Soundtracks are a lot more than movie music...
...or so I'm ready to argue as a 30 year devotee of this sorely under appreciated genre. So, in an effort to do my part, each week
I'll be making recommendations of soundtracks current and vintage, make a fuss over long awaited soundtrack scores finally getting
a well deserved release, and in general, make some noise about this often overlooked category. Beyond my long experience as a
listener and as a pianist and songwriter, both of which I've put to use in writing a quarterly soundtrack column for the Chicago
Tribune, I can only offer my recommendations. You'll discern my taste soon enough and upfront I'd like to make it clear that I'll
focus most heavily on SCORE soundtracks. In the end, all criticism is subjective but if I can point a listener toward a little heard
soundtrack or strongly advise you to either ORDER IMMEDIATELY or SKIP ALTOGETHER, all the better.
The year was 1982 and my girlfriend (yes it was that long ago) and I were sitting in the
theatre watching Diva unfold. It was one of those transitory film experiences one dreams
about and neither of us (we remain close friends) has ever forgotten it. I was then just
beginning to come into my own as a singer/songwriter and within a year would have my first
band - one with theatrics and music and new wave and artistic leanings. Kate Bush and
Laura Nyro were my favorite singer/songwriters, the B-52's and New Wave groups like the
Buzzcocks, Joy Division, and the GOD and GODDESS, Bowie and Siouxie, provided the rhythm
that broke up my then 9-5 existence.
Is it any wonder that the music of Diva had the same effect on me that the electrically
visual, eternally hip and cool movie did? The score opened with the stunningly beautiful
classical aria from "La Wally" and seemed to include a smattering of every other kind of
music that was happening at the moment. When the thugs approached the Paris metro, the
film's composer, Vladimir Cosma, provided a threatening new wave bass and electronic drum
beat. Later, during a chase scene, Cosma enveloped the soundtrack with East Indian
percussion. For Gorodish, the movie's ultra cool fairy godfather, the guy going through his
"jazz phase," Cosma resorted to African flutes, a kalimba and Brian Eno-ish "ambient music."
It was all dazzling but when the picture slowed down for the date between the film's hero, the
cute 18 year-old postman Jules and his beloved opera diva, Cosma topped himself with the
melancholy "Sentimental Walk." This obvious homage to Eric Satie accompanied the couple
as they strolled through a pre-dawn, drizzly Paris, with Cosma's piano tinkles seeming to
echo off the puddles that reflected up at the couple.
This theme is so irresistible that it's repeated later in the film (and gets two cues on the
soundtrack) as does "La Wally." The soundtrack includes a gorgeous instrumental version
of the latter with a violin taking the melody line.
The soundtrack, sadly, is out of print, but pony up the close to $30 you'll have to plunk down
to get it. It's worth it. This gorgeous array of music has been in rotation on each
subsequent music listening device (stereo, cassette, CD, computer) I've owned since I first
got the soundtrack. At less than 40 minutes Diva is nevertheless one of the all time great
soundtracks. 'Sez me!
Don't forget to check out previous soundtrack recommendations by visiting the ARCHIVES
Next Recommendation: TBA
The soundtrack that's never far
from my CD player and Vladimir
Cosma, composer of Diva's