Home > Reviews > Under-the-Radar Round Up 2022, Part 2A

Under-the-Radar Round Up 2022, Part 2A

Life has returned to world cinema in 2022 following the easing of the COVID-19 global pandemic, and at the end of the second quarter of the year I’m absolutely delighted to present the latest installment in my on-going series of articles looking at the best under-the-radar scores from around the world. This article covers five scores for projects from all over the globe, and includes two French comedy dramas, an animated fantasy from Germany, a Filipino revenge thriller, and a Dutch adventure for children!

 

C’EST MAGNIFIQUE! – Guillaume Roussel

C’est Magnifique is a French comedy-drama film, written by, directed by, and starring Clovis Cornillac. He plays Pierre, a middle aged man who grew up away from ‘modern society’ who goes on a journey of self-discovery after he learns that the family he thought were his parents are not his parents. The film was one of the major French movie releases of Spring 2022, and has an original score by composer Guillaume Roussel.

Roussel say that his music for C’est Magnifique is “inspired by Latin and world music, brings uplifting emotion, and uses mainly ukulele, percussion like vibraphone, and strings. Finding a melody for the main character was important and I hope it helps the audience connect with him.” Roussel’s description is very apt; the whole thing is a light, breezy, summery delight, filled with sparkling and playful Gallic orchestrations, gentle emotions, and easy charm. Cues like the “Pierre the Orphan” as well as later tracks such as “Lise,” have an old-fashioned classic Hollywood sheen, with lush string melodies and pleasant orchestral harmonies that create a sound of intimate romance and sentimentality.

Other, such as “Secret Letter,” have a quieter and more serious sound, plucked strings and tinkling metallic percussion textures creating a sense of mystery and slight foreboding. However, once Pierre leaves his idyllic country home and ventures out into the big world for the first time, the music adopts a playful, upbeat, rhythmic tone – a bit reggae, a bit Middle Eastern, a bit classic French – that is fun and charming, and is prevalent in cues like “Welcome to Lyon,” “New Tandem,” “Misses Fontaine,” “Revelation at the Cemetery,” and others.

A theme for Pierre’s traveling companion and friend, first heard in the first half of “Anna,” is gently romantic, but becomes slightly darker later in “Anna’s Past,” which shades the central guitar writing with a moody electronic wash that is effective at creating a more pensive mood. I also really liked “Infiltration Nursing Home,” which has a jazzy Lalo Schifrin-style caper vibe that is a ton of fun, especially with its use of a slapped bass guitar and jazz flutes. Then the finale, “The Magic Cave,” is really quite beautiful, as it is built around a sonorous cello solo.

Overall, C’est Magnifique is a fun, undemanding, engaging score filled with whimsical textures, upbeat funky interludes, and pleasant thematic content, which further enhances Guillaume Roussel standing as one of the best young composers in French cinema. The score is available to purchase as a digital download from Moviescore Media here: https://moviescoremedia.com/newsite/catalogue/cest-magnifique-guillaume-roussel/, and from most good online retailers.

Track Listing: 1. Pierre the Orphan (2:12), 2. Secret Letter (1:27), 3. Welcome to Lyon (1:14), 4. Urban Jungle (1:48), 5. Anna (1:28), 6. New Tandem (2:20), 7. Misses Fontaine (2:04), 8. Funny Beverage (1:13), 9. Infiltration Nursing Home (1:21), 10. Lise (2:46), 11. Anna’s Past (2:18), 12. Operation Rats (1:42), 13. Revelation at the Cemetery (2:42), 14. Lise’s Return (3:20), 15. The Magic Cave (2:20). Moviescore Media MMS-22019, 30 minutes 15 seconds.

