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SCENT OF A WOMAN
Wonderful dramatic score, quite conventional for Newman but still with his distinctive voice
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 1992 Universal City Studios; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
Martin Brest's Scent of a Woman might not be a great motion picture, but it's a hugely enjoyable one, featuring a gloriously hammy Al Pacino as a cantankerous old blind man who teaches life lessons to his reluctant young helper, played by Chris O'Donnell, but ends up learning just as many himself from the young man. It sounds corny and I guess it is, but the film's gorgeous to look at, features one utterly mesmerising scene which is as beautiful as cinema gets (when Pacino dances a tango with a young woman) and is just great entertainment. Brest worked for the first time with composer Thomas Newman on the movie, and the results were impressive.
Newman employs several different techniques, blending them together nicely. The two main themes are introduced in the main title cue - a soaring melodic one played by strings, used as an emotional bridge throughout the score; and one of the composer's American Beauty-like themes for marimbas, vibes and the rest, which is just as good. "A Tour of Pleasures" introduces a far more sombre, reflective theme and then "Tract House Ginch" brings a bold, brassy, playful theme used to underscore the high jinks going on at O'Donnell's exclusive school.
"45 in 25" is emotional and moving, underscoring one of the film's pivotal moments, going on a journey from a particularly dark beginning through to a very different version of the school theme, this time for oboe, a soft and wistful arrangement. The dark beginning of the piece is then reprised in the anguished "Cigars Part Two"The tango scene (unsurprisingly) features a classic tango, in this case Carlos Gardel's wonderful "Por Una Cabeza" (and the disc also features another tango, Jose Padilla's "La Violetera").
The score happily moves between the lighter and darker moments while maintaining a perfectly natural dramatic flow, and it works very well. The "compilation cue" here is "Fleurs de Rocaille", a showy and rousing presentation of the main theme which is as close as I've ever heard this wonderful composer get to schmaltz (though he still doesn't quite get there even here) - it's a glorious piece, then followed by the End Title which rounds things off very nicely. This is a terrific score from Newman, one of his more "conventional" (in line with his other score for the director, Meet Joe Black) while retaining every ounce of his distinctive and wonderful musical personality. A sure-fire winner.