Best of 2013 in Film Music – South America
METEGOL – Emilio Kauderer
Original Review by Jonathan Broxton
Metegol – also known variously as Foosball, or Futbolín – is a 3D computer-animated comedy adventure film from Argentina directed by Juan J. Campanella. The film is inspired by the short story “Memorias de Un Wing Derecho” by Roberto Fontanarrosa, and tells the story of Amadeo, a shy but talented table football player who must re-connect with his former teammates and once again challenge his bitter rival, Grosso, for the foosball championship of Argentina. The film was an enormous hit in its native country upon its release in July 2013, and has a surprisingly rich and powerful score by Argentine composer Emilio Kauderer. With the might of the London Symphony Orchestra at his disposal, Kauderer impresses greatly with some big, powerful sports-fuelled action and drama, with all the heroism that implies.
After a brief (if clichéd) performance of Also Sprach Zarathustra, the score starts on a magical note with a presentation of the score’s main themes: beginning with a beautiful flute solo, “Contame Una Historia”, Kauderer’s music eventually gives way to a lilting accordion to give the score some geographical specificity, and rounds out the cue with a lovely piano solo. These themes heard in the first cue receive several statements as the score progresses, notably in the sweepingly romantic “El Beso”, the majestic “Festejos”, the intimate “El Secreto”, but the are also often turned inside out or vividly re-orchestrated as the style of the scene dictates, cleverly disguising their origins.
Instead, Kauderer often provides individual set-pieces of great worth, jumping from style to style across multiple genres. The horse riding gauchos of the pampas get a fabulous wild-west inspired theme in “El Jinete” and later in “Se Llevan Jugadores” and “Ratas”, all of which Elmer Bernstein would have been proud to call his own. “La Destrucción” is an ominous action sequence, all flashing strings, hooting contrapuntal woodwinds, and thunderous brass clusters. Parts of “Avestruces” have the angelic, choral innocence of early Danny Elfman., but it becomes something akin to the galumphing footsteps of Godzilla as the cue develops. “Buscando Jugadores” is a joyous vocal track featuring the Puerto Rican reggateon band Calle 13. “Aterrizaje” is a rollicking adventure piece with a superb trumpet theme. “El Beto” is a wonderfully vivid piece of old Hollywood slapstick comedy music, complete with rolling trombones.… and so on it goes, through the finale which includes everything from an ornate harpsichord-inflected version of the main theme in “Barroco”, an action cue riffing on Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries in “Las Valkirias-Laboratorio”, and an appropriately enormous and cathartic conclusion in “Heroes”.
Some might find the constant jumping from style to style irritating; the score never does quite sit in one place long enough to develop a consistent flow, moving from western pastiche to flat out comedy to action to pathos to romance, and back again, often in consecutive cues, and if you let it, it could easily make your head spin. Having said that, a composer has to score the film in front of him, and with a film like Metegol, sometimes you just have to go with the flow and marvel at the sheer depth and range of Kauderer’s expertise and compositional knowledge on display here – it should more than make up for the album’s slightly schizophrenic narrative.
Track Listing: 1. Zarathustra (written by Richard Strauss) (1:22), 2. Contame Una Historia (2:01), 3. El Jinete (2:10), 4. El Beso (1:38), 5. La Destrucción (2:15), 6. Aburrido en el Bar (0:53), 7. Avestruces (2:46), 8. Festejos (1:24), 9. Pasión (1:04), 10. Buscando Jugadores (performed by Calle 13) (1:49), 11. Aterrizaje (2:18), 12. Manejando la Limo (1:19), 13. El Beto (0:59), 14. La Lágrima (1:26), 15. Vals de los Patinadores (performed by Emile Waldteufel) (1:06), 16. Se Llevan Jugadores (1:34), 17. El Secreto (1:52), 18. Presentación (1:25), 19. Empezo la Guerra (0:46), 20. Ella Llora (1:47), 21. Ratas (1:46), 22. Barroco (0:52), 23. Las Valkirias-Laboratorio (written by Richard Wagner) (1:31), 24. Vuelo Corto (2:00), 25. La Quebrada (1:35), 26. Heroes (1:44). Milan Music; Running Time: 41:35.
