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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
by Alexandre Desplat

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

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 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Soundtrack)  by Alexandre Desplat
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Soundtrack)  by Alexandre Desplat
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Poster and Memorabilia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Soundtrack) by Alexandre Desplat

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Composed by Alexandre Desplat
Concord Records (2008)

Rating: 8/10

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“DESPLAT delivers a handful of well-used themes, motifs and instrumentation that captures the essence of Benjamin, his circle of friends and family as well as the film's locale. The end result is a melodic and introspective musical experience that has its own charm outside the context of the film.”

The Beautiful Score of Benjamin Button
Review by Christopher Coleman

In the middle of 2008 a teaser trailer was released that got the ‘net buzzing. David Fincher’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerarld's short story, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, became one of the year’s most anticipated films. David Fincher’s unique storytelling ability and creative-eye made him a superb choice to bring this fantastic story to life. It would be a story that was decidedly less violent than some of his more famous projects but certainly not less visually stimulating. As it turns out, while Fincher's rendition is vastly different from Fitzgerald's original, the film still delivers on many levels. Given the stylistic and evocative visuals presented in the trailers, hopes of film music fans around the globe couldn't help but soar. Brought on to the project was a composer who is considerably adept at bringing a wealth of emotion for films of this type; one of Hollywood’s most active composers in recent years, ALEXANDRE DESPLAT.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON is an epic tale of one man’s life…a life lived backwards of sorts. Born in an old and withered body, but infant in size and in all other regards, Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) begins his double journey of growing older mentally and emotionally, yet younger physically. His unique journey which begins in a convalescent home in Louisiana brings him across a myriad of characters who each have at least one important lesson to teach the young Benjamin. Among them, he meets the true love of his life, Daisy (Cate Blanchette).  Though they are immediately separated by the most unique of all age differences, the two destined lovers criss-cross paths throughout their lives.  Both Benjamin and Daisy are set on their own journeys which take them a part, around the globe, but time and time again, eventually back to each other.

Matching David Fincher's fairy-tale like film is ALEXANDER DESPLAT's enchanting score. Once again his mininalist approach is a perfect match for the film. Desplat is masterful at capturing the emotional essence of the film with minimal instrumentation.  Although there was an 87 piece orchestra used for this film, it rarely sounds like it. As his music did in the aforementioned films, only moreso, DESPLAT's score for THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON offers a magical element to the film. What Fincher accomplishes visually, Desplat does so through his music.  They both create a world that is, at once, fanciful yet real. For his part, DESPLAT delivers a handful of well positioned themes, motifs and instrumentation that captures the essence of Benjamin, his circle of friends and family as well as it's locale. The end result is a melodic and introspective musical experience that has its own charm outside the context of the film.

The film plays more like a fantasy or extended dream sequence than a romance in a historical setting. The comparisons to FORREST GUMP could hardly be me more inaccurate and the many differences between the two are told in their respective scores. ALAN SILVESTRI's americana-based, inspirational, and no-bones-barred-emotional score (one that I still admire to this day), has nothing in common what DESPLAT has done here. Director David Fincher remarked that THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON was a sort of love-letter to the city of New Orleans. Helping to convey this idea, as well as the setting for most of the film, ALEXANDRE DESPLAT employs the use of a variety of saxophones - paying homage to the home of some of the best jazz music in America's history. Additionally we hear harmonica's and the occasional accordion, all helping to ground this film in the deep south of Louisiana.

Thematically, DESPLAT hangs the score heavily upon one idea, but upon more intent listening, there are a few other secondary themes which are equally satisfying. Of course the dominant theme represents Benjamin Button. Our central figure is represented by a simple two-note motif, of which Desplat remarks "...I composed melodies that could be played both forwards and backwards." The motif is well utilized from start to finish. The first two-thirds of the film we hear this motif conveying the innocence and wonder of Benjamin as a young boy in a old man's body. (see "A New Life" [4], "Alone at Night" [9], "Daisy's Ballet Career" [15]. Come the final third of the film, reflecting the Benjamin's state of deterioration of mind and infantile confines, Desplat takes the now familiar motif and transforms it into something that tells of a growing sense of loss and sadness. Additionally, he slows the tempo, further underlining Benjamin's waning days of life (see "Growing Younger" [21] and "Dying Away" [22].

