STRONG DONAGGIO SCORE (PLUS DEBUSSY), WITH A COUPLE OF '80s-SOUNDING CO-COMPOSER TRACKS
The soundtrack release for Brian De Palma's Passion hit mailboxes early this week, and, well, since I can't see De Palma's new movie yet, I've been listening to his new movie. (speaking of which, I received confirmation from someone in the U.S. today that Passion will indeed open in U.S. theaters sometime in June of this year.) Without having seen the film, I am guessing the track list has been put together in a non-chronological fashion (this has been confirmed in a comment below from someone who has seen the film), to present the music in the most compelling flow possible.
Here's the short of it: I love the Pino Donaggio compositions on this soundtrack, as well as Claude Debussy's Prélude à L’après-Midi d’un Faune, which was performed by the Berliner Philarmoniker, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle (recorded live in 2004, it appears here courtesy of EMI Classics). Now, when you look at the back of the CD cover, you see three tracks with asterisks: "Back Issues," "Perversions And Diversions," and "Higher Heels." Those three tracks were each composed by Donaggio and Paolo Steffan, who has been working with Donaggio for a long time, and is credited on this album as Keyboard Programmer, as well as orchestrations throughout the soundtrack along with Donaggio and conductor Natale Massara. But the three tracks with the asterisks are the only three tracks that have a strong '80s vibe. The first, "Back Issues," is assumed to be the music heard in the background of the "Ass-Cam" commercial in the film. This track is highly amusing, in a mostly good way. I laugh heartily every time it comes on. It's a fun little track. It has what might be considered a companion piece near the end of the album, "Higher Heels," which is assumed to be the background music for a fashion show. Again, it is very '80s, but more annoying than fun, and it ends rather abruptly, with a quick fade, as if someone gave it the hook. In between is the center asterisk piece, "Perversions And Diversions." With its smoky saxophone entering the picture a little ways in, I keep thinking I'm going to hear Glenn Frey singing "You belong to the city, you belong to the night," like something out of Miami Vice. Very odd, this '80s vibe, which of course has been mentioned in many of the reviews of Passion.
In any case, the other Donaggio compositions are phenomenal. The CD opens with the bouncy, sinuous "Twin Souls," which is just heavy enough to avoid sounding like it belongs in a somewhat romantic comedy (like, perhaps, De Palma's Home Movies). "The Breakdown" is a beautiful piano ballad that brings to mind Donaggio's "Sally And Jack" theme from De Palma's Blow Out, especially when it is reprised on the final track, "Last Surprise." It is not until the third track that we get the "Passion Theme," which opens with quickly menacing chords, like a Herrmann-esque surprise, before falling back to a quiet piano motif that soon swells with romantic strings and ominous orchestrations. This is a wonderful theme that never seems to stop rising, with a conclusion that seems to leave everything hanging on the edge. I think my favorite track is "Know That Know," which features a heavy, spaced out string bass rhythm, the spaces filled in with strings and other orchestrations, and sounds like a cousin to Morricone's "Towards The Unknown" from De Palma's Mission To Mars. It ends with a slashing string surprise out of Carrie or Dressed To Kill (and, of course, Herrmann's Psycho). "A Dreamers Dream" features more ominous musings that lead beautifully into the Debussy ballet.
All in all, a strong, achingly beautiful work from Donaggio.