Beastly Composed by Marcelo Zarvos
Lakeshore Records (2011)
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“ZARVOS is all about
the emotion, the feeling, the mood--but not in a boring background
The Beauty in the Beastly
Review by Helen San
MARCELO ZARVOS is a Brazilian classical and jazz pianist turned film composer
who has a penchant for simple, haunting piano themes. A relative newcomer, he
scored his first film only in 2000, mostly with indie films, moving rather
quickly to Hollywood fare with THE GOOD SHEPHERD (co-composed with BRUCE FOWLER)
in 2006. That is his first score that brought his name to my attention, a score
I rushed to buy immediately after watching the movie. Believe it or not, I don't
actually do that very often.
What sets ZARVOS apart from others is he seems to be able to express a lot of
poetry with not a lot of notes or fanfare. Less is more, in ZARVOS ' case. One
piano and a few strings, and he delivers lyrical support that doesn't overwhelm
a weak picture, yet doesn't underwhelm a strong one either. It is no wonder then
that in the last 10 years, he's scored a whopping 40 projects, which attests to
the demand for this uncommon talent of simplicity and balance.
His latest opus, BEASTLY, is scored for a modernized remake of the old fable,
Beauty and the Beast. A handsome-but-selfish preppy high school student gets
cursed into bald, tattooed freak, a curse that can only be broken if a girl
falls in love with him by the end of the year. Obviously, without his good
looks, he'll have to actually, be nice to girls. We all know the ending. Without
his hair and flawless skin, the guy develops a personality, matures, falls in
love, and gets the girl.
Romance, then, is the name of the game. This is the kind of gig that usually
would have gone straight to composers like Rachel Portman or Rolfe Kent. In
fact, the main themes in BEASTLY remind me very much of Kent's early style,
almost as if he were channeling the old King of Romance himself. The playful
theme in "Building the Greenhouse" (8) or the latter half of "It's Always Been
Me" (6) actually conjures up ancient flashbacks of KENT's ELECTION or THEORY OF
FLIGHT. No, no, the music isn't the same of course. But you can hear the same
light hearted rhythms and soaring romanticism.
BEASTLY is an album that needs to be listened to as a whole. The melodies are
generally in repeating chords, so there is not a lot of memorable "hummability"
to this score. ZARVOS is all about the emotion, the feeling, the mood--but not
in a boring background way. In a close-your-eyes-and-let-the-music-move-you way.
The main piano theme in BEASTLY, heard in "The Poem" (4), "It's Always Been Me"
(6), and "Lindy's in Trouble" (15), are reminiscent of his moving score in
REMEMBER ME (a film which belongs squarely in the tear-jerker genre). It is the
sort of tender beauty that melts in your heart, like chocolate for the ears.
That beauty weaves in and out of the tracks so much it gives the whole album a
sort of graceful shimmer. Then at the end of "Lindy's In Trouble" (15), the
theme is surprisingly reprised as a short action/heightened dramatic cue that
blew my socks away.
It is not all heartbreak and drama though. In "Finale" (18), you get a nice
suite of all the major themes in the score. In addition to the aforementioned
playful theme, there are also a few suspenseful cues ["Hunter Rescues Lindy"
(13) or "The Curse Part 2" (16)] and a comedic, almost cartoonish, theme ["Jujyfruits"
(3) and "Food and Gifts" (14)] strewn throughout. Plus there is a sort of rock
music thing in "High School" (5). But truth be told, they don't hold a candle to
the tracks where his piano take center stage.
The man knows his piano. And then some. That's all I got to say.