Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Desert Music

LAWRENCE OF ARABIA has long been my favorite film. It was originally released in 1962 and had suffered several edits during those early years. In 1989, while I was a student in New York City, Robert Harris and James Katz set about restoring the film to it's original 216 minute glory. Lost footage was found, dialogue rerecorded for certain bits, etc... The first screening for the restored masterpiece was held at the Ziegfeld Theater on 54th St. And this is where I come in.

I was lucky enough to be taking some film classes at the time and was invited to the screening. A couple of friends and I showed up early, waited in line, then hustled down to the fifth row (give or take a couple of rows) and claimed our territory. I had no idea what I was in for. I wasn't familiar with David Lean at the time, or with T.E. Lawrence, the film's subject matter. What I witnessed over the next four hours was something of a game changer for me. I was astounded. Blown away. Moved on a deep level. Robert Harris was at the screening and answered questions for an hour or so after it was over, but I don't know if I heard a word he said. I was lost, overwhelmed by what I had seen.

As a person who has spent his career learning to tell stories well, this film is one of the greats. It is so daring and powerful in it's storytelling. Lean never wastes an inch of screen space. He holds shots for unusually long times, all to heighten the effects of the storytelling. His cuts are purposeful and sometimes startling. I could go on and on and on. If you're into storytelling, watch it. Many times.

While I haven't seen much of the world I have been fortunate enough to spend some time in Egypt during my Army years and as luck would have it I just happened to be in T.E. Lawrence's neck of the woods. I've seen some of the desert that David Lean captured on film and I can attest first hand that the film does an amazing job of capturing that desert. It is old. It is hot. The rocks have been baked by the sun for thousands and thousands of years. It is nothing but tans and browns. In the day it can be as hot as 135° Fahrenheit. It almost never rains and yet, for all that harshness, it is amazing. Awe inspiring. Like the Grand Canyon, it helps one to understand one's place in the universe.

Loving movies I naturally love movie scores. I grew up on John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith. I love them both and yet neither of them boasts the score that sits atop my favorites list. That score, if you hadn't guessed, belongs to Maurice Jarre and his amazing score for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. I had it with me in the desert and listened to it on several occasions. The version I had on CD, the only one available at the time, was from the original recordings. It was, and is, a great CD.

99.99% of the time I prefer original recordings to re-recordings. A re-recording? Yup, a re-recording. From time to time a score will be re-recorded for one reason or another. Someone licenses the work to record and sell a body or work, or maybe the original tapes were lost or destroyed and a re-recording is the only way to present the music today. No matter how good it is though it's never the same as the original. When a composer in on site to supervise or even conduct, you get the true intent of what the composer wanted. I guess I'm a purist because that's always my preference. Every once in a blue moon, however, an exception comes along, and that's what this entire post is about.

Tadlow music, owned and headed by James Fitzpatrick, has recently created a re-recording of Maurice Jarre's score for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and it has done nothing but confirm that this is indeed the best score I have ever encountered. It was recorded by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and they should be proud of what they've accomplished. Nic Raine, who used to work with Maurice Jarre, conducted, and has done a masterful job of ensuring that this new recording is as faithful to the original recording as possible. It contains the complete score for the film, orchestrated from Jarre's original composition notes.

It is amazing. Have I said that already? Who cares. I should say it a hundred times. The quality is superb, as good as any real score recording. Better than some. It is mastered with all of today's quality goodness and it is almost as moving for me to hear now, in its complete form, as it was when the screen first went dark in the Ziegfeld Theater and Jarre's Overture blasted into the dark, four and a half minutes of orchestra with no picture.

If you have ever been a fan of film music then you owe it to yourself to own this recording. You will not be disappointed.


You can also buy it here

And you should own the movie as well. I can't wait to finally get a Blu-Ray player and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA on Blu-ray. It will definitely be the first film I watch on Blu-ray. Yes, I know it's sad that I don't have one yet, but it is a time of tight budgets and it's a want, not a need, so I bide my time and remain patient. Until then, though, I have this amazing new version of the score to listen to over and over. And over.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Cleanliness Conundrum

I use a washrag when I take showers. I put the soap in it (liquid soap), lather it up, and clean myself. When I'm done I rinse it thoroughly and hang it to dry. Now, theoretically, shouldn't the washrag always be clean? It basically gets washed every single day, right? So why, if you use the rag too long, does it start to smell of funk?