May 2001Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings /May01/

Giovanni VENOSTA
OST CAM 499928-2  (39:01)
CAM Original Soundtracks

It fascinates me how Italian film music has such a distinctive sound and sensibility, right through from the masterful Morricone to glorious Goblin. And let me make one thing very clear, I'm a huge fan of this 'Italiana' style but when I read the sleeve notes of Princessa, informing me that the story concerned a young Brazilian transvestite who arrives in Italy to undergo a sex change operation, I found it hard to imagine how that premise could inspire music of any great note. And in this particular instance, I was absolutely right.

The opening cue 'Ela Sonha' has a soft, wordless vocal by Laura Pone, before a laid-back trumpet solo takes centre stage and the title track itself is also in similar vein, again featuring the work of Laura Pone, this time with melancholy strings and some easy-going jazzy elements. These two pieces are then reprised in various other forms; 'Ela Sonha' has the same title but with tinkling keyboard and minus the vocals, then there's another 'Princessa', also sans vocal and this central theme is later heard on 'The Finger' in a string variation with some underlying unease, accompanied by increasingly heavy drum work. It also gets an organ treatment at the beginning of 'Fernando', although the track soon degenerates into a barrage of bizarre sound effects. Unfortunately none of these interpretations are very appealing.

But worse is yet to come. 'Santarosa' is a kind of Latino pseudo disco number with eccentric vocal effects and is quite frankly abysmal. 'Ela Escuta' is slightly better (which isn't saying much!), a soft pop number with vocal backing and a saxophone lead. Also included is 'Estate' written by Messrs. Brighetti and Martino, with a female vocal performed by Auwe in a light, forgettable, typically continental song, the kind of thing you might have heard on a 60s soundtrack as night club background music. Finally, as if to rub salt well and truly into the wound, 'Santarosa' is reprised, apparently to remind us just how utterly awful it really is.

There is often a kind of timelessness about Italian film music. And the 'Princessa' theme could, with only the smallest of variation in the instrumentation, have easily been composed anytime from the 1960s onward. And in many ways I find that to be an endearing quality. Sadly though, even taking this into consideration, the music on offer here is so unremarkable at its best and damn right dreadful at its worst, that I find I'm struggling to really say anything positive about it at all. In fact, the more I consider it, the more I'm forced to conclude that very, very few will get anything out of this soundtrack. Apart from the vaguely likeable title theme, the rest of the CD is so utterly devoid of anything remotely pleasing, it really is quite startling.

Mark Hockley

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