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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Review: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (Alexandre Desplat)

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (Score by Alexandre Desplat)
2008, Concord Records

Alexandre Desplat has scored over 100 films in France and the United States. That's a pretty remarkable total for the forty-seven year old composer. He's one of the bright stars in post-Goldsmith Hollywood. Some of his credits include Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium; The Golden Compass; Girl With A Pearl Earring; The Painted Veil (Golden Globe - Best Original Score winner) and The Queen (Oscar nomination, 2007 BMI Film Music Festival Award, 2007 World Soundtrack Award and 2007 European Film Award). Desplat was tapped to score The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. The choice appears, in retrospect, to have been very wise.

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button is available as a two-disc set. Disc one is the orchestral score composed by Desplat. Disc two is a mix of dialogue and period jazz used in the movie. Disc two will appeal to diehard fans of the movie, but the dialogue snippets are mostly filler. Some of the jazz recordings are wonderful: The Boswell Sisters crooning That's How Rhythm Was Born is classic. Billie & DeDe Pierce on Freight Train Blues is a must-hear, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band's take on Basin Street is perfection. The whole disc has a strong period sound that jazz buffs will adore (while grumbling about the dialogue in between).

What I really want to talk about is Desplat's score, because it's worth some real discussion. Desplat has always had a deft hand at setting a scene with music that's full of as much imagery as the scenes its meant to support, but he has really outdone himself with Benjamin Button. This is one of the most gorgeous and nuanced scores I've heard in several years. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button should get Desplat another Oscar nomination and might just land him his first win. A New Life is one of the centerpieces of this great score, rising from silence to suggest its title far more deftly than the written words on the CD jacket. Don't be surprised when he wins the Oscar for Best Original Score if this is the song selected to play while he walks to the podium.

Another contender for the podium walk honor is Alone At Night, which suggests the ebb and flow of darkness and starlight in intangible terms that coalesce in your mind like a grandmaster's painting. You'll also want to check out the ethereal Children's Games, The Hummingbird, Sunrise on Lake Pontchartrain and the hauntingly beautiful Dying Away. And let's not forget Benjamin And Daisy, a waltz that struggles between dissonance and harmony just like relationship its named for.

Alexandre Desplat didn't have anything to prove before The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, but after this he very well may have a few honors to defend, most of them including words like "Best Score". Concord Records has put together a gorgeous and unusual set here, combining the score and soundtrack in one package. Fans of the film will love it, and movie score buffs are going to go crazy for Desplat's work on Benjamin Button. Jazz fans will appreciate the true-to-period recordings on the soundtrack as well. This set is definitely worth picking up.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button at You can learn more about Alexandre Desplat at You can purchase a copy of the soundtrack to The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button at or wherever music is sold as of December 16, 2008.

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