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GREEN CARD – Hans Zimmer

January 21, 2021 Leave a comment Go to comments

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Green Card is a romantic comedy-drama written and directed by Peter Weir, starring Gérard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell. Depardieu plays Georges Fauré, an undocumented immigrant from France living in New York, who enters into a ‘green card marriage’ with MacDowell’s character, Brontë Parrish, so that he can stay in the United States. In order to fool the agents from the Immigration and Naturalization Service who are reviewing their case, Georges and Brontë agree to move in together, but quickly find that they have absolutely nothing in common, and before long they can barely tolerate each other. However, true love has a way of emerging in stories like this – and such is the case here, with plenty of hi-jinks and cross-cultural misunderstandings along the way. Green Card was the first English-language leading role for Gérard Depardieu, who was already considered the finest French actor of his generation, and it was mostly a success, with Depardieu winning the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.

The score for Green Card was by Hans Zimmer, who wrote and arranged and performed the whole score almost entirely by himself using various samplers and synthesizers. As a result of this the score feels very much like an offshoot from earlier works like Rain Man and Driving Miss Daisy, a lighter and more approachable version of Black Rain, and a precursor to scores like Regarding Henry, as it features many of the soft rock and light pop stylistics that dominated those efforts. Like almost of all of Zimmer’s scores from the 1980s and early 1990s the score is highly thematic, but what’s interesting – or perhaps a little frustrating – about Green Card is that none of them really assert themselves as being the score’s primary identity. Instead, Zimmer is content to float around between three recurring melodies, each of which forms the cornerstone of two or three cues.

The first of these appears in the opening cue, “Instinct,” and its subsequent reprise. It has an unexpected world music vibe, an intoxicating mix of both Africa and central Asia, and makes excellent use of evocative rhythms, tribal drumbeats, electronic woodwind ideas, and wailing female vocals. Many listeners will be reminded of Zimmer’s work on prior efforts like A World Apart, and recognize it as having elements that will later inform subsequent scores like Beyond Rangoon, The Power of One, and even The Lion King and The Prince of Egypt. It’s a really lovely idea, possibly the strongest one of the score overall. Later, both “Greenhouse” and “Silence” take these ideas a step further by making them effervescent and poppy, with a groovy bass line to add a new dimension to the score that is really enjoyable.

The second theme is introduced in the second cue, “Restless Elephant,” and eventually emerges as a relationship theme for Georges and Brontë, as they try to work through their issues and problems with an optimistic attitude so that they each get what they want out of the arrangement – Georges’s green card, and Brontë’s dream apartment with a greenhouse to match. This is the theme that is associated most closely with this stage in Zimmer’s career, and includes a series of lively and rhythmically upbeat ideas for layered keyboards, electronic bass, and sampled drum pads, enlivened with the familiar synth textures that so defined scores like Rain Man. There are some fun jazzy flourishes here and there too that briefly recall Driving Miss Daisy and the contemporaneous Pacific Heights; probably the best performances of this main melody comes at around the 2:10 mark of the aforementioned “Restless Elephant,” and then again at 1:43 in “Cafe Afrika”.

The final recurring theme appears to be related directly to Georges himself and is a more low-key and softly romantic solo piano melody, pretty but perhaps a little downbeat. Its statements in “9AM Central Park” and “Asking You” are really lovely, and offer a more sensitive and approachable side to Georges’s personality that makes the romance work. The subtle synth wash behind the piano in the second of those cues actually gives it an emotional lift, a new dimension which makes Georges’s wistful love for Brontë more endearing.

The six-minute finale cue, “Pour Brontë,” reprises several of the main thematic ideas, but is focused mainly around the Georges and Brontë relationship theme heard in “Restless Elephant”. Cleverly, Zimmer alters the feel of the piece by using the piano from Georges’s theme to perform their relationship theme, and then allows the music to adopt shifting tones as it develops over the course of its length, adding in new layers of electronic enhancement, moments of subdued but effective emotion, and eventually reaching something approaching a semi-epic tone as it draws to a close.

The film itself is jam-packed with songs and source music cuts that veer from Mozart and The Beach Boys to Enya, which means that the score doesn’t quite have the same impact as other similar works by Zimmer from the period. the album contains just two of them – the Adagio from Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major, and the song “Eyes on the Prize” performed by The Emmaus Group Singers. As a result of this, Green Card has become somewhat of an overlooked effort from the composer’s formative years in Hollywood, especially when you look at the successful and groundbreaking scores that preceded and followed it. Personally, I like Green Card a great deal; it’s firmly rooted in Zimmer’s very early 1990s style, which means it will appeal to people who (like me) appreciate that era, and although it doesn’t have a truly standout main idea to take away, the sum of the smaller parts nevertheless makes it an enjoyable and diverting whole.

Buy the Green Card soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Subway Drums (written and performed by Larry Wright) (1:29)
  • Instinct (3:33)
  • Restless Elephant (2:55)
  • Cafe Afrika (2:59)
  • Greenhouse (3:15)
  • Moonlight (1:24)
  • 9AM Central Park (1:48)
  • ‘Adagio’ from Clarinet Concerto in A Major (written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) (8:38)
  • Silence (4:38)
  • Instinct II (3:09)
  • Asking You (1:45)
  • Pour Brontë (6:19)
  • Eyes on the Prize (written by Harry Stewart, performed by The Emmaus Group Singers) (3:04)

Running Time: 44 minutes 49 seconds

Varese Sarabande VSD-5309 (1990)

Music composed and arranged by Hans Zimmer. Recorded and mixed by Paul Grant. Album produced by Hans Zimmer.

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