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Stirring dramatic score in the least likely of films
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2007 Orange Mountain Music; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall
I've reviewed all sorts of soundtrack albums over the time I've been writing these reviews, and have come to expect all sorts of different things to pop up for review; but never did I think I would see the day when I would be reviewing an original score album for a Woody Allen movie. A handful of his forty films have received dramatic scores, but you have to go back almost to the start to find the last time he worked with a recognised film composer (Marvin Hamlisch on 1971's Bananas, if you're interested) - so it's an enormous surprise to find that his latest comedy, a crime farce starring Colin Farrell and Ewan McGregor called Cassandra's Dream, receives an orchestral score, and more surprising still that it's not a light, fluffy effort but instead a typically intense piece from a composer who certainly knows the importance of being earnest, Philip Glass.
I haven't yet seen the film, but I can only assume that Glass's score in a way is being used to play for laughs by its sheer seriousness. A blind listen to this music and you'd think you were listening to the score from a tense, psychological thriller. The opening bars of the titular first piece are fiercely intense, and while that piece gets warmer thanks to a lovely theme in the middle section, by and large this is dark, brooding music. Glass is of course an extremely distinctive composer, whose phenomenal gifts are best-suited to a relatively precise set of films, but there are definite echoes here of two great film composers, namely Bernard Herrmann (you couldn't listen to this and not be reminded at times of North by Northwest) and Ennio Morricone (particularly in "Howard's Request / In the Apt." - so similar to Morricone's classic suspense writing).
It's not all doom and gloom - "A Drive in the Country" is particularly bright and summery - but, true to form, Glass never allows the intensity to weaken for even a moment. It's very graceful music, but deeply serious. The album's only half an hour long, and is a rewarding experience - any longer and it would perhaps drain the listener a little too much. It's the kind of film music designed to be up-front and arresting - in other words, the kind not often heard these days - and of course is musically impeccable. Cassandra's Dream is one of Glass's most immediately accessible film score albums and, as a result, may actually disappoint his hard-core fans, but will delight more casual listeners.