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REVIEW: SCORE is "Terrifically Engaging"

THE BOTTOM LINE: Lyrical and melodic, with a driving beat.

Hans Zimmer, Quincy Jones, Rachel Portman and Danny Elfman are among the dozens of film composers who discuss their craft in a documentary by Matt Schrader.

In the first few moments of his terrifically engaging documentary Score, director Matt Schrader makes his point about the power of film music with brilliant simplicity. The screen is black, Bill Conti’s Rocky theme begins, and nine out of 10 viewers will experience a rush of recognition. Then the screen fills with the climactic images of Sylvester Stallone’s character training for his big fight, and the emotional charge is complete.

It’s a perfect example of how the right music heightens action, but far from the only one in Schrader’s brisk, illuminating survey of Hollywood scores. The film, which took its bow at the Hamptons fest and has more festival dates lined up, is sure to click with film buffs, aspiring composers and anyone who's interested in the chemistry of moviemaking.

With his co-editor Kenny Holmes, Schrader orchestrates a dynamic mix of archival material, film clips and incisive new interviews with more than three dozen composers. A handful of studio musicians offer their perspectives on working with the likes of John Williams. Agents and music executives weigh in, as do historians and scientists, their valuable insights never ponderous but, rather, marked by appreciation and enthusiasm.

The multihyphenate filmmaker explores changing trends over nearly a century’s worth of movie music, from “silent” comedy shorts — live scores helped to mask the sound of the projector — through the mold-shattering atmospherics of David Fincher collaborators Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Marlon Brando’s star-making turn in A Streetcar Named Desire wasn’t the film’s only blast of creative innovation, the doc demonstrates; Alex North’s revolutionary use of jazz also was a touchstone. Jerry Goldsmith’s novel instrumentation on Planet of the Apes gets its props, along with the influential styles of Hans Zimmer (“rock swagger,” one observer calls it) and Thomas Newman, with his often-emulated piano-centric themes.

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Score: The Podcast
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