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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

CD REVIEW - The Queen

The Queen
Music by Alexandre Desplat
Milan 399 050-2 (EU)
16 Tracks 44:27 mins

This Stephen Frears film is gaining much attention at the moment, not least for its stunning lead performance by Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II. Its story tells of events surrounding the death of Princess Diana and includes current Prime Minister Tony Blair coming to power. What surprises me however is, for such a British subject, a Frenchman has been chosen to score the film. There's basically nothing wrong with Alexandre Desplat's music, except that it lacks an overall British sensibility, with much of his material sounding understandably more continental. Surely, there are enough good British composers out there who would have loved the opportunity of providing a more suitable sound.
The album starts out well enough, with a regal opening to "The Queen," and some pastoral travelling music in "Hills of Scotland," but then Desplat introduces what is his most used theme in "People's Princess I," a repeating figure, which sounds more Italian than British to my ears. It's catchy enough, but just doesn't sound appropriate.
Tony Blair, portrayed yet again by Michael Sheen, seems to be treated as a figure of fun, with his theme being something of a light, comical waltz. This is featured prominently in his scenes with the Queen. The overall tragedy is largely dealt with in a suitably sorrowful manner, but "River of Sorrow" is surprisingly light. "The Queen Drives" and "Queen of Hearts" finds the "People's Princess" theme treated in an urgent manner, which is quite effective.
A nice enough score then from a composer who has become truly international, what with his recent work in Hollywood as well, but I would have loved to have heard what a British composer would have done with this film.


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