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Archive for September, 2017

WOJCIECH KILAR REVIEWS – 1964-2007

September 24, 2017 Leave a comment

In this latest installment of the new irregular series looking at the career of some film music’s most iconic composers, we travel to Poland to look at the work of one of film music’s most unsung geniuses, Wojciech Kilar.

Wojciech Kilar was born in Lvov, Ukraine, when it was still part of Poland, in July 1932, but moved to Katowice in Silesia in 1948 with his father, a gynecologist, and his mother, an actress. Kilar studied at the State Higher School of Music in Katowice under composer and pianist Władysława Markiewiczówna, at the State Higher School of Music in Kraków under composer and pianist Bolesław Woytowicz, and then in Paris with the legendary Nadia Boulanger in the late 1950s. Upon his return to Poland, Kilar and fellow composers Henryk Górecki and Krzysztof Penderecki led an avant-garde music movement in the 1960s, during which time he wrote several acclaimed classical works.

Kilar scored his first film in 1959, and went on to write music from some of Poland’s most acclaimed directors, including Krzysztof Kieślowski, Krzysztof Zanussi, Kazimierz Kutz, and Andrzej Wajda. He worked on over 100 titles in his home country, but he did not score an major English-language film until Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1992.

In addition to his film work, Kilar’s classical output includes such masterworks as Krzesany (1974), a symphonic poem for orchestra, inspired by the “highlander” music of the Tatra mountains region of southern Poland; Exodus (1979), a religious choral piece used in the trailers for Schindler’s List, and others such as Prelude and Christmas Carol (1972), Mount Kościelec 1909 (1976), Angelus (1984), Orawa (1986), and Choralvorspiel (1988). His third, fourth and fifth symphonies – the September Symphony (2003), the Symphony of Motion (2005) and the Advent Symphony (2007) – were among his last major completed works. Kilar died on December 29, 2013, at his home in Katowice, after a battle with cancer, aged 81. Read more…

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VICTORIA & ABDUL – Thomas Newman

September 22, 2017 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

There has long been a cinematic fascination with the life of Queen Victoria, who reigned in the United Kingdom from 1837 until 1901; numerous actresses have portrayed her, both on the big and the small screen, but for contemporary audiences the quintessential Victoria is the one played by Dame Judi Dench. She first played the role in 1997’s Mrs. Brown, which examined the controversial relationship between the long-widowed queen and her Scottish equerry John Brown, which ended with Brown’s death in 1883. This new film, directed by Stephen Frears, is essentially a sequel to Mrs. Brown, and again stars Dench as the much loved monarch. It picks up Victoria’s story in 1887, and focuses on another unusual relationship Victoria developed with a different manservant; however, rather than being a Scottish gamekeeper, her new confidante was an Indian Muslim named Abdul Karim, played by Ali Fazal. Cue the scandals in the palaces of London and the halls of Westminster. Read more…

TULIP FEVER – Danny Elfman

September 19, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The tale of Tulip Fever is a long and sad one in terms of the way the film has been treated by its distributor. It’s an adaptation of the enormously popular novel by Deborah Moggach, directed by Justin Chadwick, and written by the great Tom Stoppard. Set in the Netherlands in the 17th century, during the period of the tulip mania (when the Dutch economy was almost ruined by the enormous inflation, then the sudden collapse, of the price of tulips), the film tells the story of an impoverished artist who falls in love with a young but unhappily married woman after he is commissioned to paint her portrait by her husband, a rich and powerful flower merchant. The film stars Dane De Haan, Alicia Vikander, and Christophe Waltz, and was originally scheduled for release in late 2015, in order to prime itself for a run at that’s year’s Academy Awards. However, for some reason, the film was delayed and delayed and delayed by the distributor, Harvey Weinstein. Release dates came and went until the film finally dragged itself into cinemas in a limited release in August 2017, almost two years after it was first scheduled to appear; virtually no-one went to see it, and it was a critical disaster, with one writer memorably describing it as ‘a floral-scented fiasco that is so lifeless you can barely feel a pulse.’ Read more…

