Saturday, September 1, 2012

SOUNDTRACK REVIEW: Arsène Lupin by Debbie Wiseman

Arsène Lupin

There are many reviewers out there that herald Batman as the greatest comic book score ever.  Those reviewers go on to complain about how disappointing the Batman Returns score was, and they lament the loss of the classical approach to grand comic book hero film scoring that – in my opinion – started and died with the Batman franchise.  A score like Batman is hard to come by these days with scores like Pirates of the Caribbean becoming the money-bringers for record companies and the choice of many movie producers. 

It’s no wonder many people in the States would be unfamiliar with Arsène Lupin.  I’m one of those unfamiliar with the film and whatever literature it’s derived from.  One thing’s for sure, it’s a popular character in Europe, more so in France since the film is French (I put two and two together).  Arsène Lupin was composed by Debbie Wiseman an English composer not widely known in the States but employed quite a bit in Europe, mainly in England.  The large budget of the film, the scope of the story, and the popularity of the character demanded an equally large score.  The end result is a score of suspense, mystery, drama, humor, romance, and some action.

Wiseman’s score is one for the film score history books.  Her complex orchestral layers are reminiscent of Elfman’s Batman.  The score is epic employing powerful, jazzy fanfares, heavy percussion at times, ballroom music, and dark choir.  The gothic setting of the film required a dark score and so Wiseman unleashed her dark side on “The Needle of Etretat,” “Theft of the Crucifix,” and most notably “Field of Lupins” where she pulls out all the stops and uses choir to amplify the sinister setting. 

Arsène Lupin is rich with themes.  Some cues are action packed developing the main fanfare amid the chaotic scoring, while other cues are comedic and a few are waltz dances like “The Ballroom.”  Two tracks contain militaristic percussion amplifying the scope of the score in “Arsène Deserted” and “Arsène Escapes.”

With strong, sweeping string swells, loud trumpet fanfares and shrills, heavy percussion and gothic choir, Wiseman fully covers the score canvas turning her score into an epic masterpiece.  Arsène Lupin is arguably one of the great scores in the past decade.  Many listeners recall being taken back to when they heard Batman for the first time and re-experiencing a powerful, symphonic wonder when listening to this score.  This was my first Debbie Wiseman score and it certainly won’t be my last!  It’s worth checking out!

My rating: 4 ½ stars

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