Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel Score Review

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Check it out... if you enjoy Desplat's collaborations with Wes Anderson, and would like to hear something with a Hungarian taint to it all.

Skip it... if a repetitive score, which seems to have little to no pay offs doesn't appeal to you, as it wouldn't with most of the scoring community.
Undoubtedly, Wes Anderson shall be remembered in the future as a visionary who created inventive, intelligent films, and advanced the film industry in a number of ways. From brilliant animations like Fantastic Mr. Fox, one of my favourite films from 2009, to 2012's highly acclaimed stand out Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson creates unique and individual films, that don't adhere to a formula or a pattern. Along with him, comes an often collaborator, that being Alexandre Desplat, an often inventive man, who works well with Anderson. Desplat is a composer whom I respect greatly for a number of scores; he's provided us with truly memorable and brilliant scores like this year's The Monuments Men, Argo, and Fantastic Mr. Fox, as well as some more lackluster efforts, including Philomena and one of my more hated scores, Rust and Bone. Whilst Desplat's ingenuity can not be doubted, he does often repeat motifs, tones and moods over separate scores, making for most of his scores sounding resoundingly similar; as one can do with John Williams and Hans Zimmer, you can often identify his work without having to check the artist. But unlike Zimmer and Williams, this isn't necessarily a positive; it distinguishes him as someone who is often repeating his own ideas again and again. When Desplat is good, he's an utterly fantastic throw back kind of composer, but when he's bad, he can be utterly uninspired and truly boring. His latest collaboration with Anderson is The Grand Budapest Hotel, a film which has received an incredibly high amount of praise from both audiences and critics alike, all praising it for it's beautiful production design, well crafted story, and a quirky style that can only emanate from Anderson himself. The score on the other hand, by Desplat, has received some mixed reviews, with the overall consensus being that The Grand Budapest Hotel is a somewhat bland, repetitive score, with a lack of stand out cues. Being that I enjoyed The Monuments Men quite a lot, I decided checking it out myself would be a must-do, and so here I am, investigating this score. Lets see how it fared in my critical eye.

As other critics have stated, The Grand Budapest Hotel is utterly repetitive, continually calling back to previously explored material. And whilst often sounding like former Desplat scores like The Monuments Men, it simply doesn't have the likability and fun approach that made that score so irresistible and fun. At points, it feels like a real burn to make it through this entire score; with it's dull main motifs, and fairly unelaborate theme, it's certainly nothing new. As was the case with Philomena, the score simply contains too little highlighted cues that I can say I enjoyed from start to finish. Whilst some of the melodies are irresistibly catchy, Desplat often works them past their expiring point, and they become nothing but irritating. And not only does our composer repeat motifs and various melodies constantly, but he also provides constantly unchanging instrumentation, that never seems to add anything to itself. Every now and again, a sudden invasion of brass, or strings, seems to occur, but these are far and wide between; for the most part, guitars, lutes and other very simplistic and light instrumentation is all that's seemingly required. I think I want something a little more aggressive, or heavier in tone. Maybe it's because I've become accustomed to the way of composers like Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL; although, I shouldn't have any problem with this frequently light instrumentation, as I do enjoy scores like Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine, which is a solely piano-based score, and light and quick piano at that. The difference between those scores though, is that Monaco is a piece of ingenuity, a constantly self-defying piece which never stand still on a single motif, phrase or riff. In other words, repetition is completely non-existent. Of course, call backs to former pieces on the card are everywhere, but these aren't simply taken and plodded inside an unrelated and boring piece. That is the pitfall of The Grand Budapest Hotel, and it is a big one at that.

There are upsides to the score, though, the most noticeable being some of the latter pieces. A lot of the middle section of the card feels quite like filler, and that makes for a really grinding listening experience. Fortunately, skipping to the final few pieces is more of a rewarding process, as you can find a few highlights shuffled away. By this stage in my listening of the score, I'd found that most of my favourite pieces weren't even accredited with Desplat's name! The utter stand out on the score, undoubtedly, is the second last piece, titled Kamarinskaya, which speeds up the pace of the score, and begins to move at a frantic, driven speed, something the rest of the score had struggled at. The seventh piece on the card, another accredited with a name other than Desplat's own, titled Concerto For Lute And Plucked Strings I. Moderato, is composed by Siefired Behrend and receives a distinctive highlight from me, for it's more energetic and excited tone that it sets from the onset. Sure, there are a few highlights from Desplat himself, but these are few and far between, and often aren't anything that spectacular, just well composed music that doesn't over stay it's welcome, unlike so much of the material provided. The theme, first introduced in the piece Mr. Moustafa, one of the better Desplat written pieces on the card, is at first an actually pleasant theme, and for that, props must be given. It is repeated to hell and back, but that doesn't change the fact that it's not necessarily an interesting and catchy melody. That's the key to this score in general, now that I think about it; The Grand Budapest Hotel isn't necessarily a badly composed score, in fact, it's more one of Desplat's better composed scores in a long time. It's just that the ideas that Desplat has put in to play here are so overdone, that the initial delight I experienced whilst listening to some of the better fleshed out and interesting motifs and phrases is washed away when they are constantly reintroduced, with no major nor minor modifications made. This same explanation can be used to describe the instrumentation within the score, as well; the guitar, lute and lightly used strings originally appeal to a quirky, fun side of myself. That is until they are used for the next few pieces afterwards, and the next few pieces after that, that they become quite irritating and annoying. It's a disappointment to see such potential in a score, composed by such a capable composer, flushed down the metaphorical toilet. Maybe next time Desplat, maybe next time. You can purchase The Grand Budapest Hotel on Amazon here.


3. Mr Moustafa
5. A Prayer For Madame D
6. The New Lobby Boy
7. Concerto For Lute And Plucked String I. Movement*
30. The Mystical Union
31. Kamarinskaya*
32. Traditional Arrangement: "Moonshine"

Junkie Score: 59.50
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