 

GREED – Oscar Fogelström

Greed is a Filipino drama/thriller film, written and directed by Yam Laranas, and starring Diego Loyzaga, Nadine Lustre, and Raul Morit. The film is about a young couple who find out they hit the biggest jackpot in the history of the Filipino national lottery, and plan to leave their sleepy rural hometown with their winnings; however, once news of their new wealth spreads, things don’t go as planned, as the greed of their neighbors starts to rear its ugly head

The score for Greed is by Swedish composer Oscar Fogelström who – much like Christopher Wong has in Vietnam – has unexpectedly established himself as one of the leading composers in Filipino cinema. Greed marks Fogelström’s fifth collaboration with director Laranas, following Abomination and Aurora in 2018, Night Shift in 2019, and Death of a Girlfriend in 2021. Fogelström says of his score: “This score was particularly fun to do. It more or less builds on one main theme that evolves throughout the film, with some additional smaller themes. The main theme is a solemn/sinister theme that tries to portray the feeling of an inevitable impending ‘bad ending’.”

He continues, “The film deals with the complexities of life and how an extraordinary event might get you caught up in a web of circumstances that evolve beyond your control, as you are trying to navigate the difficulties of this new situation. That theme can be heard most prominently in “Fire Burning” and “Greed,” but also in different iterations in other cues like “Trust” and “I Found It”. Musically I was a little bit inspired by stuff like the score for the series Fargo by Jeff Russo that has an existential and sometimes a bit quirky feel to it. I tried to keep the ensemble size fairly small to resonate with the smaller setting and cast of the film, so it’s basically a chamber orchestra, but also a lot of additional recordings and production done in the studio.”

In terms of tone, the score uses a lot of string harmonics, rumbling percussion ideas, heavy brass clusters, and levels of electronic manipulation, plus what sounds like perhaps a sampled hurdy-gurdy, to create a mood of tension and unease. The theme in “Fire Burning” is appropriately heavy and oppressive; this is counterbalanced by the joy and sweetness of “The Ticket,” which underscores the life-changing realization of their lottery victory, as well as the beautiful “Trust,” which arranges the main theme for a string quartet, and the superb “I Found It,” which injects some energy into the main theme with a contemporary rhythmic beat and swirling, classical strings .

There is some action and suspense in the score too, epitomized by cues like “Revenge,” “Circled,” “Dadong,” the terrific “The Line,” and the dramatic “Hostage,” which use imposing circular string figures, heavy percussive pulses, deep throbbing brass, and even some choral textures to create a brooding atmosphere. What I like about all this is how well arranged it all is – the different parts orchestra are clearly defined, with important parts to play, and each section is continually doing something interesting.

This is all excellent stuff from Fogelström, who has consistently impressed me with his music over the past few years, and I hope that he is able to build on his success scoring Filipino films and break out into the European and American mainstream. The score is available to purchase as a digital download from Moviescore Media here: https://moviescoremedia.com/newsite/catalogue/greed-oscar-fogelstrom/, and from most good online retailers.

Track Listing: 1 Fire Burning (4:30), 2 The Ticket (1:30), 3 Revenge (2:23), 4 Circled (3:32), 5 Trust (1:43), 6 Dadong (1:17), 7 Suspicion (2:13), 8 The Line (2:04), 9 I’m Here (2:04), 10 I Found It (1:46), 11 What Did Nori See (1:42), 12 Hostage (1:42), 13 The Old Lady (1:33), 14 Greed (4:56). Moviescore Media MMS-22024, 32 minutes 59 seconds.

 

MIA AND ME: THE HERO OF CENTOPIA – Christoph Zirngibl

Mia and Me: The Hero of Centopia is a German animated fantasy-adventure film for children, directed by Adam Gunn and Matthias Temmermans. The story concerns a 12-year-old girl named Mia who, after the death of her parents, is gifted a game that her father had made in life, taking the form of a large book called The Legend of Centopia. Inside is magical runic writing and a password, which when read backwards, allows Mia to travel to the magical world of Centopia. This particular story begins when Mia learns that the ‘magic stone’ she has had since she was very young is actually the central element of an ancient prophecy; as a result, Mia must team up with her friends and journey to some enchanted islands on the far side of Centopia, and face a powerful enemy. The film is the first big-screen outing for Mia, and is based on the German-made Mia and Me animated TV series, which ran for six years on the Nickelodeon channel between 2011 and 2017.

