Home > Reviews > SCANDAL: HÀO QUANG TRO LAI – Christopher Wong


scandalhaoquangtrolaiOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Scandal: Hao Quang Tro Lai is a Vietnamese drama-thriller, directed by Victor Vu, a follow-up to his own film Scandal from 2012. The film stars Nhung Trang as Bella, a beautiful but aging actress who is passed over for Vietnam’s version of the Academy Awards in favor of a younger, but less talented rival. Convinced that her failure is a direct result of her fading looks, Bella secretly visits Dr. Quan (Bao Chi), a plastic surgeon, in a desperate attempt to make herself appear younger. Shockingly, Bella dies on the operating table, and in an attempt to save his own career Quan disposes of the body and covers up the death; for a while, everything seems fine, and Quan soon becomes a famous ‘celebrity surgeon’ – until a woman who bears an astonishing resemblance to Bella appears, threatening to unearth Quan’s scandalous secret.

The score for Scandal: Hao Quang Tro Lai is by composer Christopher Wong, who over the past few years (and mainly as a result of his numerous collaborations with director Vu) has become the de-facto #1 composer in the Vietnamese film music industry. It’s an interesting and slightly unlikely niche for him to have carved out for himself, but his music remains as good as it always has been, all the way back to when he first emerged onto the scene with Journey to the Fall in 2006.

Wong’s music is based around a beautiful, lyrical theme for Bella, first heard in the opening cue “Lanterns in the Wind”, where it emerges from a solo piano into a lush, string-based statement. The theme has a slightly forlorn feeling, a sense of faded romance, but is able to be presented in numerous different guises as the score develops. More contemporary electronic ideas, coupled with cellos ostinatos, accompany the theme in cues like “The Comeback”. The solo piano returns in the lovely pair “Father’s Grave” and “Being Replaced”. Later, in “Remembering Bella”, Wong skews the theme, giving it a sense of uncertainty and mystery, while in the conclusive pair “End of the Road” and “The Story Within” he introduces a haunting, Lisa Gerrard-like vocal styling which is very effective indeed, ushering the final performance of Bella’s theme.

Some creative and powerful dissonance can be heard in cues like “Flatline”, “What Went Wrong”, and especially the angrily aggressive “Strangling Ghosts”, which throbs to horror movie-style stingers, while “Unearthed”, “No Escape” and the breathless “On the Run” have a contemporary thriller vibe, with churning string rhythms full of movement, dramatic brass chords, and ticking metallic percussion to give the whole thing a sense of gripping energy.

The majority of the score is synthesized with samples – a necessity based on the lack of budgets in the Vietnamese film industry – but despite these sonic limitations, the quality of the writing and the intellectual application of the music shines through. Unfortunately, the score is only available as a promo the composer prepared for consideration by various awards bodies, but anyone who has the opportunity to hear it should do so, as it further illustrates what a great composer Wong is, and proves once more that great film music is being written in the most unlikely places.

Track Listing:

  • Lanterns in the Wind (2:29)
  • The Comeback (3:18)
  • Father’s Grave (1:12)
  • Being Replaced (1:41)
  • For Love or Fame (1:51)
  • Lantern Dream (1:21)
  • Flatline (2:33)
  • What Went Wrong (3:50)
  • Deception (0:49)
  • Strangling Ghosts (2:36)
  • Being Followed (1:33)
  • Remembering Bella (3:05)
  • Unearthed (2:21)
  • No Escape (4:47)
  • The Shrine (3:05)
  • On the Run (3:54)
  • End of the Road (3:19)
  • The Story Within (5:01)

Composer Promo (2014)

Running Time: 48 minutes 42 seconds

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