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Low-key dramatic music is a real winner from Kaczmarek
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
JAN A.P. KACZMAREK
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2008 Overture Films; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall
Richard Jenkins plays Walter, a college professor who has just about given up life in The Visitor. Then, on a trip to New York City, he discovers a couple of illegal immigrants squatting in his apartment - the film chronicles his frustrating attempts to help them out, up against the nameless, faceless "system" which causes so many of us so many problems in life. It comes from director Thomas McCarthy, whose previous film The Station Agent got rave reviews - this one has done as well, but hardly anyone saw it, which is a real shame.
Music plays an important role in the film, with part of Walter's enlightenment coming from one of his unlikely new friends teaching him how to play the piano. The score is composed by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek, who hasn't worked on a single high-profile project since winning an Oscar a few years ago; and it's one of his best. The vast majority of it is composed for string quartet and piano, and while the composer is content to keep a monochromatic sound, with little deviation from the same small set of themes being repeated again and again, it is very beautiful music, of real heart and passion (and there are more than a few hints of Philip Glass).
Occasionally though he does venture into far darker terrain ("Tarek Arrested", "The System Says NO") and it's interesting here how he manages to produce a stark, uncomfortable sound from the same ensemble which has been playing such enticingly beautiful music for the most part beforehand. These slight deviations from the otherwise-constant tone make the album just about justify its 54-minute length, with the underlying beauty of the music meaning it doesn't ever run out of steam. Kaczmarek can write very beautiful low-key music when he puts his mind to it, and he's never put his mind to it quite as successfully as here.