Home > Reviews > BURN AFTER READING – Carter Burwell


September 12, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Coen Brothers return to the comedy arena after sweeping the 2007 Oscars with No Country For Old Men; Burn After Reading stars John Malkovich, George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt and follows the fortunes of a pair of clueless health club employees who, after accidentally finding the memoirs of a retiring CIA operative, mistake the memoirs for top-secret classified information, and attempt to blackmail him. As usual, the Coens composer is Carter Burwell, whose music for Burn After Reading ignores the comedic elements in the score almost entirely, instead concentrating on the darker, more thriller-esque parts of the story. Burwell uses a lot of percussion throughout the score, beginning with the turbulent opening “Earth Zoom (In)”. Elsewhere, there are dramatic string fugues (“A Higher Patriotism”) that morph into tumultuous action sequences {“Night Running”, “Plan B”, “Breaking and Entering”), and moments of brooding melodrama (“Opportunity”, “How Is This Possible?”) that make excellent use of an unusual marimba and piano combination.

These are tempered by a couple of bittersweet romantic moments for piano and woodwinds in “Linda Looks For Love”, “Seating”, “After the Loving”, and others. The familiar chord progressions and harmonic stylings from Burwell’s earlier works are very much in evidence, earmarking the score as a prominent part of his canon, although on this occasion the thematic elements of the score actually seem to remain prominent above the usual heavy bass writing, which is a welcome change.

As Burwell himself says, Burn After Reading purports to be an espionage thriller – certainly the characters in the film believe it to be one – but is also a sex comedy of errors. As such, it’s probably the most un-comedic comedy score you’ll ever hear; fortunately, it’s also one of Burwell’s best, most accessible scores in several years.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • Earth Zoom (In) (1:20)
  • A Higher Patriotism (1:36)
  • Linda Looks for Love (Part 1) (1:40)
  • Night Running (2:27)
  • Building the Chair (1:02)
  • Rendezvous (0:45)
  • Opportunity (1:40)
  • Plan B (1:18)
  • Seating (2:02)
  • Homeless (0:55)
  • Harry Looks for Love (0:31)
  • Breaking and Entering (3:41)
  • I Killed a Spook (1:15)
  • After the Loving(0:56)
  • Tuchman Marsh (1:45)
  • Carrots/Shot (1:04)
  • Linda Looks for Love (Part 2) (1:19)
  • Who Are You? (1:07)
  • How Is This Possible? (2:17)
  • Negativity (1:00)
  • The Struggle for Ebullience (1:35)
  • Intruder! (3:22)
  • Earth Zoom (Out) (1:22)

Running Time: 36 minutes 09 seconds

Lakeshore Records LKS-34037 (2008)

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