Say what you will about a culture in which a blockbuster film about giant talking General Motors cars from outer space (a sequel, no less) captivates our noble Republic, but if you go to the movies a lot, you may have noticed that we don't exactly live in a Golden Age of Orchestral Film Music. In fact, it is ineluctable fact that most recent orchestral movie scores suck, loudly, and yes, I'm talking to you, Transformers composer Steve Jablonsky, a nose to the ground hack who to be fair is hardly the worst of the current breed. I should also note that a rare exception to the above rule is the wonderful Michael Giacchino, whose for want of a better word Post-Modern chamber orchestra music for TV's Lost probably contributes about sixty percent of the creepiness factor to that show's eerie island adventures, and who has done equally effective big screen work this year for the animated Up and the reboot of Star Trek.
And with that little rant out of the way, here's a little compare and contrast exercise involving film music that you might get a kick out of; I know I did.
We begin with a scene from a newly restored version of the 1984 restoration of Fritz Lang's 1927 silent sci-fi classic Metropolis, originally supervised (and with a percolating synth score) by disco producer Giorgio Moroder.
Not bad, right? And certainly better than some of the other scenes from the Moroder restoration, which featured crappy vocal rock music from the likes of Bonnie Tyler and Jon Anderson of Yes.
Now take a look at footage from the same scene, this time cut (by indie filmmaker Robert Valding) to the spooky modal strains of "Calvary Cross," pretty much my favorite (and certainly the most doom haunted) song from Brit folk-rocker Richard Thompson's incomparable 1974 album I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight.
I don't know about you guys, but I'd pay good money to see some other scenes from Lang's masterpiece set to Thompson songs.
Incidentally, that restored Moroder footage is NOT currently available on commercial DVD. It is, to my surprise, the work of a fan with a lot of time on his hands and a website, and you can see more of their unofficial collaboration here.
And I would be remiss if I didn't add that the so far definitive restored Metropolis -- done for Kino Video in 2003 -- is, fortuitously, still available on DVD and features the original 1927 orchestral score by Gottfried Huppertz, which is superb. But a more complete print of the film was discovered last year (I wrote about it here) and if there's a film god in heaven, the newly refurbished film will be on Blu-ray before the decade is out. We'll keep you posted.