March 2001 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings /March01/

conducted by David Snell
orchestrated by the composer and Jeff Atmajian
Sony Classical SK 89472 [41:51]
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Not having seen the film yet it is difficult to understand what has so excited the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that this attractive score has gathered an Oscar nomination. Of course, the whole point of film music is to enhance the film for which it is written, not to make great albums, and perhaps this music works wonders for Chocolat. Yet listening to the album alone Rachel Portman's score is appealing enough as well-crafted modern romantic film music, without having anything other than a very catchy and upbeat main theme to seriously distinguish it from many other comparably well-crafted romantic scores.

The Latin swing of the main theme 'Minor Swing' is deliriously infectious, running through several variations, including 'Vianne Sets Up Shop', though the Andean panpipes sounding very much like Incantation seem odd for a film set in France. Another reason one needs to see the film before assessing this music as film music. The distant flute over strings on 'Other Possibilities' is reminiscent of Zbigniew Priesner's great score for La Double Vie de Veronique (1992) while cues such as 'Guillaume's Confession' add a subtle touch of accordion to provide the requisite French touch to what is essentially background underscore. A period pastoral quality infuses 'Passage of Time' and 'Boycott Immorality', the lilting dance melody having much the same beguiling charm as Portman's superb score for Emma (1996). There is more dramatic material here, such as the restlessly propulsive drive to the second part of the last mentioned cue, and the lonesome, plaintive tension of 'Vianne Gazes at the River'. A beautiful Preisneresque melody runs through 'Mayan Bowl Breaks', while 'Taste of Chocolate' provides a elegant, briefly impassioned apotheosis.

I am left with an impression of something midway in shape between Priesner's music for the films of Krzysztof Kieslowski and Richard Rodney Bennett's pivotal Far From the Madding Crowd (1967), with a charm of it's own, but without the sheer distinguishing clarity of either man's work. I suspect that when I have seen Chocolat I will appreciate this album much more, but while for now it is thoroughly enjoyable, it doesn't seem substantial enough to last. In-fact, just like Chocolat…

Gary S. Dalkin

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