A film involving a violently loud, retired, and suicidal blind man (played by Al Pacino) could have been stricken with a motion picture score to match the surface mood. Thomas Newman's score for Scent of a Woman delves beneath the surface, and what is found is a set that sounds not only classical but classy. There is a chilling calm in the music, a dreamlike state, that draws energy from the colors and feelings of autumn in New York City. Just as one track settles into a peaceful sleep, the stings and violins and drums come marching in, often too briefly, and fade away. While awaiting their return, the quietness of the "in-between" tracks pulls the listener in until what was being waited for is nearly forgotten. The soundtrack features "Por Una Cabeza" performed by the Tango Project; the piece served as the centerpiece of emotion in the film, in which the beautiful Gabrielle Anwar takes Al Pacino's hand and learns that seeing music through wide-open eyes is not half as important as feeling it with the other four senses. Newman's soundtrack believes that too.
This was Duke Ellington's first film score, undertaken at the urging of Anatomy of a Murder's director, Otto Preminger. The full range of the composer's previous work was brought to bear on this 1959 work. Ellington was a natural choice to convey the rich and varied emotional moods of this drama. Tension and release, danger and safety, movement and stillness, darkness and light; the textural palette that was Ellington's signature was always compellingly cinematic.
In these orchestral settings, Duke's soloists (Cat Anderson, Clark Terry, Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, and others) shine, as their playing reflects true variations on a theme in a classical sense. That's not to say that this set doesn't swing, too – "Happy Anatomy" is a short but fully cranked gallop. This is an album of rich variety and evocative writing.
The late-'60s film starring Marianne Faithfull and Alain Delon has a cult reputation, if only because it's one of Faithfull's few film appearances (and has rarely been seen, especially in the U.S.). The soundtrack has enough of a groovy late-'60s period feel to merit a cult reputation of its own, with its bordering-on-bizarre mix of solid '60s Hammond organ grooves, soothing quasi-classical interludes, lush '60s Europop along the lines of the theme from A Man and a Woman, and brief flashes of psychedelia and avant-gardisms. (Faithfull fans be cautioned: Marianne does not sing on the soundtrack at all.) The recurring motifs are quite insinuating, and treated with a number of imaginative arrangements, making this a pretty interesting find for fans of '60s Euro easy listening/pop hybrids, even if they're not interested in having a souvenir of the film. The CD reissue does the job right by adding good liner notes and three bonus cuts by vocalists Mireille Mathieu and Cleo Laine, who recorded these tracks after Les Reed added lyrics to three instrumental pieces from the film.
The original motion picture soundtrack of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus was composed by Mychael Danna and Jeff Danna who had previously worked on Gilliam's Tideland (2005). Gilliam wrote lyrics for the two songs "We Love Violence" and "We Are The Children of the World", the latter of which spoofed Michael Jackson's famous "We Are the World" and was nominated for a 2009 Satellite Award in the category "Best Original Song".