April 2003 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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The Quiet American  
Music by Craig Armstrong
  Available on: Varèse Sarabande 302 066 426 2
Running Time: 48:02
Crotchet   Amazon UK   Amazon US

quiet american

Film Music on the Web carried a review, by Paul Tonks, of this score in the February 2003 reviews. Then it appeared as a promo album. Now it is seemingly more widely available on the Varèse Sarabande label, although the distinctly odd catalogue number (without the usual VSD prefix) makes one wonder about its provenance.

It is undeniably a powerful and poignant score although I have to admit that I cannot fully share Paul’s enthusiasm. It is hardly a comfortable listening experience and in parts it is a rather harsh assault on the eardrums. There is none of the refinement and heroic appeal of say John Williams’ score for The Empire of the Sun, another Far Eastern war drama and one which this score distantly emulates. As one might expect, Armstrong uses exotic Asian percussion and pipes to create atmosphere and establish locale but he does the musical fabric no favours when he resorts to obvious explosive pedal points to mickey mouse bomb blasts, or to the incongruity of what sounds like car hub caps as further percussive instrumentation. But having said that, and not having caught up with the film yet, no doubt in a mix of sound effects, the material is probably very effective. For me, the best of the score is in the more sensitive musical treatment for the triangular romance (notwithstanding those wretched over-worked bomb-blast pedal points). I shall pass over Hong Nhung’s song, "Nothing In This World" not improved by the insensitive synth backing.

Ian Lace

*** 3

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