The Talented Mr Ripley starring Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow,
Jude Law, and Cate Blanchett; directed by Anthony Minghella.
I have had the opportunity of comparing the video and DVD of this film. What
a difference! The DVD colour fidelity and image sharpness is far superior;
and the soundtrack is much clearer and more dynamic. These are particularly
important considerations because the music and the gorgeous Italian scenery
(of the Neapolitan and San Remo coastlines, Rome and Venice) are major 'stars'
of this gripping thriller.
As director Anthony Minghella says, in the fascinating bonus feature on the
soundtrack, music was used to help delineate the character differences between
Tom Ripley and Dickie Greenleaf. Dickie plays jazz is free thinking, fast
and loose and lives for the moment; whereas Tom is the classical pianist,
restrained, deep and controlled. Interestingly, Matt Damon learned to play
the piano and Jude Law the saxophone for this film. Minghella also talks
about the use of the late 1950s jazz as used in the film with the music of
Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie creating that special ambience
supportive of the period art direction. The popular Italian song 'Tu Vuo
Fa L'Americano' (about Italians wanting to be American) is also very much
of its time, and in accordance with the film's theme of someone from a humble
background wanting to enjoy a privileged existence. This song, from the night
club scene, featuring Damon, Law and Gary Barker's International Quintet
is reprised in the bonus features; so too is Matt Damon's rendering of 'My
Sweet Valentine' (definitely the untalented Mr Damon - we'll ring you!)
Composer Gabriel Yared is seen commenting on his music and we see him in
the recording sessions. Interestingly, the classical song heard at the beginning
of the film when Ripley wearing the borrowed Princeton blazer is the piano
accompanist, is used as a basis of the music played by the 90 piece orchestra
(conducted by Harry Rabinowitz). The music works very well in conjuring the
hot sultry atmosphere of the Bay of Naples and later the increasing desperation
and tension as Ripley juggles his two personnas. Classical source music used
in the film includes works by Bach, Beethoven, Vivaldi and a scene (from
the opera house sequence) from Tchaikowsky's Eugene Onegin.
By the way, people who expressed disappointment about the inconclusive ending
of this film will no doubt be interested to learn that Patricia Highsmith
wrote sequels about the fate of Tom Ripley. One of these, Ripley's Game is
to be filmed starring Pierce Brosnan as an older Tom Ripley....The Talented
Mr Ripley was honoured with five Academy Award nominations, including
Best Supporting Actor, Jude Law and Best Adapted Screenplay.
A much higher than average DVD release and strongly recommended. Below we
repeat Gary S. Dalkin's review of the soundtrack CD as published on this
site in March this year.
CD review by Gary Dalkin
This album features 7 score tracks by Gabriel Yarded. In addition: 8 new
recordings made for the film: classic jazz numbers featuring Guy Barker and
various line-ups, one extract from Vivaldi, and one song by performed by
Sinéad O'Connor with lyrics by Anthony Minghella. Plus original recordings
by Miles Davis: Nature Boy, Dizzy Gillespsie: The Champ, Charlie Parker:
Ko-Ko, Marino Marini: Guaglione.
This soundtrack, and of course the film from which it comes, are automatically
guaranteed to attract attention if for no other reason that they unite composer
Gabriel Yared with director Anthony Minghella for the first time since the
enormously successful The English Patient. Yared's Oscar-winning score
for that film had some fine passages, but all too often seemed as shapeless
and hollow as the drama it accompanied. This was especially noticeable on
disc, though some very attractive excerpts appear on The English Patient
and Other Arthouse Classics. But then, what was a film musician to do?
Yared is a fine composer and his scores tend to match a particular film so
well as to work to their detriment away from the screen - his score for
Betty Blue is marvellous film music, though rather fragmented away
from the images.
Happily, the soundtrack album to The Talented Mr. Ripley is rather
more enjoyable, even fun, than any Yared CD I have heard before. The film
is a dark drama set against the burgeoning modern jazz scene in 1950's Italy,
and there is a lot of warm, sunny, joyful music here as well as the expected
romantic elegance. There are actually three aspects to the disc, intermingled
to sometimes disconcerting effect.
