September 29, 2007
The film music of Alexandre Desplat has always intrigued this reviewer. He is a throwback in the respect that he truly offers us a real melody like Steiner use to. I reference Max because both composers love the use of the harp. I know that Steiner’s wife played in the Warner Bros. Orchestra which could be the reason why there always seemed to be a nice part for Louise included in a lot of the scores. Perhap Desplat just seems to want to use it for part of the rhythm and harmony in some of his cues and I like it. The use of it gives him a unique sound which is easily recognizable. He is the most exciting composer to appear on the film scene in quite a long time. My first introduction to him was a film called The Girl With A Pearl Earring and the interest has continued through Birth, Hostage, The Queen, and The Painted Veil. In fact I chose The Painted Veil as the best score of 2006. Many CD’s that sit on one of my 4 desks are listened to once and filed away, perhaps never to be listened to again. When a package arrived in the mail yesterday it wasn’t even opened immediately but when I did later and saw Desplat as the composer the interest was there. The film Lust, Caution is a tale of love and intrigue set in Shanghai during World War 2. It has already won the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival. The opening track “Lust, Caution” albiet a short minute introduces the mystery with the low throaty flute and the mournful solo violin. “Dinner Waltz” is a lovely waltz with the piano playing of Alain Planes leading the strings. The same theme “Dinner Waltz” is also featured in a track with the Traffic Quintet and Mr. Planes. But it is “Falling Rain” which is the introduction of the beautiful theme for the female lead in the film Wong Chia Chi that is well worth the price of purchasing this CD. It is also used and hinted at in the tracks “Wong Chia Chi’s Theme”, “Exodus”, “The End of Innocence”, and “The Angel” but “Falling Rain” is my favorite. Its the kind of track that gives you goosebumps and you want to turn it up louder and listen to it over and over again! “Nanjing Road” has the unique honor of including the director of the picture, Ang Lee, performing on the piano on a tense dark underscore track. Alain Planes does superb piano work on the tracks as well as performing the Brahms Intermezzo in A Major.
While I cannot comment on the film as it has yet to be released I can strongly recommend the soundtrack as I have with most of Desplat scores. His style could very easily fit into the Golden Age category yet he certainly doesn’t follow any of the Wagner styles. It is refreshing and unique.