Soundtrack Picks
Wings of Desire
Jürgen Knieper's music for the film is exquisitely attuned to the film's atmosphere, from the sad violas of Die Alte Mercedes, to the grand, ethereal Urstromtal and Die Kathedrale der Bücher.  There is also some powerful late 80's Euro-grunge from Nick Cave, and good music (both raucous and subtle) from other groups and composers.

Brazil "In BRAZIL, Michael Kamen achieves what few composers in any medium have done: fuse a stunning variety of forms (ranging from symphonic to jazz to thirties pop), stuff them with allusions (everything from Maurice Ravel to Woody Woodpecker) - and make the final result as gloriously, giddily romantic as it is heartbreaking." -- Steven C Smith

The song "Brazil" is a remarkably inspired choice as the theme music of the film, which is a bit like 1984 presented as a very black comedy (with fantastic music and visuals.)  The words to the song are banal and heartbreaking at the same time... a sense of irretrievable loss, combined with a tinny and false, yet half-convincing, promise that all will be set right one day (which, of course, captures rather well the atmosphere of the sad dystopia portrayed in the film.)  This latter aspect of the song (which is first presented with orchestral lushness and Kate Bush's rich vocalizations), is punctured by Geoff Muldaur's funky, sarcastic rendition later in the film.

Leaving aside for a moment the utter brilliance of the rich and varied score, I think there are few films that offer a more exquisitely perfect packaging of story, characters, visuals and music.

Thin Red Line
I found the film so-so, but Hans Zimmer's slow, melancholy orchestral score is beautiful and heartbreaking, and feels a bit like a brief glimpse of the eternal.  I think the score stands on its own rather well.

A Beautiful Mind
James Horner has done an outstanding job of incorporating principles of the Minimalist School into a score both beautiful and accessible.  Minimalism, with its New England associations, was a cleverly chosen musical theme for this film, which is set in the ivied environs of Princeton University.  Be warned that the album as a whole tends to repeat its themes a great deal (and in this way is not dissimilar to some collections of Minimalist music) but this should not in any way discourage the listener.  Some very fine music from Mr Horner.

A rich, powerful and characteristically quirky score from Danny Elfman.  Mr Elfman draws from many musical sources to provide a colorful and well-integrated musical package.  The discordant violin from Danse Macabre is here, along with echoes of classic suspense scores from the 30's and 40's, topped off by some brilliant application of (cleverly twisted) chord sequences normally used by skilled organ composers to awe churchgoers.  The mind-blowing The Incantation (where the Maitlands are resurrected) is undoubtedly my favorite track.

The Fifth Element
Eric Serra's soundtrack is rather low-key compared to the visual impact of the film, but is highly atmospheric and occasionally stunningly brilliant.  Five Millennia Later and Lucia Di Lammermoor are among my favorites, along with the soft vocal track Little Light of Love, containing the warmly clever words"the Pharos of my soul".

The theme repeats a bit, but that is a characteristic to be expected of music that has a point to make and relentlessly carries through.  The image of mankind steadily and magnificently moving forward and upward over the millennia, only to become (still in its magnificence) a victim of its own success as pollution and overcrowding close in, is brilliantly maintained throughout Philip Glass's score.

Star Trek III
Another of James Horner's more admirable offerings.  I've found that Mr Horner's Trek themes appeal even to those who've never seen the Star Trek films (or who may not have much tolerance for Star Trek in general.)  Sadly (to my mind) Horner scored only two of the Trek films (II and III); his themes are developed more fully in this soundtrack; warmer, deeper and more melancholy, with slightly more power to awe.  There are some rather nice visuals in this film, which go well with the music.  Of the many Trek films, I think this may be my favorite, to a great extent because of the music and visuals (though Uhura's sassy "this is not reality, this is fantasy" scene has its own appeal.)  The nautical feel of the main theme (used in both II and III) is also something I find appealing, and missed a bit in the later film scores.

Return of the King The musical themes developed by Howard Shore come to completion and full fruition in this third installment of Lord of the Rings, particularly those for the Rohirrim (that wistful violin) and for Gondor, most movingly and dramatically executed in The White Tree, as the beacons are set alight across the mountains (though this is preceded by a blustery shifting-minor-keys buildup that seems a deliberate spoof of Perils-of-Pauline type suspense themes.)  Much of this album is what some might term standard movie fare, but there is high-quality themework throughout, and many brilliant passages.  Another favorite of mine is The Black Gate Opens (the brave, hopeful notes of James Galway's flute), and of course the closing music, Into the West, sung by Annie Lennox.
Run Lola Run
In order to fully appreciate Tom Tykwer's music for this film, I think the film needs to be experienced along with the music.  Having said that, much of the music, particularly the ethereal yet powerful and primal I Wish I were a Huntress stands quite well on its own.

Lisbon Story
This film didn't grab me to quite the extent of some other Wim Wenders films, though I really enjoyed seeing so much of Lisbon.  The guitar and vocal music by Madredeus (who appear in the film) stands completely on its own; I had been listening to the album for years before I ever saw the film.  I think you will not be disapppointed with any acoustic album from Madredeus.

More to come, possibly...

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