The score for The Hero of Centopia is by the brilliant young German composer Christoph Zirngibl, who received an IFMCA nomination in 2019 for the documentary Finis Terrae, and also impressed with his scores for Trans Bavaria, Das Haus der Krokadile, and Der Auftrag. The Hero of Centopia is a big, old fashioned orchestral fantasy adventure score, infused with some elements of rock and pop, making it sound very much like a contemporary reworking of The Neverending Story (with which it also shares numerous plot points and story beats).

The score has some tremendous, sweeping, beautiful adventure music, which is often bolstered by the voice of acclaimed Italian vocalist Clara Sorace, especially in cues like “Iko Flies,” “Arrival in Centopia,” and “All Aboard the Phuddelin”. Elsewhere, tracks like “Memories,” “Mia and Iko,” the soaring “Mia and the Pool of Fear,” and “One Last Goodbye” have a gorgeous, sparkling, fantasy sheen filled with lilting woodwind textures and emotional string themes, while “Air Fight” the second half of “Phuddle to the Rescue,” and the playful and energetic “The Big Fight” engages in some large scale and impressive action music that layers statements of the score’s main theme amid some dense and complicated orchestral writing. Parts of “The Big Fight” have definite John Williams vibe, especially in the way Zirngibl writes for flutes.

Darker and more imposing orchestral tones underscore scenes involving the score’s antagonist, the toad-like Toxor, in cues like “Toxor’s Awakening” and “Toxification of Lotus Island,” while cues like “Flight of the Storm Unicorn” and “My Name is Mia” have an unexpected 1980s rock instrumental sound, with electric guitars and banks of upbeat, funky synth grooves. This is clearly Zirngibl’s tribute to the classic synth scores that movies like The Neverending Story had, and when he blends that style with a gospel-like pop choir performed by Sorace together with German vocalist Caroline von Brünken, the effect is a ton of nostalgic fun.

Also included on the soundtrack is the movie’s pop theme song “Come and Fly With Me,” written by Felix Raffel and Linus Hahn and performed by Lisa-Marie, and an original song by Zirngibl and his wife Carolin called “Sunny Honey,” performed by Cevil.

This is a great children’s adventure score, and another genre to add to the ever-growing list of genres for which Christophe Zirngibl has written excellent music. If you enjoy 80s fantasy scores – especially things that have an occasional rock/pop vibe in the vein of The Neverending Story, this is going to be right up your alley. The score is available as a digital download or to stream through Spotify, Apple Music, and elsewhere.

Track Listing: 1. Come and Fly With Me (written by Felix Raffel and Linus Hahn, performed by Lisa-Marie) (3:33), 2. Good Old Days (written by Max Breetzmann and Morten Ottow, performed by URTONMUSIC) (3:15), 3. Party Creatures (written by Max Breetzmann and Morten Ottow, performed by URTONMUSIC) (3:10), 4. Sunny Honey (written by Christoph Zirngibl and Carolin Zirngibl, performed by Cevil) (3:19), 5. Walking On Sunshine (written by Kimberly Rew, performed by Katrina & The Waves) (3:23), 6. Iko Flies (2:10), 7. Toxor’s Awakening (2:29), 8. Memories (4:10), 9. Oracle Call (0:52), 10. Arrival in Centopia (1:39), 11. Toxification of Lotus Island (2:02), 12. All Aboard the Phuddelin (2:42), 13. Mia and Iko (2:31), 14. Air Fight (2:55), 15. Flight of the Storm Unicorn (1:37), 16. Phuddle to the Rescue (2:05), 17. Show No Mercy (1:31), 18. The Big Fight (2:32), 19. Mia and the Pool of Fear (2:03), 20. My Name Is Mia (3:17), 21. One Last Goodbye (1:29), 22. A Long Story (1:45), 23. Come and Fly With Me – Whyplash Remix (written by Felix Raffel and Linus Hahn, performed by Lisa-Marie) (2:53), 24. Come and Fly With Me – Flying Version (written by Felix Raffel and Linus Hahn, performed by Lisa-Marie) (3:34). Universal Music Germany, 60 minutes 54 seconds.

