Ides of March and The Monuments Men, and the prolific French composer has come up with another quirky, sometimes madcap score that treads a careful line between various styles and might simplistically be seen as being like a bigger version of one of his Wes Anderson scores (which tend to be more delicate).  Desplat’s a serious composer who tends to write serious music, but it’s always fun when he lets his hair down on something like this and, while clearly not from his very top drawer, it’s a very entertaining piece of work that should please any of his fans.

Alexandre Desplat and friends

Desplat goes on to pay clear homage to period-appropriate film scores (of Elmer Bernstein and Bernard Herrmann in particular – the film is set in 1959) but the opening cue, “Welcome to Suburbicon”, is very much not like them – a light, fluffy piece of music, it is period-appropriate in a different way, a pretty authentic-sounding approximation of a tv jingle or something from the time (the choir reminds me of Randy Newman’s Pleasantville theme); and then comes the beautiful melancholy of “Friends”, a warm and attractive piece for strings and piano which bears some of the hallmarks of Elmer Bernstein’s score for melodramas of the time (which he so brilliantly revisited at the end of his career in Far From Heaven).

After a light jazz arrangement of “When I Fall In Love” comes the serious “A Prayer For Rose”, a delicate piece with some trademark Desplat gorgeous writing for flute and oboe, augmented with beautiful colours from harp and piano and another section that seems heavily influenced by Bernstein; “7,000 Apples” on the other hand is pure Desplat, the electric guitar providing one of his unmistakable little touches.  “Men in the House” is a riveting piece of suspense music, low-end piano and woodblock providing some distinctive flavour, strings some more urgent drama.  Midway through the lengthy piece drums appear and we’re half way “The Truth About Ruth”, one of the finest creations of the composer’s career, then the brass and low winds make it also half way Bernard Herrmann – it’s quite brilliant.

The suspense continues in the brief “Bud Cooper” before the blistering “The Line Up”, which goes from a delicate solo oboe to full-on action/suspense (which highlights the stunning recording – everything is so crystal-clear), finally arriving at a heart-melting duet for piano and guitar.  There’s a darkly comic hue to most of “A Sweet Aroma”, before it explodes into serious action towards its conclusion, then “We’ll Go to Aruba” is another beautiful piece for strings and piano, a slightly detached feeling suggesting longing and a bit of sadness; then things take a bit of an about-turn in the dark drama of “What Did You Do?” and then unrestrained Herrmann suspense in “Mrs Lodge Called” (check out those strings in the opening).

“Something Sad” lives up to its name then after a change of pace in the light jazz “Blonde” we’re back to Herrmann territory in “Basement Games”, which could be an outtake from one of his Hitchcock scores of the late 50s/early 60s.  “Closet Conversation” is a bit more modern, full of Desplat trademarks (the trilling winds, rumbling timpani, brassy flourishes) – then comes the sensational “Unlucky Bud”, a huge action track in scope if not in length, the brass section sounding truly enormous.  “Falling Apart” reprises the score’s main action/suspense motif that has been running through much of its middle section, but initially places it in a different setting, with high-end strings and winds, to give it a very different complexion; we are back to the more standard suspense sound before long, however, with a psychological feeling now.

Back to Bernard Herrmann, in a big way, in “NickyTrapped” – not just the huge brassy opening to the cue, there’s also a very subtle interpolation of the murder music from Torn Curtain which is a nice little touch – the whole five-minute cue is like a loving homage to the master of suspense.  “Aftermath” is also big and dramatic, but in a different way – there’s an almost biblical feeling to it, a religious fervour building up (in its earlier stages at least) – it does go back down to suspense for its conclusion, which continues in the very dark “Sunday in Suburbicon”, full of anguish and despair.

The score ends first with a bit of warmth in the beautiful “Playing Catch in the Sun” (there is a hint of menace buried deep below the surface, though) and then a reprise of the cheerful opening cue in “Suburbicon Good Night”.  Suburbicon is a fascinating score, very carefully done (as this composer’s always are), intriguingly blending Desplat trademarks with some giants of the film music past.  The film may not end up with the best reputation but I’m sure the score will pick up a lot of fans.  Recommended.

Excellent blend of styles, compelling album | |

Tags: ,

  1. It‘s quiet in here! Why not leave a response?