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CD Reviews: A Very Long Engagement and The Grudge

A Very Long Engagement *** 1/2


Nonesuch 79880-2

13 tracks - 47:32

Angelo Badalamenti will forever be associated with director David Lynch. When the composer does score non-Lynch films, they are usually set in similarly dark, quirky or demented worlds, as in Secretary or Auto Focus. It was thus a nice surprise to see his name attached to a romantic epic directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who made a splash a few seasons ago with Amelie. A Very Long Engagement reunites Jeunet with his City of Lost Children composer. Engagement is an ambitious, beautiful film, and Badalamenti rises to the challenge with one of the most stirring scores of 2004.

The movie, based on the novel by Sébastien Japrisot, follows the lovely Audrey Tautou as Matilde, who's fiancé is sent to war in 1917 and has supposedly died. The rest of the movie follows Matilde and her search for this man who she insists is still alive. Similar in theme and situation to last year's Cold Mountain, the film is simply about hanging onto love in the face of war.

As I listened to the first track of the CD, the first name that popped into my head was Ennio Morricone, followed by a dash of Gabriel Yared. Incorporating a full orchestra, Badalamenti paints on a wide and emotional canvas. "Main Titles/The Trenches" is an especially heartbreaking elegy to war. The next cue, "First Love Touch," introduces the haunting love theme of Matilde, which dominates the score. But the cue that surprised me the most was "Kissing Through Glass," the most unabashedly romantic piece in the movie.

Yes, the music may have at times been over the top against picture, and it may seem repetitive on the CD, but I have to applaud Jeunet for trusting Badalamenti with such an important movie. On a purely emotional level, the composer succeeds with flying colors.     -- CW

The Grudge *** 1/2


Varèse Sarabande 302 066 623 2

8 tracks - 42:29

The Grudge proves without a doubt that Christopher Young feels perfectly at home writing for both faces of horror, the tongue in cheek, and the legitimately scary. There are no stingers, surprising considering Young's stingers seem to get ripped off left and right; rather the music ebbs and flows with dark strings that saw ferociously when danger is imminent. Foreboding percussion takes the place of Young's usually deliciously over-the-top action writing. It would be easy to go too far with music like this and turn it into a noisy mess or lean too heavily on synths, but Young blends everything together so deftly that it becomes a dreamlike swirl.

The one negative aspect to the score is that it's obvious what was playing in the editing room before Young came onboard. If you add one part Suspiria-like main theme, one part bellowing drums, mix in some sawing strings, and serve it up to an audience unfamiliar with the fact that the "ghost with hair in front of its face" is a Japanese horror staple... well, then there's a good chance someone will bring up The Ring. But Young surpasses Zimmer's effort (notably by not mimicking the Suspiria theme identically, a major weak point of Zimmer's score) and creates an organic atmosphere that breathes and pulses. This is the sound of dread, a territory that seems to be inhabited exclusively by Christopher Young. He's not breaking any new ground, but he's proving that 20 years after he wrote his first horror score he's still at the top of his game.     -- Luke Goljan

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