O TEMPO E O VENTO – Alexandre Guerra
Original Review by Jonathan Broxton
O Tempo e o Vento (“Time and the Wind”) is an epic, sprawling Brazilian film based on the series of novels by Portuguese-language author Erico Verissimo. Directed by Jayme Monjardim and starring Thiago Lacerda, Marjorie Estiano, Oscar nominee Fernanda Montenegro, Cléo Pires and Mayana Moura, the film chronicles 150 years of two rival families – the Cambarás and the Amarals – as they battle for supremacy, while the formation of the modern state of Brazil and various wars, revolutions, political crises and events happen around them.
O Tempo e o Vento’s score is by Brazilian composer Alexandre Guerra, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, who has been writing music for South American productions from his home in São Paulo for the last decade or so, but who has had little recognition outside his native country. O Tempo e o Vento could change all that. The score is simply superb; lush, sweeping, thematically strong, and with a powerful orchestral style that speaks of wide open spaces, rich landscape vistas, and strong familial ties. It’s probably best described as a Brazilian Legends of the Fall, with all the positive connotations that comparison implies.
The strong main theme first appears in the opening “Liberdade a Vento”, a solemnly beautiful piece for strings that goes through numerous crescendos and instrumental variations as it develops, but this is far from a monothematic work. Throughout the score Guerra adds in different textures and tempos, thankfully keeping the music interesting. “História de Pedro Índio” features a children’s choir and a much more downbeat aspect. “Ataque à Missão” is a rich, powerful orchestra-and-chorus action piece with a wonderful, florid string ostinato underpinning the cue. “Tema Pedro Misterioso” introduces a lovely guitar element into the score, adding a touch of passion and regional color to the western orchestra; this instrumental color continues on through several other cues, including the bittersweet “Devolvendo a Adaga”, and the emotionally heightened “Morte de Pedro Índio” (which also introduces a subtle, haunting pan flute), and the poignant but brief “Morte Mãe Ana Terra”, which includes a gorgeous cello solo.
The score keeps its interest long after other scores would run out of steam: the martial intensity of “Batalha”, the effortlessly warm and appealing “Um Certo Capitão Rodrigo”, the vivid and explosive action of “Guerra Farroupilha”, the overwhelming tragedy of “Enterrando Capitão Rodrigo”, and many more, right up through to the majestic finale comprising “Rendição e Paz” and “O Tempo e o Vento – Parte Final” with its gorgeous choral harmonies. This score has so many highlight cues, there comes a point where you just have to stop writing about each of them, and instead simply recommend the entire score as a whole. Anyone who loves epic romance, music for majestic landscapes, and interpersonal dramas will love this. Fully orchestral, with several themes, lovely instrumental textures, and heightened emotions, it doesn’t get much better than this, and comes highly recommended. Alexandre Guerra is a name most of you will not be familiar with, but on the basis of the strength of this score it can’t be long before he starts making some waves internationally.
Track Listing: 1. Liberdade a Vento (2:38), 2. História de Pedro Índio (2:09), 3. Ataque à Missão (1:01), 4. Aparição do Capitão Rodrigo (4:29), 5. Ana Terra Variações (1:29), 6. Tema Pedro Misterioso (2:27), 7. Devolvendo a Adaga (1:01), 8. Morte de Pedro Índio (2:09), 9. Morte Mãe Ana Terra (0:44), 10. Depois do Ataque Castelhano (2:31), 11. Partida de Ana Terra (2:17), 12. Lembranças de Ana Terra (1:15), 13. Batalha (1:57), 14. Passagem de Tempo Ana Terra (2:12), 15. Um Certo Capitão Rodrigo (1:37), 16. Beleza Triste (1:39), 17. Um Capitão Nervoso (2:00), 18. Guerra Farroupilha (2:34), 19. Romântico Rodrigo (1:08), 20. Enterrando Capitão Rodrigo (3:08), 21. O Sobrado (4:17), 22. Uma Valsa Para Luzia (1:30), 23. Rendição e Paz (2:35), 24. O Tempo e o Vento – Parte Final (4:29), 25. Stone Walls (performed by Maria Gadú) (3:47). Som Livre Music; Running Time: 57:03.
