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THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL
Splendid romantic period score
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2008 Columbia Pictures Industries; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall
A couple of weeks ago, with my usual prescience, I reviewed the soundtrack album from the tv series The Tudors and said "The lives of people like Henry VIII are so fascinating and colourful I'm surprised more isn't made of them for the screen" - and here I am reviewing the soundtrack from The Other Boleyn Girl, with that monarch at the centre of things again, with the Boleyn sisters (Anne and Mary) vying for his romantic attention. Given that the Boleyn sisters are played by Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson, any flaws the film might have are surely forgivable.
The ravishing music is provided by Paul Cantelon, known primarily as a pianist, though in recent years he has moved into scoring films, perhaps most notably for one of 2007's critical hits, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. The music here is for a chamber orchestra (recorded in Prague), and it can sometimes be a challenge in film music to keep chamber music interesting for an hour, but Cantelon achieves it here through the variety of themes around which he bases the music.
Most obviously is the gorgeous theme heard over the opening titles. You may thing there's something familiar about it, and if you've ever heard Georges Delerue's Rich and Famous then you would be correct, but anything that sounds like Delerue is fine by me. There's a lot more to the score than that, though - and beyond that melody, the Delerue comparison ends. The fine darker theme first heard in "Henry Returns" is used to good dramatic effect; the tinge of sadness in "Mary Tends to Henry" an outstanding touch.
I guess you could say this is a score in the John Barry mould, purely when talking about its dramatic intent. There's little attempt to reflect the time in which the film is set - Cantelon looks at scoring the drama, not the period - and as opposed to something like The Tudors, say, he manages to do it while leaving his keyboards and drum kits back at home, which is very refreshing. It's plain old orchestral scoring, the sort I was beginning to wonder whether we would see again in historical dramas in the post-Gladiator days.
Sometimes the very delicate sound is left behind, with very powerful dramatic statements surging forth - "Queen Katherine's Trial" is a fine example, and it opens the score's best sequence, followed by more high drama in "Banished" and then a gorgeous choral piece for "Anne's Coronation". Romantic tragedy returns to the fore later on, with "Anne and George" a particular highlight, its violin solo centrepiece the very definition of "tortured". The end of the film is not exactly cheerful (check out the track titles and guess what happens - "Guilty" followed by "The Execution") and it's good to hear Cantelon inject a really powerful romantic air into those sections, in amongst the intensity of the drama.
This is a particularly fine score from a relatively little-known composer (at least in film music circles) - those who were impressed by last year's Atonement, or are fans of the music of the likes of Georges Delerue or John Barry (and is anyone who reads this website not such a person?) will have a new album to savour. It's rich, rewarding film music and if the film hadn't been released right at the start of the year, would no doubt have figured prominently at the next set of awards shows. It isn't his first score but it's my first experience of Cantelon - and if this is anything to go by, he is a major talent. The Other Boleyn Girl is wonderful.