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The Talented Mr. Ripley
Album Cover Art
Composed, Conducted, and Co-Produced by:

Co-Produced by:
Anthony Minghella
Walter Murch
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Sony Classical
(November 23rd, 1999)
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Regular U.S. release.
Nominated for a Golden Globe, a BAFTA Award, and an Academy Award.
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Availability | Awards | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... only if you seek the competent and rousing selection of standard jazz pieces from the 1950's, for the introverted and reflective underscore by Gabriel Yared is largely overwhelmed by that surrounding material.

Avoid it... if you expect the score to trend towards Yared's work for Message in a Bottle or City of Angels rather than reprising the chilly atmosphere of The English Patient.
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WRITTEN 12/27/99, REVISED 6/10/08
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The Talented Mr. Ripley: (Gabriel Yared) Director Anthony Minghella, an industry favorite at the time after his Oscar win for 1996's The English Patient, made several alterations to the story in Patricia Highsmith's novel to make music an integral part of the narrative. An all-star cast is placed in the setting of 1950's Italy, caught up in experiencing the good life defined by women, jazz, and alcohol. Jealousy eventually turns a rather straightforward story into one of character crisis, and the title character is the subject of much transformation over the course of the story. Minghella's strong collaboration with Gabriel Yared, who also won an Oscar for The English Patient, led to the composer's involvement in the picture from early pre-production planning. Like The English Patient, the story of The Talented Mr. Ripley required significant amounts of source music, and the 50's jazz integral to American society makes the journey to Italy for the purposes of the altered story. Perhaps due to the obvious role of the jazz in the film, voters granted Yared more Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for The Talented Mr. Ripley. This despite Yared's relatively minimal contribution to the film in relation to the jazz; this ratio is extended to the album for the film, on which Yared's score exists as only a series of token instrumental tracks in between the far more spirited jazz. On an album of over an hour in length, only about twenty-five minutes of Yared's music appears, and it is spread mysteriously out of sequence throughout the product. The score material stands far apart from the jazzy songs of the era, and the two wrestle the album back and forth between them with several awkward transitions in the process. Yared's portion represents the turbulent and unsettling mood of Ripley's character disintegration with fast and furious high points and shrouded, sinister lows. So chilly is its tone that it could not be any more different than the impressively engaging, romantic music that Yared had just provided in 1999 for Message in a Bottle. Despite Minghella's usual raves about Yared's roll in the production (the two, in fact, collaborated on one of the score's two main themes), Yared's contribution is not worth any special consideration.

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Average: 3.27 Stars
***** 396 5 Stars
**** 458 4 Stars
*** 507 3 Stars
** 347 2 Stars
* 194 1 Stars
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Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
Total Time: 63:52
• 1. Tu vuo' fa l'Americano (3:03)
        Performed by Matt Damon, Jude Law, Fiorello, and The Guy Barker International Quintet
• 2. My Funny Valentine (2:34)
        Performed by Matt Damon and The Guy Barker International Quartet
• 3. Italia* (1:40)
• 4. Lullaby for Cain* (3:31)
        Performed by Sinead O'Connor
• 5. Crazy Tom* (4:47)
• 6. Ko-Ko (2:54)
        Performed by Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillepsie
• 7. Nature Boy (4:48)
        Performed by Miles Davis
• 8. Mischief* (2:26)
• 9. Ripley* (3:29)
• 10. Pent-Up House (2:39)
        Performed by Guy Barker, Pete King, Iain Dixon, Robin Aspland, Arnie Somogyi, and Cark Tracey
• 11. Guaglione (3:16)
        Performed by Marino Marini
• 12. Moanin' (4:16)
        Performed by The Guy Barker International Quintet
• 13. Proust* (1:58)
• 14. Four (3:41)
        Performed by Guy Barker, Pete King, Iain Dixon, Robin Aspland, Arnie Somogyi, and Clark Tracey
• 15. Promise* (2:49)
• 16. The Champ (2:45)
        Performed by Dizzy Gillespie
• 17. Syncopes* (4:49)
• 18. Stabat Mater (excerpt) (2:55)
        Performed by Clifford Gurdini and The London Metropolitan Ensemble
• 19. You Don't Know What Love Is (5:23)
        Performed by John Martyn and The Guy Barker International Quintet
* original score by Gabriel Yared

Notes Icon
The large insert is difficult to refold once opened. It contains acknowledgements and the following extensive note, both written by director Anthony Minghella:

    "Music is at the heart of the film of The Talented Mr. Ripley. In adapting Patricia Highsmith's marvelous and profoundly disturbing novel from the fifties, it struck me that sound would more pungently and dynamically evoke the period in a film than the motif of painting Highsmith uses in her book. Jazz, with its mantra of freedom and improvisation, carries the burden of expression for the existential urges of Americans leaving home to redefine themselves in Europe. The film is full of such characters making themselves up, living in the moment. Jazz is their noise, and the film is enlivened by its energy and drive.

