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AS YOU LIKE IT
Lovely romantic score is Doyle's strongest in a while
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2007 Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
I've never thought As You Like It was one of Shakespeare's stronger play - I know it's a comedy, but it's all a bit too silly for me, and I find myself unable to read into it what English scholars say you're meant to. Anyway, it's Kenneth Branagh's fifth Shakesperian film - it's been very strange to watch Branagh go from someone routinely mentioned as being the new Laurence Olivier to being the critically-savaged actor and director he has become (rather unfairly) - and that continued with this, which didn't even muster a theatrical release in the US. He probably hasn't helped himself with some seemingly bloody-minded stunt casting in the past, but there's none of that here; I found it to be generally pretty well-done, but the central conceit of relocating to Japan seems completely pointless when seemingly very little effort was made to enforce that point (I certainly didn't realise how much Japan resembled the outskirts of London).
Along with Branagh since the start has been composer Patrick Doyle, who has scored the vast majority of the director's films. In recent times Doyle hasn't been attached to a great number of "serious" films (again, I know, I know - this is a comedy) - and, indeed, while most (if not all) of his recent scores have had wonderful moments, they haven't necessarily been as well-developed as the best of his work from the past. As You Like It remedies that.
It's a rather summery, delightful piece of music - the obvious comparison would be with A Midsummer Night's Dream, though the similarity is rather surface-level. The score opens in dramatic fashion with "Kabuki Attack", not the only place the Asian influence is really felt in the score, but certainly the most pronounced - it's colourful and enjoyable. Before long, we're well and truly in the English countryside on a bright summer's day, and that's where we stay for the rest of the music It's anchored around a charming main theme, which (this is no surprise given Doyle's recent scores) verges on dominating the score completely, but over the course of this hour-long album the composer manages to throw in more than enough other material to keep the music fresh, and the main theme is presented in so many very different ways it never becomes tiresome. One of the score's most notable aspects is the violin performance of the London Symphony Orchestra's leader Carmine Lauri, who lends some real class to various solos, perhaps most notably towards the end of the album in the heartmelting "Tomorrow" and "Weddings", and finally in the summary of the score "Violin Romance" which ends the disc.
There are a couple of original songs here. "Under the Greenwood Tree", sung by Doyle, is a plaintive piece with Japanese(ish) accompaniment which is quite striking in its own way, but it works better in the film than on the album. The melody works rather better in the orchestral setting of "Eat No More", which follows. "Blow Blow" (again sung by Doyle) has an aching quality to the melody which makes it more satisfying; it's a gorgeous piece. There's a nice big song for full chorus at the end too, "A Lover and His Lass", which has the most direct similarity to A Midsummer Night's Dream.
As You Like It is a really fine score - fine themes, beautifully-arranged, well-played - it's an easy one to recommend. Doyle has generally been writing consistently good music of late, but it's nice to hear him do something a little more substantial - this is truly the type of thing he excels at and, while it seems unlikely that Branagh will make any more Shakespeare films, hopefully the composer will not be denied the opportunity of working on more things like this - the truth is that he's better than anyone else at them.