Beyond these two main musical stems, DESPLAT delivers quite a bit more to sink our ears into. I could easily remark on some interesting element of just about every remaining track presented here, but I'll just mention a few of the most notable. Both Daisy and Mr. Button (Benjamin's father) have themes which feature the saxophone helping to keep the film connected to its setting ("Meeting Daisy" [3], "Mr. Button" [7]). "Children's Games" (11) reflects a pure, unadulterated innocence that immediately reminded me of the memorable scene in E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL where Elliot shows his new friend his toy collection. For a love-story, the love theme for Benjamin and Daisy doesn't appear as much as one might anticipate, but when it does, it provides another few moments of romantic melancholy (see "Meeting Again" [6] and "Nothing Lasts" [18]. The lone action/suspense piece is "Submarine Attack" (12). This scene in the movie (coming in when the film is in desperate need of a change of pace) is given an appropriate piece of music built on bass drum, string slaps and timpani. Evoking ideas of the far east (not unlike THE PAINTED VEIL), DESPLAT, writes a very emotional piece for a sequence where Benjamin Button carries his father out to see the sunrise from a pier just prior to his death. "Sunrise on Lake Ponchatrain" is a another seemingly simple piece that overflows with a wealth of emotion and perhaps underscores the spiritual/reincarnation-like ideas found in the film.

Sadly, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON has not yet received the critical acclaim due. It is, by far, the most visually stunning film of 2008. While suffering from scenes that can run too long and a lack of adequate pace change throughout, the film remains a intriguing tale on youthful innocence, mortality, and the mystery of life...no matter what direction one may take. ALEXANDRE DESPLAT's patient and beautiful score deserves more than just a few nominations or honorable mentions during the 2008 award season. The official soundtrack is a 2-disc release is a stellar offering from Concord Records. The first containing 60 minutes of Desplat's original score while the second (not reviewed here, but included in the track listing below) contains jazz and blues pieces of the era interspersed with dialogue from the film. The combination of the two discs will easily satisfy fans of the film. Those of you who are purely interested in ALEXANDER DESPLAT's sublime score will also find that disc 1 is a sufficient representation.
 

Rating: 8/10

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Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Postcards 2:52  ****
2 Mr. Gateau 3:04  ****
3 Meeting Daisy 1:23  ****
4 A New Life 3:41  *****
5 Love in Murmansk 3:54  ****
6 Meeting Again 2:43  *****
7 Mr. Button 2:08  ***
8 "Little Man" Oti 2:06  ****
9 Alone at Night 2:36  ***
10 It Was Nice to Have Met You 1:45  ****
11 Children's Games 4:11  *****
12 Submarine Attack 2:42  ****
13 The Hummingbird 2:36  ***
14 Sunrise on Lake Pontchartrain 3:36  *****
15 Daisy's Ballet Career 2:06  *****
16 The Accident 2:40  ***
17 Stay Out of My Life 1:46  ***
18 Nothing Lasts 2:57  ****
19 Some Things You Never Forget 1:38  ****
20 Growing Younger 2:17  ****
21 Dying Away 3:02  ***
22 Love Returns 1:45  ****
23 Benjamin and Daisy 2:31  ****
  Total Running Time (approx) 60 minutes  
       
Disc 2      

Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 "My Name is Benjamin Button" (Benjamin Button) 0:20  
2 We Shall Walk Through the Streets of the City (Doc Paulin's Marching Band) 2:56  
3 "Somedays I Feel Different" (Queenie & Benjamin Button) 0:17  
4 Ostrich Walk (Frank Trumbauer & His Orchestra Feat. Bix Beiderbeck) 3:05  
5 "How Old are You?" (Benjamin Button & The Preacher) 0:12  
6 That's How Rhythm Was Born (The Boswell Sisters) 2:53  
7 "When was the last time you had a Woman?" (Ben Button and Capt. Mike) 0:13  
8 Freight Train Blues (Billie & DeDe Pierce) 5:35  
9 Basin Street Blues (Preservation Hall Jazz Band) 7:34  
10 "Thanksgiving, 1930" (Benjamin Button) 0:07  
11 If I Could Be with You (Louis Armstong & His Sebastian New Cotton Club Orch.) 3:35  
12 "What's Your Secret?" (Capt. Mike & Benjamin Button) 0:25  
13 Chanson Sur Staline (Choeur De La Cathedrale De La Rue Daru, Paris XVli 3:07  
14 "A Date Which Will Live in Infamy" (Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1941) 0:16  
15 Arabaseke for Piano in Ca Major Op. (Various Artists) 3:18  
16 "Coming Home" (Benjamin Button) 0:12  
17 Out of Nowhere (Sidney Bechet) 3:00  
18 Dear Old Southland (Louis Armstrong) 3:16  
19 "Defined by Opportunities" (Benjamin Button) 0:04  
20 Skokiaan (Perez Prado & His Orchestra) 2:38  
21 "Things Were Becoming Different for Me..." (Benjamin Button) 0:16  
22 My Prayer (The Platters) 2:45  
23 Bethena: A Concert Waltz (Randy Kerber) 5:42  
  Total Running Time (approx) 52 minutes  
       


 
   

 

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