September 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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DVD Review



Angela's Ashes  
starring Emily Watson and Robert Carlisle
  Directed by Alan Parker
  COLUMBIA TRISTAR Home Video   [140 minutes approx.]
  Amazon UK    Amazon US

"When I look back on my childhood, I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish catholic childhood."

Back in February this year Film Music on the Web reviewed John Williams's score for this film. It was my Editor's Choice that month. I gave it a five star rating (so too did Gary S.Dalkin while Jeffrey Wheeler awarded it four and a half stars). I hastened to see the film having enjoyed the Frank McCourt novel (also reviewed on this site.) Now the DVD permits repeated viewings and a real chance to assess the John Williams score.

And how well it fits the brave despair of the McCourts. The lovely elegiac main theme speaks of compassion and even hope of a kind despite the bleakness of their lives. This theme is pared down, so affectingly, to a solo piano at moments of deepest melancholy and sadness especially near the beginning when Angela looses first her baby girl, barely hours old; and then her twin infant boys fallen prey to the damp of the Limerick slums. Then further on, the cello takes up the mood of loss when Frank looses his first love to the consumption. "I felt a hurt in my heart such that I hoped I would never feel again." The moments of comedy, and, of course there are many, have muted accompaniments or none at all or have source music such as 'The Dipsy Doodle'. The most elated, most optimistic music is reserved fittingly for the end where Frank sails back into New York to a new life.

The features disappoint, as far as this site's interests are concerned, in that there is not a single mention of the music. However, this need not deter buyers because the by now almost obligatory documentary on the making of the film is fascinating with intelligent comment from the stars and director Alan Parker. He reveals how he found the three young actors who played the youthful McCourt so well and how he had to reconstruct the Limerick slums long since disappeared (thanks to EEC funding Ireland is now booming). Best of all is the contribution of Frank McCourt himself who visited the film set and was moved to say that he really felt he was revisiting his childhood.

Ian Lace

Apart from the omission of any mention of John Williams and his music in the features - ****(*)


Ian Lace


Reviews from previous months

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