BEN-HUR – Miklós Rózsa

September 18, 2017 3 comments

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

As a new decade dawned, MGM studio executives began searching for a grand tale to bring to the screen. They decided in 1952 to cast their lot with a remake of their epic 1925 silent film, Ben-Hur. The film’s source material would again reference Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. It would take six years before producer Sam Zimbalist could bring the project to fruition. It required twelve versions of the script, from four different writers, to finally satisfy the demands of director William Wyler. Casting was also challenging as over 5,000 people needed to be hired for minor roles and extras. The studio spared no expense, ultimately providing Wyler with an astounding $15 million budget. Charlton Heston secured the titular role of Judah Ben-Hur and was supported by a fine cast, which included Stephen Boyd as Messala, Jack Hawkins as Quintus Arius, Haya Harareet as Esther, Martha Scott as Miriam, Sam Jaffe as Simonides, Hugh Griffith as Sheik Ilderim, Cathy O’Donnell as Tirzah, Frank Thring as Pontius Pilate, and Finlay Currie as Balthazar narrator. Read more…

REBEL IN THE RYE – Bear McCreary

September 15, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Rebel in the Rye is a biopic about the life of J. D. Salinger, the reclusive author of the classic 1951 novel about teenage angst and social alienation, Catcher in the Rye. It looks mainly at Salinger’s life as a young man, charting the time he spent serving on the front lines in World War II, following the creation and publication of Catcher, examining his relationships with his girlfriend Oona O’Neill, his mentor Whit Burnett, and his supportive publisher Dorothy Olding, and lamenting the subsequent unwanted fame and notoriety Salinger suffered through, which led him to withdraw from public view for most of the rest of his life. The film was written and directed by Danny Strong, and stars Nicholas Hoult as Salinger, with Zoey Deutsch, Kevin Spacey, and Sarah Paulson in supporting roles. Read more…

HELLRAISER – Christopher Young

September 14, 2017 2 comments

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In the early autumn of 1987 the movie world was introduced to its newest horror franchise: Hellraiser, based on the acclaimed novella ‘The Hellbound Heart’ by British author Clive Barker. It was directed by Barker himself, making his filmmaking debut, and contains sinister themes involving sexual experimentation and sadomasochism, dressed up with a darkly romantic sheen of gothic horror. The plot involves an ancient puzzle box which falls into the hands of the amoral Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) and which, once solved, releases a group of demonic figures known as Cenobites, who then abduct and subject their unwitting victims to endless torture. Years after Frank’s disappearance his brother Larry (Andrew Robinson), Larry’s daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence), and Larry’s new wife Julia (Clare Higgins) move into Frank’s old house; Larry is unaware that Julia had a passionate affair with Frank before he disappeared. A common household accident results in the skinless corpse of Frank somehow being resurrected in the attic; in order to finalize his reincarnation, Frank needs a fresh supply of human blood, which the still-obsessed Julia agrees to provide. However, the Cenobites have found out about Frank’s escape from ‘hell,’ and their terrifying leader, Pinhead (Doug Bradley), resolves to bring him back – at which point Kirsty finds herself caught in the middle of the nightmare. Read more…

IT – Benjamin Wallfisch

September 12, 2017 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

It has been one of Stephen King’s most enduring and popular novels since it was first published back in 1986. Conceptually, it covers two bases. Firstly, it’s a terrifying horror story, which takes many of the most basic human fears – death, disease, growing older – and personifies them into a single, unifying threat. Secondly, it’s a classic examination of childhood nostalgia, which looks at very adult themes through a kid’s eyes: friendship, the loss of innocence, blossoming sexuality, and the way the onset of adulthood strips you of your inquisitiveness and imagination. King sets the story in the small town of Derry, Maine, where kids are going missing, and adults seemingly turn a blind eye to the bizarre goings on in the community. Eventually seven friends, who call themselves the Losers Club, realize that the common link between all the disappearances is an evil clown named Pennywise, who re-appears to prey on the innocent every 27 years, and whose reign of terror they vow to end once and for all. The book was originally adapted into an acclaimed TV mini-series in 1990 which featured an iconic performance by Tim Curry as Pennywise; this new version is directed by Andy Muschietti, stars Bill Skarsgård as the clown, and features Jaeden Lieberher, Sophia Lillis, and Finn Wolfhard as three of the Losers Club kids, all of whom are uniformly excellent. Read more…