A little bit of everything can be found on this soundtrack to German director Wim Wenders's 1987 film: theme music, songs from the film, and even some dialogue. It's an eclectic mix, but it hangs together well, instantly evoking the moody, somber texture of Wenders's remarkable story of an angel's desire to once again become flesh and blood. Jürgen Knieper's solemn, meditative string compositions dominate the first half of the disc, interspersed with actor Bruno Ganz's reading of the Peter Handke poem "Lied Vom Kindsein (Song of Childhood)"; it's a dramatic effect that works here almost as well as it does onscreen over sweeping panoramas of a still-divided Berlin. And even if you haven't seen the film, several songs featured prominently in it make this soundtrack an essential listen–namely, Nick Cave's relentlessly spooky "The Carny" and Crime and the City Solution's brilliantly droopy "Six Bells Chime".
Composer Hans Zimmer (Gladiator, Thin Red Line, Batman Begins) successfully fused his signature brand of overwrought but highly effective melodrama to the backbone of director Ron Howard's 2006 movie adaptation of Dan Brown's controversial religious thriller The Da Vinci Code. That film's main theme, "Chevaliers de Sangreal," has been retooled for the 2009 sequel (the book was actually a prequel) Angels & Demons, preserving all of its elegiac atmosphere while bringing in more choral elements, as well as the nimble fingers of Grammy Award-winning violinist Joshua Bell to reflect the story's central character, Vatican City.
The film The Sandpiper is best-remembered today for Johnny Mandel's "The Shadow of Your Smile". Its soundtrack CD has 11 pieces on it, ten of which are variations of that one melody. Other than a straightforward version of the theme that features a vocal group, Jack Sheldon's trumpet is prominent throughout much of the haunting score; the one exception to the moody music is the brief R&Bish "Bird Bath" which was used in a nightclub scene. Otherwise this CD's value to listeners depends largely on how much one enjoys "The Shadow of Your Smile".
The soundtrack to Atom Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter boasts an expansive folk/international mix tailored made for the film's atmospheric study of loss and guilt. Featuring original material by Mychael Danna, the disc spotlights the wan vocal talents of Sarah Polley (who also appears in the film and contributes some music and lyrics here) enveloped in lean and ethereal backdrops; the accompaniment comes courtesy of the Toronto Consort and a combo that includes Danna on Harmonium and Kim Deschamps on pedal steel. Also on hand are ney player extraordinaire Hossein Omoumi and flautist Ron Korb, both of whom fit snug on the many Middle Eastern-flavored sides they guest on. In addition to the Danna material, the soundtrack also features numbers by Jane Siberry and the Tragically Hip.
The soundtrack for About Time, the 2013 British romantic comedy from Love Actually writer and director Richard Curtis, dutifully reflects its story's time travel premise with a 17-song set of (mostly) previously released selections from the likes of The Killers ("Mr. Brightside"), Groove Armada ("At the River"), Amy Winehouse ("Back to Black"), and Nick Cave ("Into My Arms"). Ben Folds offers up a new, heavily orchestrated version of his sentimental 2001 ballad "The Luckiest," while ex-Dream Academy mastermind Nick Laird Clowes offers up a pair of wistful piano pieces ("Golborne Road" and "The About Time Theme") from his evocative score.
Another of John Barry's smouldering, moody thriller scores (Body Heat etc.), the kind of thing he does with a good deal of charm and edgy romanticism. Naturally for his legion of admirers this will be a most welcome treat, although to be entirely frank it is not one of his most distinctive soundtracks. While it hits all of the expected marks with the required poise and professionalism it also lacks freshness and at times sounds a little too much like recycled material (which with this composer admittedly always remains polished and likeable). Given these general musings and vague criticisms we are still left with a valuable addition to the wealth of John Barry work now available, something that is to be appreciated and I am certainly not complaining. (MWI)