 

NINJAS DOWN THE STREET – Matthijs Kieboom

Ninjas Down the Street – known in its native language as De Piraten Van Hiernaast: De Ninja’s Van De Overkant – is a Dutch comedy adventure for children, directed by Pim van Hoeve, starring Matti Stooker, Samuel Beau Reurekas, Celeste Holsheimer, and is a sequel to the 2020 film De Piraten van Hiernaast. Following the events of the first film, Captain Donderbus and his family of pirates have made peace with his neighbors. However, the village is turned upside down when a family ninjas move in too – and pirates and ninjas are sworn enemies! While Donderbus tries everything in his power to get rid of his new neighbors, his son Billy and ninja daughter Yuka grow closer; eventually, the pirates decide to challenge the ninjas to fight their ultimate battle at the yearly village games, with the losers having to leave town.

The score for Ninjas Down the Street is by the excellent Dutch composer Matthijs Kieboom, who scored the first film in the series, received and IFMCA Award nomination in 2018 for the nature documentary Wild, and has also impressed with his music for projects such as
Alles Van Waarde, Dummie de Mummie en de Tombe van Achnetoet, and the reboot of the popular detective TV series Van Der Valk.

In describing his music , Kieboom says: “This film was such a joy to score, paying homage to the great adventure scores I love, combined with martial arts music and pirate shanties. Because it is the second instalment of the series, my task was to create new themes for the new characters that had to sound good with the themes from the first film. Melodies that could flow from one into another, seamlessly. I continued to use the nyckelharpa from the first film to represent the pirates … now, to represent the ninjas. I decided to use traditional wind instruments for them, because they are in good contrast with the nyckelharpa, and because the ninjas are as swift as the wind!”

There’s some terrific music here. The “Opening” has a superb, swashbuckling adventure teme that comes back later “Friends” and the terrific “Cornelius,” while also introducing the wonderfully evocative music for the ninja family, a luscious combination of exotic woodwinds, clattering percussion, and more haunting solo string melodies. The nyckelharpa theme for the pirates from the first film is featured prominently in cues such as the playful “Dining with the Neighbors” and the salty sea shanty “We’ll Be Winning”. Variations on the music for both the pirates and the ninjas run through the entire score, often playing off each other to illustrate the antagonistic conflict – cues like “Ninjas,” “Training By Night,” “For Once and For All,” and “Cornelius & Mia” are especially impressive.

However, perhaps the best parts of the score are the moments where Kieboom engages in large scale action scoring, with cues like “The Sword of the Elements,” the aforementioned “Cornelius,” “Cornelius On Land,” and “The Jump” standing out, before the exciting conclusion in “Where Are you Going,” “The Sword” and the triumphant “Finale”. Once or twice Kieboom also augments his orchestra with some more modern ideas for a rock drum kit and electric guitars – these moments will especially appeal to fans of scores like The Scorpion King. As it’s a children’s film there is quite a bit of scattershot jumping around within cues, changing style repeatedly within the same cue to cover the changes in scene makeup and tone, but it’s done with a great deal of cleverness and flair such that it doesn’t ever really become tiresome.

Overall, though, I really can’t stress how much fun this score is, and how good a composer Matthijs Kieboom is, especially in this genre. The score is available to purchase as a digital download from Moviescore Media here: https://moviescoremedia.com/newsite/catalogue/ninjas-down-the-street-matthijs-kieboom/, and from most good online retailers.