There are 7 tracks of Gabriel Yared's score. Clarinet and accordion play
over strings for the gorgeous 'Italia', a piece of gossamer-dreaminess over
all too quickly. The theme is restated more urgently in 'Crazy Tom', and
though an Arabic influence appears, anyone listening to Angela's Ashes
recently might be forgiven for thinking this was prime John Williams. 'Mischief'
heads into understated atmospherics, vibes tying to the jazz flavour of the
movie, while 'Proust' is darkly glittering, introducing a secondary theme
which forms the basis of the song 'Lullaby for Cain', sung by Sinéad
O'Connor over the end titles, but strangely, placed 4th on the
album. The song itself is bleakly haunting, and given O'Connor's flair for
jazz and torch songs as evidenced by her covers album Am I Not Your
Girl? she proves an appropriate choice for the number. Everything comes
together in the early morning resignation of 'Syncopes', making Yared's
selections here much more attractive than the complete score presented on
The English Patient album. In fact in its mournful way this music
has the hallmarks of another fine Italian journey into darkness in the tradition
of Donaggio's 'Don't Look Now', Mole's 'Othello' and Shearmur's
'The Wings of the Dove'. After this an excerpt from Vivaldi's Sabat
Mater (specially recorded for the film) is not the least out of place.
The other two aspects of the album are jazz recordings, old and new. Matt
Damon, one of the film's stars, covers 'My Funny Valentine' in Chet Baker
style, his slightly flat detachment suiting the mood well. The album closes
with John Martyn singing 'You Don't Know What Love', his trademark
world-weariness taken to the very limit over the orchestral jazz backing.
At the opposite extreme is the foot-tapping, seriously swinging 'Tu Vuo'
Fa L'Americano', featuring both Damon, and co-star Jude Law. This is one
to play LOUD, and it's sure to put a smile on your face. Elsewhere comes
a selection of original jazz classics by the likes of Miles Davis, Charlie
Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, in other words, the best in the business. The
new jazz tracks all feature Guy Barker and various side-men, and they recreate
the sound of 50's jazz with impeccable aplomb.
That all this glues together remarkably well as an album must in large measure
be a tribute to Anthony Minghella, for he actually co-produced the new jazz
recordings. And this isn't a vanity credit either, for in his very detailed
an informative notes we discover that he used to write music himself and
is very thoughtful about the roll of music in film, considering that "Music
is at the heart of the film..." You might have misgivings about this album,
but, and especially if you like jazz as well as orchestral film scoring,
it is well worth acquiring. In some ways it covers similar territory, mixing
orchestral melancholy with jazz, as Ennio Morricone's hugely acclaimed The
Legend of 1900, though for my money, and on disc at least, The Talented
Mr. Ripley does it just that little bit better.
Gary S. Dalkin
Ian Lace adds
Having seen Anthony Minghella's film now three or four times, I have become
increasingly impressed with the music, not only by the very well chosen jazz
and classical music, but even more so with Yared's original score. The mood
is quickly set with the melancholy classical-style song, as delivered by
the singer accompanied by Tom Ripley wearing the borrowed Princeton blazer,
during the New York party at the beginning of the film. This song, 'Cain's
Mother, A lullaby' (performed by Sinéad O'Connor) has lines about
leaving - "
your nightmares on the pillow, sleep now..." that resonate
eerily and uneasily creating a delicious sense of scary anticipation. Yared
uses this melody to develop his score.
Moving to Italy, the cue 'Italia' evokes all the heat and languor and romance
of the Neapolitan coastline and the sparkle of its waters. This cue, and
the more astringent 'Crazy Tom', reminded me somewhat of the music of Sir
William Walton who made his home on the Isle of Ischia also in the Bay of
Naples. The increasing tension of 'Crazy Tom', cleverly underlines Ripley's
murderous determination to maintaining his Dickie impersonation. 'Mischief',
is a light scintillating little number, with an edgy seam employing vibes
over tremolando strings for the early playful scenes between Tom and Dickie
Greenleaf. With 'Proust' the celeste, bells and treble percussion show Tom
becoming increasingly unhinged and there is something infinitely sad and
isolated about this music. On the other hand 'Promise' has a warmer, more
romantic and wistful feel about it. Another haunting Yared cue is 'Syncopes'
that develops into an infinitely sad and prayer-like variation of 'Cain's
A memorable score that really does enhance its screenplay and an album that
is well worth listening to away from the film. What other recommendation
could you want?