A fascinating documentary about the film composers and their orchestra which develop a grandiose design to make the films speak in amazing design, transforming and transcending mere images into a fluid pattern reaching deeper into the viewers. The project headed by director Matt Schrader in his first film debut, has earned seven awards already from multiple film festivals, delivers an amazing insight to the work which the composers go through to accomplish amazing musical pieces for the studios, directors and ideally the audiences. This isn’t purely a talking head round table, it contains intercuts of studios, and some of the creative process of composers, with a few brief current and archive interviews with directors (thoughts from the late Gary Marshall) and how music works in minute clips of films. Aside from the composers and directors, agents, executives, along cinema buffs and historians also give the insights and opinions dating back to the early days of the cinema, for over 90-minutes, from Gravitas Ventures.
Clearly one learns and understands how the entire process of composing, writing scores has changed over the years, as did filming itself now more than just conducting orchestras, but a vast knowledge of technology and leading crossover musicians becoming award composers. No longer do these giants of the industry lock themselves apart of film progress, now a marriage of the director involvement and sometimes studio producers cram into mixing booths discussing themes, tempos and tension. However, most directors find the music uninteresting, focused more on the film itself, rightly so with the millions involved, and hence the endurance to settle nerves, by understanding what everyone wants. Quickly enough for the viewer, the film presents familiar themes of Rocky and hence the connection of music raises the importance of a scene, images appear of Sylvester Stallone’s character training, the emotional drive pumping in the audience and all the dots connect. In fact, one learns of the history of cinema briefly, of organist playing either chose music for the scenes or their own, all actually done not for the movie but rather covering the noise of the projectors.
Most of the movie shows the building and layering of the instruments and how they, the composers build their scores into wondrous pieces noting the work of John Williams and later Hans Zimmer. The composers actually admiring, praising their competition, and showing praise for their counterparts music and influence, comes across very authentic. Some showed an uniqueness for what instruments they use almost as if from the foley department, gathering unusual and downright oddball instruments from worldwide countries to toys, all advancing the creative process, and achieve brilliant performances. A great moment comes from the praise of Bernard Herrmann’s shrieking string cords in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) and then showing the legendary shower scene both with and without the music, a profound understanding. The archive footage continues with William’s theme for Jaws and how a few chords can change everything of a picture, hence elevating the richness of the material for the film, one can only imagine what got cut to achieve the proper running time.
Everything from sound and picture find in excellent quality, but not a perfect movie, noting it omits how studios sometimes actually own the music, and most of the films discuss fall into the category of blockbusters. However, a reasoning for the emittance, whom would outside industry people want to watch many independent films while the images of million-dollar shots present themselves, Gladiator, Finding Dory, and Batman for example. A segment involves Transformers: Age of Extinction, and noting unrecognizable to the average viewer or listener the French horns during a scene of battling robots on a runaway an action sequence, seemed a tad ridiculous, but shows the integrity of the composer to do it right, no matter how insignificant.
Overall very impressed, however an issue arises, at the 1hr and 3 min mark – synth music started in ‘78 to ‘79 leading to the punk (actually started more mid-1970s), but the film skips to 1985 with the film Weird Science and Onigo Boingo making the connection to Danny Elfman with friends of Tim Burton to Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985). The problem, how to go from 1978 to 1985 skipping John Carpenter’s compositions from Halloween, perhaps since he’s director with music background, as it documentary worked to established wall between them (directors to one-side and composers opposite) beforehand. Furthermore, the documentary overlooks the foreign composers, which worked in the early elements of electronic experimental synthwave fusions from such bands as Goblin who did many horror scores of the Italian cinema – once more a brief reference to their cinema via Spaghetti Westerns namely The Good, the Bad and the Ugly from composer Ennio Morricone. In addition, the entire horror genre finds itself overlooked, as well as women composers, a few brief interviews but for the most part, both find themselves forgotten.
While a production like this normally finds itself outside the scope of the average viewer, it will likely find the core with all filmmakers, from directors to screenwriters, and actors perhaps the aspiring as the music drives the compelling waves of emotions for each scene. In addition, musicians of all genre will find the pleasure in this production, noting that composers nowadays comes from industrial genres, such as Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, winning an Oscar for his original score The Social Network (2010) shared with Atticus Ross, but that genres of all disciplines begun to find themselves included the standard. Many will find an agreeable movement in the movie with the reference to a blank slate, each composer struggles, just like any other artists, especially writers, but each note heightens the scene and expression conveyed to the audience. Watch for the special moment of James Cameron speaking about the late great James Horner in the closing credits, who worked on Titanic and won an Oscar, passed on in 2015. Take the time to watch and listen, not just hear, but also enjoy this Score.