PAPITA MANÍ TOSTÓN – Elik Álvarez
Original Review by Jonathan Broxton
Papita Maní Tostón is the most popular and successful Venezuelan film of 2013 – not that there is an enormous pool of those to choose from – and, as one might expect if you know anything about that country’s sporting landscape, it’s a romantic comedy about baseball. Jean Pierre Agostini plays Andrés, an enormous baseball fan, who follows Los Leones del Caracas, one of the principal baseball teams in Venezuela. While attending a game he meets Julissa (Juliette Pardau), the girl of his dreams, who is as big a fan of baseball as he is – but of his team’s biggest rivals. Can their love survive this terrible twist of fate? Writer/director Luis Carlos Hueck wants us to find out!
The score for Papita Maní Tostón is by the Los Angeles-based Venezuelan composer Elik Álvarez, who is probably best known to film music fans for his scores for TV anime cartoon shows like Yu-Gi-Oh, as well as for being one of the trio of composers (along with Joel Douek and Freddy Sheinfeld) writing excellent music for nature documentaries such as Kingdom of Plants and Galapagos.
Anyone familiar with Álvarez’s work on those scores will be surprised just how different Papita Maní Tostón sounds from them. As a romantic comedy, it’s obviously quite upbeat and cheerful, but considering its geographic location, it also has a quite vivid Latin influence, both in terms of orchestration and rhythms, some of which are very infectious. The opening “Esta es Venezuela”, for example, is a fun and light-hearted little cha-cha dance with lots of cool percussion and a male vocalist intoning “ooh-ee-ooh”s over the score – an idea which repeats through much of the score, with variations on the actual syllables heard. The sunny Latin ideas continue through cues such as the peppy “Camacho Magallanero”, the comedic “Cambio de Camisas” with its whistled interludes, and the jazzy rock-inflected “Tu Papa Esta Loco”, which features a killer electric guitar solo towards its conclusion.
Some of the vocal scats and beats do occasionally come across as a little kitschy and cheesy, but they are fun and lively, and provide a nice contrast from some of the dramatic melodrama other scores seem to wallow in. These are nicely counterbalanced by the more conventionally romantic pieces here, many of which are really nice. “Julissa”, for example, is a duet for soothing electric and acoustic guitars, while “Amor Entre Rivales” and “Beso Interruptido” are pretty and tender pieces for solo piano and lovely lilting strings. “Terminar” and “Revivir” are the most serious pieces of score, downbeat and pensive pieces featuring a slide guitar, an introspective solo acoustic guitar, and a heartfelt deconstructed cello rendition of the main theme, the latter of which is most affecting and emotional in the second of these two cues. The conclusive “Cabemos los Dos” ends the score on a reflective but hesitantly positive note, blending a piano/guitar version of the main theme with the doo-doo-doo vocals and the slide guitar in way which reminds me a little of Danny Elfman’s score for Silver Linings Playbook.
Unfortunately the score for Papita Maní Tostón is not available for purchase, although Álvarez did put together a personal promotional release for consideration by various awards bodies. However, despite its lightweight, poppy appeal, I would certainly recommend it, should it ever become available through a specialty label, especially to anyone whose tastes veer slightly towards the comically funky.
Track Listing: 1. Esta es Venezuela (2:19), 2. Julissa (1:00), 3. Amor Entre Rivales (1:51), 4. Camacho Magallanero (1:37), 5. Andres (1:06), 6. Cambio de Camisas (1:56), 7. Sopa de Chipi Chipi (0:24), 8. Beso Interruptido (2:10), 9. Tu Papa Esta Loco (1:52), 10. No Te Confundas (1:14), 11. Se Puso Especial (0:50), 12. Complicaciones (1:00), 13. Terminar (2:20), 14. Revivir (5:11), 15. Se Cumple Un Sueño (1:35), 16. Cabemos los Dos (4:49). Promo; Running Time: 31:20.
TIERRA DE SANGRE – Patrick Kirst
Original Review by Jonathan Broxton
Tierra de Sangre (known in English as The Vineyard) is a Chilean film directed by James Katz. It is a historical drama/romance with horror overtones, and tells the story of Magdalena (Aislinn Derbez), who marries Louis (Francisco Pizarro Saenz de Urtury), the mysterious but handsome owner of a massive French vineyard. At first, their romance grows like the grapes on their vines, but things start to turn sour with the arrival of Etienne (Aurélien Wiik), Louis’s younger brother. His arrival coincides with dark stories about a monster terrorizing a local village, and before long Magdalena begins to suspect that Etienne and the monster are somehow connected.
