October 2001 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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************************************************************** EDITOR’s Recommendation October 2001




There are generally two types of Ennio Morricone film scores: those that tempt you to whistle along, and those that tempt you to pull out your hair. I purchased the Grammy-nominated "Wolf" on the recollection that its main themes are of the first named. I forgot that the remainder of the score is in the latter category.

Solo trumpet, saxophone and flute appear in turn, often with tender, dreamy lines that bring sensual character to this horror movie about a werewolf in love. Several beautiful moments recall the Golden Age of cinema -- minus the electronics (mainly drumming and rhythmic shimmering effects), these classic moments sound as though they could come from a lost Max Steiner score. Film noir's off-center romanticism shapes the themes.

Regardless of whether one enjoys his music, there is almost always an element of appreciation for Morricone's creativity. He understands the dramatic impact of original music. He goes for psychological effect over what is on-screen. He knows there is a difference between music that is horrifying and music that is horrible. Regrettably, what substantially undermines "Wolf" is his turning horrifying moments into horrible exercises in reiteration and gimmickry. Those special orchestral effects become annoying, specifically for the horror element of this soundtrack. Listeners can note the irony. The aforementioned electronic pulsing is overused, the repetition of ideas that supposedly build suspense merely come across as padding time till a scene ends, but above all is the absence of scares. It is not frightening. It is annoying, and painful. Some moments are the aural equivalent of chewing fiberglass. Pretty music and nifty sounds amount to very little when your ears are bleeding. (Figuratively speaking, of course, though just barely.)

Fault may be with the album production, which sequences the music without much consistency or evolution. There is little thematic growth and no pay-off, but rather a beginning and an end with filler in-between. The booklet offers the usual accoutrements -- stills, notes from the composer and director, etc. -- yet sets itself apart with more film noir allusions.

At over an hour's playing time, this release certainly demonstrates one great idea. Few could say it fails to present plenty of music... But, oh, my hair!

Jeffrey Wheeler


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