March 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

Academy Award Nominated Score:-
Gabriel YARED The Talented Mr Ripley OST   SONY SK 51337 [63:54]

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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


Gary S. Dalkin

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