If you ever found yourself whistling the music of the film you just finished watching in the toilet, look out, you may have just put a smile to the film composer’s face. Score: A Film Music Documentary is the first feature documentary (and first filmic child) by former investigative journalist Matt Schrader. Having started its life as a Kickstarter project (which managed to raise three times its initial required amount, 40,000 dollars), Score has won Best Documentary at the 2017 Chicago Critics Film Awards and has been attracting positive reviews.
Going from the beginning of film live music to the first score purposely composed to film (King Kong, by Max Steiner), Score: A Film Music Documentary gives us a quick history of how music and film related to each other throughout the years, giving special attention to names like Bernard Herrmann, John Williams, Ennio Morricone, Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer. It also gives us a peak into the process of the composer, their collaboration with the director and how a mix of innovation and looking at the past (as well as very strange musical instruments) helped create new sounds and rhythms capable of evoking powerful emotions in the audience. With over 60 interviews, excerpts from memorable soundtracks and behind the scenes footage, Score makes its case for the composer as a storyteller in their own right, as well as comparing the film score to classical symphonies.
Competently filmed and edited, Score: A Film Music Documentary is accessible even to those not musically trained, and works as a good and comprehensive introduction to the subject. It does, however, present a very Hollywood-centric, glorified vision of the soundtrack business, and does leave some great names (either for copyright or time issues) unforgivably out – James Horner, anyone? And if it puts on the table some interesting perspectives and curiosities, like how different recording studios sound, or how the studio musicians do not rehearse the pieces – they do everything by sight-reading -, it’s just missing the bite expected from a film documentary, particularly one directed by a former investigative journalist. In truth, the documentary ends up feeling like a bluray extra (though, of course, a very good one).
Still, music lovers, film buffs and soundtrack casual listeners will enjoy Score: A Film Music Documentary, if only to end up re-listening to memorable soundtracks like Morricone’s The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, Williams’ Imperial March, or argue about which Batman’s soundtrack – Elfman’s or Zimmer’s – is the best. And yes, it is Elfman’s.
Score: A Film Music Documentary will be in DVD and VOD on 2nd April 2018.