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Comments about the soundtrack for The Painted Veil (Alexandre Desplat)
A good review...

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A good review...   Thursday, February 1, 2007 (11:12 p.m.) 
• Now Playing: Good German (Newman)  

... if not really one I agree with. And perhaps a bit of context clarifies some of the points the review raises.

The reviewer refers to a lack of emotional culmination in the final cues that troubled me. For my own part, one thing I really like about this score is what Desplat does with Kitty's theme in what the reviewer calls the non-rhythmic tracks. There's an arc here, from flowering youth ('Kitty's Theme') to a 'knife' in the marital bed ('The Deal') to the final love that shines in 'The End of Love' and 'From Shanghai to London'. When the main title theme returns in the harp toward the end of 'The End of Love', I'm incredibly moved. This emotional culmination is surely there - it's just very carefully achieved.

The reviewer also remarks on the lack of ethnic references adorning the score. Perhaps we should similarly berate John Barry for his hardly inappropriate score for OUT OF AFRICA, which barely makes more than token references to the setting. I must admit I was forewarned by Desplat's recent radio interview with Daniel Scheiger of Film Music Radio, wherein he remarked that THE FIRST thing director John Curran emphasized was that he didn't want Chinese music, and that what was in the score was about the limit of the Orientalisms the film could take. And it makes sense why - the film is about the reality of near-Victorian thinking, a mindset that confines and constricts the English characters, sets them in certain roles.

If the setting is so impressively stamped on the screen at every moment, why does the music have to speak to that? Why can't it carefully render the sense of motion in scenes that might otherwise lack it ('The Water Wheel') and detail the internal life of rather emotionally blunted characters? Exoticism in this context would be a lazy - partly because it's so obvious - course for a composer. It may make pretty music for our western ears - and I like MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA as much as the next man - but when the ethnic location is so impressively rendered in a story that has a European way of thinking at its heart, isn't it just adornment for foreign eyes and ears seeking standard-issue Oriental beauty?

Sorry, but I'm not convinced the ethnic issue is half the problem this review makes of it. 4.5 stars

(Message edited on Thursday, February 1, 2007, at 11:14 p.m.)

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Concerning ethnic music...   Monday, January 19, 2009 (11:24 a.m.) 

The main problem with the original reviewer's assessment is that the location is hardly an issue with the score, for the lack of ethnic instruments takes nothing away from the listening experience. THE PAINTED VEIL's storyline largely concerns itself with a European manner of thought, and the Chinese setting only serves as a device by which to study another world and another mindset. In the film, the European characters are the story; they are what matter, above all.

And as franz_conrad brings up, the choice to employ oriental music would just be so obvious. The French don't litter all their scores with an accordion, do they?

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Re: Concerning ethnic music...   Sunday, September 25, 2011 (6:07 p.m.) 

> The French don't litter all their scores with an accordion, do they?

That's because accordions suck. They should be used as a torture device.

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