Director:  Matt Schrader 
Screenplay: Matt Schrader
Producers: Mubarac Al Sabah, Lincoln Bandlow, Dan Gabriel, Nate Gold, Kenny Holmes, Robert Kraft, Damien Mazza, John Savva
Starring: Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, John Williams, Quincy Jones, Trent Reznor, James Cameron, Thomas Newman, Steven Spielberg, Jerry Goldsmith, Ennio Morricone,
Year: 2016
Country: USA
BBFC Certification: 15
Duration: 93 mins

A documentary about film music scores, with legendary composers, practitioners and aficionados discussing the art of putting music to film was simply too irresistible for me to pass. In my opinion, this docu is a pure example of ‘what good looks like’ when it comes to: topic focus, depth of content and the sheer joy in the subject matter of film music.

The film starts promisingly enough with Wolverine composer, Marco Beltrami, describing how he captures amazing soundscapes with an elaborate contraption to create sounds with wind and wires, an illustration of the length some composers go to deliver their craft. Also, it is full of amazing classic scores, such as the theme from Rocky Balboa running up the steps of Philadelphia’s Museum of Art. Another plus, in my opinion, was how this Kickstarter funded project had a ready made audience who basically put their money where their mouth was, so to speak. In any case, it has delivered a full on master class about all things to do with film scores.

The documentary covers the history of film music, such as the first major film score in King Kong, by composer Max Steiner, (also how 20th Century Fox’s signature fan fare was originally intended for MGM). Some of the early seismic shifts in film score music occurred with the introduction, in the 60s, of Jazz music based / inspired scores in such films as A Streetcar Named Desire and Pink Panther, or the legendary, big band inspired James Bond theme. The 80s introduced synth based music scores by the likes of Danny Elfman, or Thomas Newman whose hypnotic solo piano heart in Skyfall, Finding Nemo or American Beauty are further examples of mainstay film music trope. The millennium brought the age of experimentation with inclusion of recording artistes such as Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross in the film score game, e.g. The Social Network.

Another interesting point in the documentary was about the use of sonic motifs throughout a film. The motif is an essential ingredient which done right, clearly highlights what the film is about. For example, the recurring motifs in Close Encounters of the Third Kind or Lord of The Rings. Other examples include the horror/suspense motif in Bernard Harriman’s scores for Psycho and Vertigo versus the big, action film motif of Mad Max Fury Road. According to Dr. Siu-Lan of Tan Kalamazoo University, music evokes a physiological response e.g. goose bumps caused by brain reactions to music. Various parts of the brain respond to different aspects of music (e.g. melody vs. tempo), therefore film music has great power to emote and physically ‘direct the eyes’ of the viewer. Quotable quote: ‘No two composers would score a script the same way, like no two forests are exactly alike.’

It takes many people to make a score including: composers, arrangers, musicians, orchestrators, mixers, engineers, studios and executives whose experimentations, according to the post credit dedication, ‘continue to advance our understanding of the power of music’. Studios also play a key part in the resulting film score product and impact thereof. Air Studios (a converted church) in the UK has a reputation for having a haunted feel which may be inadvertently reflected in the productions made there, e.g.: Independence Day. Abbey Road, also in the UK is famous for its live sound walls in Star Wars Return of Jedi and the Star Wars Prequels, Lord Of The Rings. Film music composers usually work under enormous pressure, because theirs is often the last piece of work on a film and is typically driven by a hard deadline of the film release date!

By far, my favourite part of this documentary has to be the roll call of those whom I consider to be gods of the film score. They include: the aforementioned Thomas Newman (Wall.E / Finding Nemo & Dory / Skyfall / The Shawshamk Redemption / The Help etc.), Hans Zimmer (Gladiator / Pirates of the Caribbean / Dark Knight / Inception etc.), Ennio Morricone (legendary composer of iconic spaghetti western film scores), Danny Elfman (Marvel’s Spiderman, Hulk, Avengers / Men In Black / Batman / Notorious / Beetlejuice etc.), Jerry Goldsmith (The Omen / Star Trek / Rambo / Planet of the Apes / Chinatown etc.), James Horner (Titanic / Apocalypto / Avatar / Zorro / A Beautiful Mind etc.) and John Williams – (Jaws / Star Wars / Raiders of the Lost Ark & Indiana Jones / E.T. / Jurassic Park / Minority Report etc.). Need I say more?

In conclusion, I found Score to be a worthy documentary about this most noble of arts which plays such an important role in movies. Furthermore, it highlights how film composers still commission orchestral music on a daily basis – ‘without them it would be difficult to sustain orchestral music and that would be such a great loss to humanity’.
Score: A Film Music Documentary
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