March 2004 Film Music CD Reviews

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

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L.A. Confidential  
Music composed by Jerry Goldsmith
  Available on Varèse Sarabande VSD-5885
Running time: 30.03
Amazon UK   Amazon US

la confidential

The playing time of this CD of the 1998 Oscar nominated score for L.A. Confidential may be only 30 minutes but the music is such a powerful and relentless assault on the senses that in this case it is definitely a question of quality ruling over quantity.

Goldsmith was given the task of composing a score that would weave together a dozen or so songs chosen by the film's director Curtis Hanson (himself nominated in the Best Director section of the 70th Academy Awards) to evoke the time period in which the story takes place. Goldsmith succeeds admirably, his score is timeless and therefore helps the audience to forget period connotations and concentrate on the convolutions of the drama.

There is much staccato, dotted rhythm music, heavily accented and almost metallic. It is hard and relentless. The textures are often dense and polytonal. Two mesmerising and sinister, two-and-four note motifs dominate the score. Even the "romantic" elements seem remote and detached, like the Kim Bassinger character, slinky and smooth as black satin.

The orchestration is dominated by trumpet parts that echo the playing of Chet Baker and Bobby Hacket in the chosen songs. Subtle but telling use of synthesisers is made in support of an array of bass acoustic instruments, including percussive parts for two pianos used to convey the brutality, menace and a sense of secrets within secrets. The cue ‘Shootout’ is so evocatively realistic it makes one's hair stand on end. The only short relief is in the triumph of sorts in the final cue, ‘The Victor’. The performance is excellent and the sound is stunning.

Impressive but exhausting.

Ian Lace

***(*) 31/2

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