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LORD OF WAR – Antonio Pinto

September 16, 2005 Leave a comment Go to comments

lordofwarOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

It’s interesting to chart the careers of certain film music composers, who they are, and where they come from. I’d be willing to wager that no-one outside of Brazil had heard of Antonio Pinto prior to 1998. He contributed guitar performances and additional music for Jaques Morelenbaum on the Oscar-nominated Central Station in that year, and wrote the score for the surprisingly popular urban drama City of God in 2002 – and now all of sudden he’s scoring a major studio movie in Hollywood, starring Nicolas Cage, directed by man behind The Truman Show, and Gattaca. It’s strange because for the life of me I can’t figure out why he’s suddenly so popular – by and large his music I have found his music to be downbeat and generally unimpressive. Lord of War is no different.

Lord of War has been roundly praised by many critics for being a thoughtful, intelligent film looking at the nature of identity, the nature of war, and the principles of someone who seems (on the surface at least) to have none: an international arms dealer. Cage plays Yuri Olov, a petty gun-runner during the Cold War who finds himself at the centre of the arms dealing world upon break up of the eastern bloc, with a dozen war lords in a dozen newly independent countries vying for supremacy as potential customers. Yuri sells to anyone at any time, without thinking of the consequences or the ethics of his actions, and no-one, not even his wife Ava (Bridget Moynahan), knows Yuri’s real identity, and this a set of circumstances he intends to maintain. However, with a rival dealer (Ian Holm), an international Interpol agent (Ethan Hawke) causing problems, Yuri’s world is in danger of coming apart…

With a subject matter as serious and timely as Lord of War’s, and with a director as intelligent and subtle and Andrew Niccol, it would of course be wholly inappropriate for the film to have a grandiose orchestral score. The overtones of contemporary world music Pinto brings to Lord of War add a sense of immediacy, and subtly underline the complicated moral dilemmas the screenplay addresses. However, in purely musical terms, Lord of War does not make for an especially interesting score to listen to separately, despite some interesting touches in orchestration and some eloquent solo instrumental performances.

Much of Lord of War is based around a number of stereotypical rhythms and textures, many of which evoke the musical traditions of South America and occasionally west Africa. A variety of plucked string instruments play the largest part in the score, and more often than not feature playing the lead melody over a bed of modern synthesisers or percussion samples: guitars in the opening “Lord of War”, Chilean bandolins in the faux-Slavic “Little Odessa”, Portuguese cavaquinhos in “Ava’s Arms”, scratchy Brazilian rabeca violins in “By Sea”, a trio of guitars in “Everything That Comes From The Earth”, and so on. The dexterous performances of Pinto and his colleagues on these cues are certainly commendable, but by the sixth or seventh similar-sounding track, it has begun to get a little tiresome.

Only one or two cues buck the trend: “The Promise”, which features a solemn, sterile but effective keyboard solo; “Yakarr Diamm”, which features an unexpectedly vibrant and expressive foreign-language vocal performance that brings to mind Hans Zimmer’s score for Black Hawk Down; and “Conscience” which features an understated but warm-sounding piano line performed by Pinto himself. Only “Consequences and Loss”, “AK-47 Love” and the conclusive “Warlord” feature a recognizable orchestral element, the former underpinned by a tragic-sounding cello element, the latter recapitulating the melody heard in the first cue and building to a rather emotional climax.

It’s difficult to evaluate Lord of War’s effectiveness as a film score, because in all honesty it doesn’t really sound like one: it’s more like listening to an album of traditional Brazilian melodies performed by a group of instrumentalists who specialize in various types of traditional guitar. There’s no real recurring themes, no distinctive elements to latch on to, other than the various performance stylistics of the instruments. From a purely musical perspective I’m sure it would appeal to anyone with affinity with that kind of world music, but until Pinto displays some versatility and acumen with an orchestra, my amazement at his international success will remain.

Rating: **½

Track Listing:

  • Lord of War (3:09)
  • Little Odessa (2:50)
  • Ava’s Arms (2:00)
  • By Sea (3:14)
  • Andina (1:25)
  • Love Deception (3:43)
  • Consequences & Loss (4:26)
  • By Air (1:39)
  • The Promise (1:46)
  • Yakar Diamm (2:34)
  • Everything That Comes From The Earth (1:24)
  • Truth (3:01)
  • Conscience (2:06)
  • AK-47 Love (2:00)
  • Warlord (3:09)

Running Time: 38 minutes 33 seconds

Lakeshore LKS-33832 (2005)

Music composed by Antonio Pinto. Conducted and orchestrated by Ed Côrtes. Featured musical soloists Antonio Pinto, Edson Guidetti, Joao do Bandolin, Luis Brito, Alexandre Mazac, Bob Suetholz, Nelson Rio, Siba, Mauricio Alves, Yaniel Mattos and Gui Amabis. Special vocal performances by Céu. Recorded and mixed by John Kurlander. Mastered by Carlos Lima. Album produced by Antonio Pinto.

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