June 2006 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Michael McLennan
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster: Len Mullenger

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The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada  
Music composed and produced by Marco Beltrami
Performed by Unnamed Ensemble
Conducted by Pete Anthony
  Available on Recall Records (NA006-8591790016280)
Running Time: 58:50
Amazon UK   Amazon US

See also:

  • Frida
  • The Proposition
  • The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005) is set in the borderlands between Texas and Mexico. It follows the story of rancher (Tommy Lee Jones) and his deceased friend Melquiades Estrada. The rancher is determined to find his friend’s murderer and return his body to the soil of his hometown. The journey aspect of the plot is superficially reminiscent of the final journey of Jones’s character from Lonesome Dove as he escorts his friend’s body home. This powerful drama is the directorial debut of Jones, the film winning Best Actor (for Jones) and Best Screenplay (for Guillermo Arriagha, of 21 Grams and Amores Perros) at Cannes in 2005. Jones was also the music supervisor, personally selecting both the composer in what one hopes will be the beginning of long and fruitful a director-composer relationship.

    The premiere release from Recall Records, this score is probably Marco Beltrami’s most experimental score in a while. It’s closer to art house film music, with an abrasive quirky  bouncy feel, that Beltrami’s popular symphonic style. The ensemble is comprised of guitars, cellos, vocals, wind instruments, viola, violin, a dash of electronics and yes, a cactus (more on that later). It’s a moody atmospheric affair using traditional instruments, not far removed from Elliot Goldenthal’s Oscar winning work from Frida, but less melodic and more percussive.

    The score by Beltrami is about half an hour in length. The main theme seems to be inspired by Ennio Morricone’s Two Mules for Sister Sara, and has a poignant quality. There are a handful of enjoyable score tracks, such as ‘Leaving Town’, and the nostalgic accordion-based theme heard in ‘Gift Horse’ (the basis for the friendship between Mequides & Tommy Lee Jones Character). The composer also created a theme for the scenic beauty, the score giving an ethnic, down-to-earth feel to the film.  Overall the score alternates between these two themes in various guises and interpretations with unusual sounds aplenty, bringing to mind the experimental compositions of Ennio Morricone for the spaghetti westerns. Beltrami raises some kind of bar here: they even used a Mexican cactus plan to get a percussion sound! (It sounds a lot like some of Jerry Goldsmith’s percussive ideas, something perhaps we’ll be hearing more of in the forthcoming Beltrami score to The Omen remake?) There are some percussive tracks with guitar riffs such as ‘Pete Confronts Sheriff’, but they are too short to make much of an impression. The score selections come to an end with the movingly elegaic ‘The Goodbye’.

    The album is mixed with pop songs that all appear in the film, and build with the score overall the course of the album. It means the album is not your typical film score, but it still makes for very easy listening. There is a bonus video on the making of the soundtrack - featuring both Beltrami and director Tommy Lee Jones. Jones describes why he chose Beltrami to do the score, that even though Beltrami was known for his horror film scores, Jones was attracted by the fact that Beltrami had worked under Ennio Morricone. The packaging is nice with a nice cardboard slip.

    A small delightful album, but beware buying it without having watched the film.

    Amer Zahid

    Rating: 3

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