Track Listing: 1. Opening (2:35), 2. The Sword of the Elements (2:49), 3. Friends (1:12), 4. Get Lost (1:35), 5. Ninjas (1:22), 6. Training by Night (2:00), 7. The Ninja Excuse (0:36), 8. Duel (1:43), 9. The Sword is Gone (1:44), 10. Dining with the Neighbors (1:47), 11. The Lighthouse (0:53), 12. Cornelius (2:42), 13. The Best Archenemy (0:43), 14. Hector & Betsie (1:06), 15. Truce (0:28), 16. For Once and For All (1:25), 17. We’ll Be Winning (1:54), 18. Cornelius on Land (1:58), 19. Mia Has Been Found (0:38), 20. The Jump (1:24), 21. Are You Afraid? (1:04), 22. How Do You Know My Mother? (2:44), 23. Cornelius & Mia (2:06), 24. He’s Your Father (2:39), 25. Face to Face (0:58), 26. Everyone in Pursuit (1:16), 27. Where Are You Going? (1:12), 28. The Sword (1:41), 29. Finale (2:52). Moviescore Media MMS-22025, 47 minutes 22 seconds.

 

TÉNOR – Laurent Perez Del Mar

Ténor is a French comedy-drama, directed by Claude Zidi Jr., starring Michèle Laroque, Mohammed Belkhir, and Guillaume Duhesme. The story follows Antoine, a young Parisian, who balances his university studies and his job as a food delivery driver with participation in his true passion: freestyle rap battles. While delivering sushi to the Garnier Opera, he meets Madame Loyseau, a singing teacher, who detects in Antoine a raw talent to be developed. Despite his lack of operatic culture, Antoine is fascinated by this form of musical expression, and sees parallels between it and contemporary rap – but has lie to his family and friends, for whom opera is seen as bourgeois and elite.

The score for Ténor is by French composer Laurent Perez Del Mar, who received an IFMCA Score of the Year nomination in 2016 for The Red Turtle. This is a score that’s very different from that, but no less impressive; it treads a fine line the very highly classical and the almost aggressively contemporary, blending beautiful orchestral pieces with elements of rap, hip-hop, and North African dance music, into a very enjoyable whole.

Warm string harmonies and delicate, gossamer piano textures combine with rich, sonorous operatic vocals in cues like “La Passione,” and then in more intimate, restrained, but no less beautiful forms in “La Dispute” and “La Famille Que l’on Se Choisit” each of which drip with emotion. The solo piano writing in “Les Examens” is just gorgeous, and has a vague hint of Bach. “L’Envol des Partitions” and “Toï Toï Antoine” are more atmospheric, with synth pulses, guitars, and low-key rhythms creating a darker mood of urban malaise. “La Lettre de Marie” transposes the main theme to a solo cello with joyously sparkling string accents and a rush of emotion in the conclusion. The conclusive “Ténor (Cello Version)” is hauntingly beautiful.

The album is interspersed with original hip-hop songs performed by lead actor Mohammed Belkhir in his rap persona MB14 (which are not my cup of tea, but are important in film context), as well as extracts from Verdi’s la Traviata and Puccini’s Turandot, performed by Belkir in a more operatic style.

This is lovely stuff all round from Laurent Perez Del Mar, who continues to show that The Red Turtle was not just a one-off, and that his music maintains an impressive sense of elegance, class, and emotional depth. The score is available as a digital download through Amazon, or to stream through Spotify, Apple Music, and elsewhere.

Track Listing: 1. La Passione (2:43), 2. La Dispute (2:19), 3. Les Examens (2:00), 4. L’Envol des Partitions (2:13), 5. Battle Antoine (written by Mohammed Belkhir, performed by MB14 & Emkal) (3:10), 6. La Famille Que l’on Se Choisit (2:08), 7. Dans la Tête d’Antoine (1:27), 8. La Traviata par Antoine et Joséphine (written by Giuseppe Verdi, performed by MB14 & Marie Oppert) (1:44), 9. La Lettre de Marie (3:29), 10. Sur Le Toit (1:21), 11. Toï Toï Antoine (3:31), 12. Ténor (Cello Version) (2:35), 13. Nessun Dorma (written by Giacomo Puccini, performed by MB14) (3:27), 14. Ma Place (written by Mohammed Belkhir, performed by MB14) (3:07). Firstep Music, 35 minutes 17 seconds.

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