The score for Tierra de Sangre is by German composer Patrick Kirst, and it embraces the rich, full tones of a large symphony orchestra to explore both the central romance between Magdalena and Louis, as well as the darkness and horror of the monster that encroaches into their love story. The score sounds quite historic, with subtle religious overtones through the occasional use of a choir, harpsichord and church organ, but that’s not to say it’s old fashioned. Kirsts’s technique with the orchestra is modern and vibrant, and is enriched by the specialty instruments.
The first half of the score is generally characterized by some really lovely thematic, romantic writing. Cues like “Tierra de Sangre”, the waltz-timed “The Story Unfolds”, the sweetly Elfmanesque and regal “A Fairy Tale”, and the lyrical guitar-enhanced “Romantic Louis” have a lush, lilting quality to them, highlighting warmth and tenderness in the relationship between Magdalena and Louis.
However, everything changes during the score’s second half, which sees the love story interrupted with much more aggressive orchestral action. This darker music is hinted at in the “Prologue”, and continues to be explored in cues such as “A Strange Visitor”, the sinister “Etienne’s Arrival”, and the ominous “Conspiracy”, which ratchet up the suspense with moody orchestral lines and occasional explosions of dissonance. Elsewhere, the exciting, elegant “Hell Breaks Loose” introduces the first of several action sequences that dominate the score’s final third, which go on to include the punchy “Magdalena’s Discovery”, the revelatory “Demon’s Lair”, the wonderfully adventurous “The Rescue”, and the appropriately swashbuckling “En Garde”.
The score’s finale returns to the more lyrical sound heard in the first half, with the reflective and introspective “Everything Has Its Price”, the classically rich “Para Siempre”, and the reprise of “Louis’s Theme” ending the score on an emotional note. This continual oscillation between warmth and romance, action and dread, keeps the score consistently interesting.
Yet again, it is left to a composer from way, way outside the mainstream Hollywood studio system to write some of the best film music being written anywhere in the world today. This is a classy, elegant piece of scoring from Patrick Kirst, who is clearly very talented and deserves to have his music explored by a wider audience. Although the album does drag a little slightly towards its conclusion, and could do with maybe 10-15 minutes of pruning, Tierra de Sangre is nevertheless worth seeking out, especially for those who like their romances tainted with a touch of the Gothic.
Track Listing: 1. Prologue (0:53), 2. Tierra de Sangre (1:06), 3. The Story Unfolds (1:34), 4. Lolo (0:35), 5. A Strange Visitor (2:04), 6. The Attack (0:28), 7. The Funeral (3:08), 8. A Fairy Tale (1:33), 9. Carménère (2:36), 10. Leandro’s Mischief (2:12), 11. Leandro Gets a Taste (1:47), 12. Louis Proposes (2:18), 13. Leandro’s Transformation (0:38), 14. Romantic Louis (3:56), 15. Lovers (0:51), 16. Etienne’s Arrival (2:54), 17. The Demon (3:01), 18. Hell Breaks Lose (3:31), 19. Strife in the Village (3:34), 20. Prélude in E Minor, Op. 28 No. 4 (written by Frédéric Chopin, performed by Robert Thies) (1:55), 21. Tracing the Demons (4:00), 22. Conspiracy (1:44), 23. Magdalena’s Discovery (2:01), 24. Demon’s Lair (2:33), 25. Leandro Ousts the Demons (0:52), 26. The Rescue (4:53), 27. En Garde (2:26), 28. The Legend Begins (1:47), 29. Everything Has It Price (3:19), 30. Para Siempre (1:58), 31. Louis’ Theme Reprise (2:29). Alhambra Records; Running Time: 68:38.
WAKOLDA – Andrés Goldstein and Daniel Tarrab
Original Review by Jonathan Broxton
Wakolda, known in English-speaking countries as The German Doctor, is an Argentine film directed by Lucía Puenzo, based on her own novel. Set in 1960, the film stars Àlex Brendemühl as the doctor, scientist and Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele, and depicts the time he spent in exile in South America following the end of World War II. Having adopted a new identity, Mengele moves into a Patagonian hotel run by German-speaking Eva and her husband Enzo. Unaware of his identity, Eva and Enzo welcome the hesitant romance that begins to develop between their daughter Lilith (Florencia Bado) and the handsome, charming foreigner; however, having won the family’s trust, Mengele finds himself renewing his interest in the human genetic research that cemented his terrible reputation during the war.
