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CD Reviews: Ripley's Game and Love Object

Ripley's Game ***


Warner Chappell Music Italiana 256460072-2

13 tracks - 46:50

Liliana Cavani's adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's third Tom Ripley novel, Ripley's Game will probably go down as 2004's lost movie. While it played everywhere else in 2003, even on a US cable station, it finally received a commercial run at a small theater in New York in early 2004 where it garnered good buzz. But it was too little too late. The movie is now on DVD for everyone else to judge for themselves.

In this updated version, John Malkovich plays the elusive and mysterious Ripley who has taken himself out of the murder/con games of his youth, but is pulled back in when a harmless revenge game he plays on his neighbor (Dougray Scott) turns to murder. In direct opposite to Matt Damon's misunderstood gay Ripley in Anthony Mingella's underrated The Talented Mr. Ripley, Malkovich oozes slime and is squarely in heterosexual mode here. At first, I was put off by Malkovich, who seems to be playing a variation of his Valmont character from Dangerous Liaisons, but he soon makes us care for this Ripley. The movie becomes an enjoyable thriller, made more so by veteran composer Ennio Morricone's scoring.

Morricone's triumph here is the wonderful concert piece that Ripley's girlfriend plays on her pianoforte. It is played to shocking effect since most of the other music in the score is of the brooding and menacing variety expected in a film like this. But "In Concerto" is a light, melodic piece that represents the crime-free world Ripley loves. The cue plays during the last scene of the movie, as well as the end titles.

Morricone scores the rest of the picture as if he's scoring Mission: Impossible, which is fine in the movie, but less engaging on this import CD from Italy. Even the romantic selections are menacing. My two favorite pieces are "Primo Treno" and "Secondo Treno," the two set pieces involving Ripley's neighbor in Germany. Morricone infuses these cues with tension created mostly by an almost saw-like sound from the orchestra, reminiscent of his score for Mission to Mars. The Horner-esque 13-minute cue, "Collage Per Ripley," is the last one on the CD, and is the film's cat-and-mouse final showdown. Considering its length, the music doesn't generate much suspense or much sympathy for the characters.

Still, there's a lot to enjoy on this CD, and in the movie as well. Despite minimal variation in mood, this score will likely please Morricone fans.     -- Cary Wong

Love Object ***


Nicpik 49409-2

37 tracks - 56:02

A bizarre cross-pollenation of melody and sound design, Love Object achieves exactly the right creepy mood that a film about a jealous sex doll deserves. At times reminiscent of Marco Beltrami's The Minus Man (particularly in its use of glass harmonica and percussion), occasionally recalling Elliot Goldenthal's Michael Collins theme, and in other places sounding for all the world like Peter Dasent's Heavenly Creatures and Dead Alive, Pike's music echoes a strange mixture of both melancholy and fright. Though the sound design elements can be a bit grating, the small-scale production seems a welcome change for Pike, who does a much better job here with an intimate, Christopher Young-styled score than he usually does with a larger orchestra, even if the strings occasionally sound fake (which is a cruel irony, since I don't believe they are).

The real downfall of the score comes toward the end of the album, when it degenerates into a barrage of noise. Pike scores the horror with horrifying music, and while this works splendidly on screen, it's rather hard to justify listening to shrieking violins, a dentist-drill sounding effect (actually a cello) and loud jolting stingers on CD, especially when it goes on for several minutes straight. Tracks like "Unpacking" and "Office Dating" help make the album a worthwhile listen, but for everything pretty, there's something equally ugly and obnoxious. This lack of judicious editing makes for an album that gets tiresome far sooner than it needed to. The 56:02 running time seems to reflect a "complete" release of a score that would have been better served by one of 30 minutes.

Pikes hopes that this score will prove to be more interesting than traditional, larger fare are fulfilled -- this album does show that the composer has genuine talent that doesn't always get to shine through in his other more run of the mill projects. Here's hoping that his next project yields even better results.     -- Luke Goljan

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