Wednesday, December 9, 2015


Scores for Left-Field Choices Deserve Oscar’s Attention

Even if they might not survive deep into the awards season, a handful of 2015 releases nevertheless feature some of the most accomplished movie maestros delivering scores of the time-tested variety: lush, orchestral and unblinkingly pretty.
In “The Prophet” — the animated translation of Kahlil Gibran’s book of existential poetry — French-Lebanese composer Gabriel Yared was tasked with unifying the film’s collage of eight “chapters” helmed by different animators.
He did so by treating the framing narrative, of a young girl’s interactions with the exiled poet Mustafa, with a playful score for a traditional orchestra seasoned with instrumental colors from the film’s Mediterranean setting. As the story’s gravity increases, so does the music, culminating in a lavish cello elegy performed by Yo-Yo Ma.
Yared, who won an Oscar for “The English Patient,” gave each of the poetry segments a distinctive musical style. (Two of them are accompanied by songs.) For the “On Death” sequence, an early storyboard by fraternal animators Gaetan and Paul Brizzi inspired Yared to write a slow waltz for solo cello, soprano and orchestra. For Joann Sfar’s “On Marriage,” he wrote a tango that blended oriental instruments with orchestra and accordion.
“The distinction came mostly from the words and content of each ‘teaching,’” he says, “and also from the specific style of each animator.”
Yared also scored Angelina Jolie Pitt’s drama “By the Sea,” about a marriage on the rocks. In his elegant score, solo woodwinds trace restless lines over bobbing strings and piano figures churn under long, anguished cello laments.
“The music needed to surround and envelop the characters, but be subtle and delicate enough so it would not say too much,” says Yared. “It needed to tiptoe alongside the film so it would not over-dramatize the narrative.”

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