"East-West" is a powerful experience despite the sometimes-generic orchestrations
and melodic contours that risk becoming indistinguishable from one Patrick
Doyle film score to another. Doyle has a beautifully distinctive scoring
technique, but, as in "Indochine"
from the same director (Regis Wargnier), it can be predictable and quite
typically neoclassical -- hardly nascent material. Here, his dramatic cues
contain only marginally more remarkable delights, but the boldness of the
music and the enthralling touches, cumulating in a superb end title song,
nudge it properly beyond average.
The film is about the return of an exiled Russian family to Stalin's USSR,
and Doyle lays stress on the Cold War atmosphere with military snare and
a generous taste of Slavic technique. These moments are engaging, the tracks
'Jeopardy,' 'The Race,' 'The Plan,' 'You Must Stay Alive,' and 'The Escape'
especially, but what determines the warmth and worth of the music is its
refinement. The soft brass of 'The Church,' the heartfelt dynamism of 'You're
Doing It For Us,' the romantically tortured strings of 'Alexei and Olga,'
the murky darkness of 'La Mer,' the spaciousness of 'Freedom' amass in a
wash of grandeur. And then there is the highlight, 'The Land,' a poignant
song exquisitely performed by tiptop baritone Anatoly Fokonov and the Bulgarian
Mixed Choir. As with many of Doyle's choral pieces it sounds as though it
is shimmering in the air, marked with efflorescence, possibly better crafted
and lovely than one can imagine it. Unluckily, the score also showcases Emanuel
Ax at a piano doing repetitive work that must have been a cinch for him to
handle, but these keyboard ditties are intriguing.
Regarding the album production: Included alongside Doyle's music are four
intriguing selections from the region; these achieve something rare in soundtrack
production in that they emphasize the underscore. The sound has a surprising
number of digital artifacts (with a particularly nasty cluster in 'The Land'),
but is otherwise competent. The composer's sleeve notes detail his approach
traditionally, while the director's writing speaks as personal poetry toward
the film, life, the whole experience.
Were it not for an over-dependence on past ideas (many from earlier in this
one score!) Doyle's "East-West" could rank among his best. As it is, "East-West"
rates as a good soundtrack with a few great moments.