The score for Wakolda is by two veterans of the Argentine film music industry, composers Andrés Goldstein and Daniel Tarrab; the pair previously gained some international exposure following their scores for the 2004 film La Puta y la Ballena and the 2007 film XXY, but this score could really enhance their reputations internationally, if enough people have the opportunity to hear it.
The score is fairly small and intimate, written for a chamber orchestra augmented by percussion, electric cello and various electric and acoustic guitars, giving it a feeling that is somehow classical and modern simultaneously. There is also a slightly “off” feeling to much of the music, somehow insinuating that, despite appearances on the surface, things are not quite as innocent as they seem to be. A cue like “Just a Game”, for example, has an expressive acoustic guitar melody that is quite lovely, but the string sustains bubbling underneath give off a slight sense of unease. The same sort of feeling filters through the subsequent “The Journey”, where the orchestra is augmented by brushed snares and a moody, hooting duduk clarinet – again, attractive, but with a subtly anxious undercurrent.
The duduk becomes a much more prevalent timbre as the score goes on, almost acting as a leitmotif for Mengele’s twisted mind and sinister intentions. Its use in cues such as “Blood and Honor”, “Dolls Factory” and “The Persecution” allows the score to embrace the darkness of Mengele’s looming presence fully. Similarly, the regular return to the core thematic ideas and instrumental choices – guitar and percussion on top of the small string orchestra – in cues such as “Nazi’s Bunker” and “The End” allows the score to maintain its personal identity in a way that is very pleasing. One further standout cue is “The Hunt Has Begun”, a more strident and forceful piece featuring a more prominent piano element, which acts as one of the score’s few moments of straightforward action. Parts of this action style return in the vibrant “End Credits” piece, ending the score on a pleasing classical note.
The only drawback to the score is the careless placement of several period songs – “Rain Song”, “Lady Sunshine Und Mister Moon”, “Wumba Tumba Schokoladeneisverkäufer” and “Let’s Dance” among them – which almost ruin the carefully constructed mood Goldstein and Tarrab create with their score. It’s so jarring to go from the low-key tension of “In the Mountain” to a piece of old-fashioned upbeat dance music, and these cues need to be programmed out of the listening experience so as not to break the mysterious spell the score otherwise creates.
Parts of Wakolda remind me of something Mychael Danna might write for one of his ‘disturbing urban drama’ scores, The Ice Storm or Felicia’s Journey or something like that, where the public sheen of normality and respectability hides something much more emotionally monstrous behind the curtains and under the beds. It’s a difficult notion to convey musically, and the fact that Goldstein and Tarrab have succeeded here is testament to their talent.
Track Listing: 1. The German Doctor Main Title/Títulos Wakolda (1:32), 2. Little Bed/Pequeña Cama (0:45), 3. Rain Song (3:49), 4. Just a Game/Un Juego (1:10), 5. The Journey/El Viaje (1:17), 6. Lilith (0:41), 7. There Were Two/Eran Dos (1:15), 8. Blood and Honor/Sangre y Honor (0:59), 9. Farewell/Despedida (0:38), 10. Dolls Factory/Fábrica de Muñecas (1:29), 11. Heartbeat/Latidos (0:53), 12. Lady Sunshine Und Mister Moon (2:14), 13. Forest/Bosque (1:04), 14. The Hunt Has Begun/La Cacería Ha Comenzado (1:12), 15. Nazi’s Bunker/Bunker Nazi (0:58), 16. The Persecution/La Persecución (1:32), 17. Wumba Tumba Schokoladeneisverkäufer (2:27), 18. Prematures/Eran Sietemesinas (1:11), 19. In the Mountain/En la Montaña (0:49), 20. Let’s Dance (1:52), 21. The Persecution Continues/La Persecución Continúa (1:23), 22. Sea Above, Sky Below (7:40), 23. The End/El Final (1:54), 24. The German Doctor End Credits/Wakolda Créditos Finales (2:50). Quartet Records SM-027; Running Time: 42:21.