Spring 2005 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Marc Bridle
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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A Very Long Engagement - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack  
Music composed by Angelo Badalamenti
  Available on NoneSuch Records 79880-2
Running Time: 47:32
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Angelo Badalementi (who is mostly known through his long-time collaboration with director David Lynch) provides the score for this new Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie: A very long Engagement (Un long dimanche de fiancailles). This film recalls the famous coupling of the director with actress Audery Tautou from their previously successful collaboration on film, Amélie.

This new film, however, bears no similarities with their previous work: it deals with a passionate story of hope, love and war as a woman, whose childhood friend and fiancé goes missing during the First World War, searches to find him.

Be not mistaken by the premise of the film, the musical score it accompanies features no grand or particular themes, say a love theme, huge battle cues and rising, climactic cues for the end of the movie. It does, however, satisfy the listener in a more subtle, intimate, and warm way. Apart from that, I wasn't particularly sure what to expect from this composer as his musical style has gone through different phases during his career. From the jazz-influenced sound of Twin Peaks, to the darker and slower orchestral writing for Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive, to The Beach where he managed to merge his sweeping orchestral love theme with electronic drum beats and percussion that pictures the urban scenes of the film.

A Very Long Engagement is a quite different musical approach from these scores. It opens with 'Main Title / The Trenches' with a short passage for dark synthesizers echoing the composer's trademark sound as presented in his moody score for David Lynch's Mullholland Drive. Immediately after that, some beautifully intoxicant French horn solos take over. This piece (indeed the whole score) echoes Zimmer's The thin Red Line and bits from his collaboration with Klaus Badelt on Invincible from its very beginning notes. Some time just before its end, a snare drum beat enters and, along with the sweeping string lines, the listener is reminded of James Horner's instrumentations and composing style. The same elements are used in 'The man from Corsica' using the identical marvelous horn lines, only this time this piece is a little more developed and dramatic with a fuller sound.

Much emphasis is given on the deep-sounding strings complemented by the use of some soft percussion, moody and atmospheric synthesizers, a scarcely used electronic choir and sweeping string lines. Simple motifs underscore melodies or the main theme (complete or parts of it). This is a work dominated by minor scales, simple but effective instrumentation and harmonies within a slow tempo, which generates a dark, heavy, melancholic but at the same time irresistibly beautiful atmosphere. If there is a criticism, it is that it suffers from over-repetition and the fact that it doesn't actually have anything fresh or particularly important to offer. If you are able to overcome this (and it is a demanding score) then you are in for a rewarding, seductive and exquisite experience.

Demetris Christodoulides

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