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Friday, June 13, 2008


The Happening
Music by James Newton Howard
Varese Sarabande VSD6901 (EU)
18 Tracks 50:07 mins

The release of a new M. Night Shyamalan film is always an "event." Why, I don't know, as I haven't found one of his films very worthwhile yet. Perhaps I'm too perceptive, but while everyone was raving about the twist in the tale of The Sixth Sense, I had guessed it right at the start, thus ruining the whole film for me. In fact, so telegraphed was it, that I can't believe so many people didn't get it.
Unbreakable wasn't bad, I suppose. Signs was not helped by a cast that looked as though they just couldn't take the thing seriously, or perhaps the film was intended as a comedy - if so, it wasn't funny. The Village turned out to be a whole waste of time, and that's where I gave up, not even bothering to see Lady in the Water, after the critical mauling it got.
All these films featured music by James Newton Howard, and I have read review after review praising his efforts, whilst again being totally baffled because, although each score probably served its film well enough, they just did very little for me on disc. I therefore approached his latest effort for the director's new film The Happening with dread, as I knew I would probably have a hard time writing anything good about it, and indeed this proved to be the case.
Featuring solos by Maya Beiser on cello, Howard's music lacks any great melodic material to grab on to, being largely quite stark and mysterious, with hushed, dissonant strings bringing an otherwordly quality and the melancholy sound of Beiser's cello running through it all, allied to the lonely sound of solo piano.
Only very occasionally does the score build any momentum, with some pretty menacing crescendos here and there, but such action as there is is not sustained for very long.
The best is saved for last with the highly emotional, strings-dominated, "Be With You," though the cello/piano combo plays out the remaining moments.
Unusually, an "End Title Suite" concludes the disc and plays almost like a kind of cello concerto.
Don't get me wrong, I am certainly an admirer of the composer, and enjoyed his recent efforts for I Am Legend and King Kong, whilst Dinosaur is a firm favourite. It's just that it seems his music for the films of M. Night Shyamalan are perhaps too well wedded to their subject to be enjoyed away from the images. And he is in good company, for I have said the same of many of the works of the late, great Bernard Herrmann.


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