Last week I belatedly caught up with Foxcatcher, and was surprised by its unexpectedly lyrical score. It got me thinking of other soundtracks to which I have been listening recently, and then it became inevitable that a list would be compiled. Here, then, are Nine Recent Film Scores I Really Like.
I know bugger-all about music, so please forgive technical gaffes and fluffy layperson generalisations. I tried to find a tenth soundtrack so I could round it up to a nice even number, but was unable to settle on just one. So feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments, also to correct my mistakes and add proper musical terms and stuff.
Also, how do you add spaces in WordPress? I keep inserting spaces, and have even tried inserting them as code into the text, but WordPress keeps removing them and running paragraphs together. It’s driving me nuts. What am I missing here?
You can find a list of some of my all-time favourite film music here.
by Chris Spelman
I don’t think James Gray’s film ever got a proper release in the U.K., which is astonishing considering it was well received at Cannes, has been nominated for (and won) a bunch of awards, and is a major film by a much-praised American auteur featuring terrific performances from Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner.
Ironically, it’s the first of Gray’s films I have unequivocally loved, thanks in no small part to Chris Spelman’s unapologetically Puccini-esque score, which emphasises the operatic nature of the story with its echoes of La Bohème and La Rondine, and Verdi’s La Traviata. (Spelman even plays Arturo Toscanini in a cameo.)
I scoured the internet in vain, but this soundtrack was nowhere to be found on YouTube, amazon, iTunes, dailymotion – or anywhere else, as far as I could see. So I recorded the end credits music myself from the (legally) downloaded film, via my Mac + QuickTime.
Please forgive the resulting truly abysmal quality, but this will just have to do until the music becomes commercially available. Perhaps someone’s finer acoustic sensibilities will be so outraged it will spur them on to upload a better version.
by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Reznor and Ross outdo their cracking score for The Social Network with this wonderful mix of the ethereal, the romantic and the downright sinister. Nothing is as it seems in David Fincher and Gillian Flynn’s masterful adaptation of Flynn’s bestselling crime thriller, an acerbic dissection of modern marriage and the psychology of coupledom, as well as a satire of the media.
It’s grim, chilling – and, for those of us with a warped sense of humour – deliciously funny. But the music is not kidding around; it’s like an icy glimpse into the inside of a sociopath’s head.
by Jonny Greenwood
This hybrid of Chinatown, The Long Goodbye and The Big Lebowski, adapted from a Thomas Pynchon novel is my favourite Paul Thomas Anderson film since Boogie Nights, or possibly Magnolia. It perfectly evokes the woozy feeling of watching a thrilling but not entirely comprehensible movie while stoned out of your gourd, so may not appeal to folk who like their stories cut and dried.
But there’s real feeling both in Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as an addled private eye whose moral code is at odds with 1970s Los Angeles, and in Greenwood’s score, simultaneously sensual, idealistic and wistful, with lots of strings and strong echoes of Howard Hanson’s Romantic Symphony (some of which was used in Alien).
Tracks from Can, Neil Young and Minnie Riperton don’t hurt either.
I’m not normally prone to nostalgia, but Inherent Vice stirred up memories of a long-gone era when summers were hot and snoozy, and sex was sensuous and vaguely grubby and comfortable rather than the glossy, sterile, somewhat strenuous duty it’s all too often presented as today.
by Rob Simonsen
Tinkly piano scores are usually intended as an indicator of simple-minded poignancy, either in romances or films about holy fools or illness, but not here. Simonsen’s Satie-esque piano-rich music, with its occasional tangents into plangent GOP-type anthem, seems the opposite of the film’s intensely physical visual approach, but serenely conjures up an old world of decadent privilege and doomed aspiration.
by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans
Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans’s music for Denis Villeneuve’s doppelganger psychothriller, adapted from José Saramago’s The Double, is probably the weirdest soundtrack on this list, and with its scuttling insect noises wouldn’t have sounded out of place on David Cronenberg’s early excursions into Body Horror. What’s going on? What’s that final shot all about?
I wasn’t hugely impressed by the film when I first saw it, but the ambience conjured up by the ochre Toronto cityscape and nerve-jangling score embedded itself in my brain, and I started to appreciate it retrospectively. Now I think I love it. It’s like a particularly perplexing dream, one in which (final scene aside) you can’t quite put your finger on exactly why it’s so disturbing.
by Vincent Cahay
I liked Fabrice Du Welz’s version of the Lonely Hearts Killers (already filmed as The Honeymoon Killers, Deep Crimson and Lonely Hearts) from the outset, but when one of the characters burst into song (this is not a musical), the like turned to love. The story has been transposed to the film-maker’s native Belgium and features bravura performances from Spanish actress Lola Dueñas and Laurent Lucas, who played the hapless victim in Du Welz’s Calvaire, as lovers locked in an intense, murderous tango of passion.
I’m currently trying to get hold of the soundtrack CD, which seems to be available from just one record shop with branches in Bruxelles and Namur, but in the meantime this clip will give you an idea of Cahay’s work. What it doesn’t begin to convey, however, is that gloriously incongruous musical number, or the head-banging cathartic splendour of a final blast of Belgian thrash-punk. I guess you’ll just have to see the film for those.
ETA: I’ve got the Alléluia soundtrack! And it’s even better than I rememember. Highly recommended, plus you get lots of great bonus tracks, one of which is the insane dance music from Du Welz’s first film, Calvaire. As far as I can see, it’s currently available only from Veals and Geeks Records, Rue des Grands Carmes 8A, Bruxelles or Veals and Geeks, Rue des Carmes 3, Namur. (Veals and Geeks are the company putting out the CD, as well as selling it. On the CD cover spine they have shortened their name to VAG, which of course amuses me no end.)
THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY
by Cat’s Eyes
Peter Strickland’s funny, erotic study of the power dynamics in a dom/sub lesbian relationship in and around a big old house somewhere in a mittel-Europe seemingly populated solely by female entomologists has the perfect soundtrack from the alternative pop duo Cat’s Eyes. Like several other films on this list, this one and its soundtrack have a distinct 1970s vibe – in this instance evoking erotic arthouse cinema and continental softcore chic – but transcends pastiche, instead creating its own special, hermetically sealed world.
The most frightening horror movie in years has blood-curdling sound design that really gets under your skin, and a new kind of preternatural movie monster that harnesses all the creepiest aspects of the original Nightmare on Elm Street and Final Destination movies without ever descending into camp or self-parody.
The synthesizer score is enough on its own to announce that this film means business, marshalling nerve-jangling feedback and pounding rhythms, with a main theme that channels John Carpenter’s spooky minimalism (that 1970s vibe again) and complements the non-specific retro production design.
ZERO DARK THIRTY
by Alexandre Desplat
After years of brilliant work, Desplat finally won an Academy Award this year for The Grand Budapest Hotel. While his work on that is impeccable, it’s not something I listen to separately from the film. His music for Zero Dark Thirty, however, is another matter entirely. Ominous, portentous, implacable and very, very dark. This is Evil Empire music. Star Wars eat your heart out.