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Disappointingly dull noir score has its moments, but never fully satisfies
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * 1/2
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2006 Focus Features LLC; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
Despite starring Ben Affleck, Hollywoodland managed to get favourable reviews and did reasonable business, though it didn't turn out to be quite the film that the pre-release hype had suggested it might be. With an excellent cast (well, there's Affleck, but also Adrien Brody, Diane Lane and Bob Hoskins), it marks the first feature film directed by Allen Coulter (who's directed episodes of The Sopranos and Six Feet Under, two of the finest tv shows of our time) and tells the true-life story surrounding the death of Superman actor George Reeves.
Music is provided by Marcelo Zarvos - you may not have heard of him, though he did score The Door in the Floor - but I'm sure you will be aroused to the point of ecstasy to find out that he provided assistance to Gustavo Santaolalla by writing additional music for Brokeback Mountain (clearly the task of writing more than 13 minutes of improvised guitar was too much for Santaolalla to do by himself). I have to admit that, much though I try to avoid being prejudicial, it was easy to approach the score with a degree of dread, hoping that it wouldn't end up being like one of Santaolalla's meaningless, lifeless soundscapes for films which could have inspired so much more.
In fact, it isn't really, though it does the score no favours that it appears so soon after Mark Isham's The Black Dahlia - here is another film noir score, but one with considerably less personality - it's a little like a cross between Isham's music and something like Santaolalla's 21 Grams. For the most part the score is subdued and rather uninvolving, with a wash of strings which are doing nothing other than being there, but the occasional trumpet, sax or piano solo adds a little interest from time to time, while remaining somewhat bland.
This is very much in the current crop of film scores which are designed to be constantly in the background, but deliberately composed so as to have nothing to say. I don't know why directors want that, but they seem to, but as usual - whatever this does or doesn't do for the film - it is uncompelling away from it. There's nothing fundamentally bad here, and Zarvos is clearly a competent composer, but equally there is nothing which draws you in and makes you wonder where the music will take you. By far the standout track is "Super 8", which doesn't appear until fairly near to the end of the album, but makes you wonder whether finally it's time to sit up and pay attention - but then it's over in under less than a minute! This album's neither great, nor awful - it's pretty much just there. A disappointment.