Notes In and On Film

Still underappreciated after all these decades, film music remains one of those vital aspects of the medium deserving greater love. Part of the built-in problem with the discipline is the fact that good film music, by its nature, is something of a beautiful wallflower, designed to support the image and deflect excessive attention. But good film music does also call attention to its own ingenuity and well-placed charms, if only to those with an attuned awareness.

The Composers’ Panel discussions at the Film Fest have thus become a significant nod to the musical piece of the cinema puzzle. A little equal time is in order. The panelists assembled for this year’s event reflect the diversified state of the art, including reformed rock stars and more traditional, versatile composers in the field.

From the rocker end, distinctive Police drummer Stewart Copeland has been involved in scoring for screens both big and small since 1983’s Rumblefish, but he’s in town this year as a filmmaker at the festival, having made the Police documentary Everyone Stares: The Police Inside and Out. Heart’s Nancy Wilson was part of the Cameron Crowe debacle Elizabethtown, a film so utterly terrible it’s good fun to watch. One of its strongest elements, in fact, is the musical component, one of former rock journalist Crowe’s perennial gifts.

If anything, this year’s panel points up the variety of possible trajectories into the business. Brazilian-born Heitor Pereira is making a go at scoring in Los Angeles, and provided seductively exotic textures for Robert Towne’s new film, Ask the Dust (the festival’s enticing opening-night film—either loved or loathed). Mychael Danna is currently being toasted for his Capote score, but has also been a right-hand musical ally for films by respected directors Mira Nair and Atom Egoyan. Alex Wurman, who scored last year’s surprise nature-flick hit March of the Penguins, has previously lent his sonic touch to quirky numbers like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Taken together, this’ll be a rather comprehensive panel of composers.

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