    At the same time, I felt that music might also provide the movie with a way of dramatising the thematic argument between two of the film's central characters. Accordingly, Dickie Greenleaf, son of a wealthy industrialist but living a sybaritic life in southern Italy, exchanges his paintbrush from the novel for an alto saxophone in the movie. Similarly, Tom Ripley, in the film story, becomes a classically trained pianist, with a personality as clenched as the most formal of fugues, arriving in Italy terrified of letting go, of speaking from the soul in that way jazz demands of its players. To impress Dickie, his new friend, Ripley learns about jazz, struggles through Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, Dizzy Gillespie. His taste and personality seem stolid in comparison to Dickie's freewheeling exuberance. But as the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that, just as in music, where truly great extemporizing begins with Bach and Mozart, it is Ripley, the so-called square, who is the more genuine improviser.

    His ability to turn on a dime -- reel off the most elaborate riffs of fantasy contrasts sharply with Dickie, who is soon revealed as emotionally conservative and trapped in more conventional patterns of behaviour. Dickie's rebellion is evidently a passing phase, a correlative of the grand tour he is taking before settling down in New York, wild oats scattered, married, and assimilated. And in that sense, Ripley's journey, wilder and entirely unpredictable, is much closer, ironically, to the exhilarating chaos of a Bird solo or the searing meditations of Coltrane. The film dramatises these ideas in a continuous musical argument -- its title sequence identifies Ripley with classical music (he plays piano to accompany a lied for mezzo-soprano, is enraptured with the sound of Beethoven's Third Piano Quartet). Then Ripley's musical aesthetic is kept under wraps as the film's source and performed music is pursued exclusively through jazz. The sound of jazz dies along with Dickie, until its ghost is summoned towards the end of the movie, with a busker in the Piazza San Marco playing "You Don't Know What Love Is", echoing Dickie's alto solo after the suicide of his clandestine lover, Silvana. The film's tone darkens, and the music becomes increasingly tense and sober. As the screen finally goes to black, the magnificent John Martyn provides a specially recorded vocal version of the same song -- a reminder, through this most sophisticated of lyrics (though apparently written for an Abbott and Costello movie!) that Ripley's journey into a nightmare of his own making is motivated by a longing to be loved at any cost.

    The Talented Mr. Ripley is also dignified by a score from my friend and collaborator Gabriel Yared, who has been closely involved with the film since the earliest drafts of the screenplay. A good film composer -- and Gabriel is, without doubt, a great one -- can provide clues to a film's psychological gear changes, can intensify the movie and alert the audience to its ideas in the most subtle ways. With such significant episodes of performed music, Gabriel's score had to locate a voice that would neither invade what was preordained, nor be suffocated by it. The character of Ripley is a deliberately opaque one, and his inner being, its dislocations and yearnings, needed teasing out. Ripley often doesn't know or understand what he's feeling and yet his perspective is the one through which every moment of the film is refracted. Gabriel's task was, in part, to imagine he was listening to the troubled music of Ripley's heart and to make it heard.

    Gabriel's first sketches were an attempt to summon this music and also to suggest a nostalgia for a past that never really existed. So much of Ripley's personality is based on false premises -- the idea of a life lived by others and from which he is excluded, his profound dissatisfaction with who he is and where he comes from, the fantasy of a future in which he could be someone entirely different. Working in his studio on the Īle au Moines off the coast of Brittany, we agreed on a syncopated theme, Baroque in feel, which could be translated to a music box voicing, its inherent sweetness tinged with something strange and disquieting, mechanical, and repeated. Ripley hears it at moments when he is most unhinged or excited, most childlike. Its provenance undoubtedly owes something to a memory from my own childhood, when my grandmother kept a small music box in the shape of a gondola in her room, and its sound -- tiny and fragile and heartbreaking -- has stayed with me. This theme develops into the song, "Lullaby for Cain", which Gabriel and I wrote for the title sequence and which Sinead O'Connor performs with unadorned grace over the film's end credits.

    Ripley's compact with the Devil, the tragedy of his ambition, also needed to be charted in the score. Gabriel found a theme of mischief, voiced with vibraphone, cool and disassociated, and speaking of the period. We began to experiment with using the human voice, developing the idea of temptation, of finding some equivalent to the witches in Macbeth, or to sirens, luring Ripley onto the rocks of his folly. These voices, unreliable and tantalising, ridicule Ripley's alienation; delight when he sells his soul; then mock his tragedy when, after having given everything not to be alone, he finds himself imprisoned in the solitary confinement of his mind.

    Such ironies and musical games are central to the film's architecture, and they are written into the screenplay as a kind of code. The music has huge entertainment value but is also, I believe, a character in its own right. The current obsession in the movies to have everything explained is often mirrored by music, which tells you what to think and feel at any given moment, and just as this movie wants to believe that an audience is happier extrapolating meaning and moral rhythms from what it sees, so this movie's music is used with the faith that the audience can also extrapolate from what it hears."
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