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AS YOU LIKE IT – Patrick Doyle

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

I’ve always felt that Kenneth Branagh is the only modern director who ‘gets’ Shakespeare. Whether he’s playing it comparatively straight, as he did with Henry V and Hamlet, or whether he puts a little spin on the proceedings, as he did by turning Love’s Labour’s Lost into a Cole Porter musical, Branagh seems to have a deep love of the Bard’s work, and an uncanny knack of turning his usually somewhat impenetrable language into something clearly understandable, and which conveys common human emotions and timeless themes.

As You Like It, Branagh’s sixth adaptation of a Shakespeare play, is one of the ‘spun’ ones, transplanting it from its original setting in rural France, and re-imagining it in 19th century Japan. Despite an impressive cast – Kevin Kline, Bryce Dallas Howard, Alfred Molina, Brian Blessed, Richard Briers, Janet McTeer – and handsome production values, the film could not secure a cinematic distributor in North America, and instead debuted on HBO in August 2007.

With the exception of the opening “Kabuki Attack”, which begins with an intimate woodwind solo and oriental inflections but ends up as a surprisingly powerful action cue, very little of Patrick Doyle’s score reflects traditional Japanese music. Instead, the score adopts the familiar low-key romantic composing that has typified many of his previous Branagh scores, anchored in this case by Carmine Lauri’s gorgeous violin solos, notably in the delightful “Fake Wedding” and the sumptuous “Violin Romance”.

Much of the middle portion of the album is anchored by a series of delicate, low -key romantic cues, in which texture and instrumental performance is given the greatest importance. The light, summery nature of Doyle’s music here has its precedence in Much Ado About Nothing, and cues such as “Niece!”, “Too Late a Week” and “Thy Brother” are truly lovely indeed, while “Tomorrow” and “Weddings” contain some of the most vivid reflections of heartfelt romance Doyle has ever written.

Doyle himself sings two beautifully-arranged variations on original songs penned by Shakespeare himself, “Under the Greenwood Tree” and the achingly romantic “Blow Blow”, before everything comes to a rousing head with the sing-along chorus “A Lover & His Lass”, another reminder of the free-spirited finale from Much Ado About Nothing.

Rating: ***½

Track Listing:

  • Kabuki Attack (6:48)
  • Brothers Fight (2:19)
  • Niece! (3:14)
  • Too Late A Week (1:08)
  • The Forest of Arden (4:13)
  • Roynish Clown (2:37)
  • Under The Greenwood Tree (2:36)
  • Eat No More (2:05)
  • Blow Blow (2:23)
  • Thy Brother (3:58)
  • Trip Audrey (1:25)
  • Fake Wedding (2:35)
  • Lion Attack (3:37)
  • Celia & Oliver (1:46)
  • I Love Aliena (2:05)
  • Tomorrow (3:16)
  • Weddings (5:16)
  • A Lover & His Lass (2:51)
  • Violin Romance (5:02)

Running Time: 59 minutes 14 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6830 (2007)

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