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Another fine dramatic portrait from Desplat
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2007 Focus Features; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
For Ang Lee's controversial but acclaimed Lust, Caution, composer Alexandre Desplat got the chance to return to a country which inspired the finest score of 2006, The Painted Veil - China. However, much as then, Desplat takes his inspiration not from the place but from the characters and delivers another finely-honed, beautifully-hued score. The films themselves could barely be more different - one an old-fashioned love story inspired by a Somerset Maugham novel, the other a WWII spy tale set in Shanghai - but musically, the films have a great deal in common.
Director Lee has eclectic taste in composers, veering between extremes, but he generally favours more intellectually- than emotionally-tuned ones; and a great number of his films have inspired very fine music indeed, two of them getting Best Score Oscars (including, controversially, Brokeback Mountain, but even in that case the music certainly helped the film out and made an important contribution to the overall tone).
Desplat has, once again, included a fine waltz theme to form one of the cornerstones of his score - quite how he manages to come up with these elegant waltzes in wildly differing films is a bit bizarre, but it's an engaging trait. "The Dinner Waltz" is another beautiful piece, romantic and soulful but at the same time infused with a sense of mystery. Indeed, that mystery is what runs all through the music here - even while remaining as classy and graceful as ever, Desplat manages to come up with an almost-playful commentary on the espionage at the heart of this film.
There are several fine themes here: the swelling opening of the tragic "Exodus" is the most heartbreaking, and this leads into a gentle variation on "Wong Chia Chi's Theme" (expanded upon and developed throughout the rest of the score), which is one of Desplat's finest. "Shanghai 1942" presents a stunning violin theme, tragic and yet somehow soaring all in one. Desplat's turned into such a wonderful composer it should be no surprise, but somehow it is still so refreshing that a score of this maturity and depth can be written today; it's another excellent one from the composer, who continues to shine, and I wouldn't rule out it completing a hat-trick of Oscar wins for scores from Ang Lee films.