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Quotes of the Week: Brian Eno’s Lovely Bones Score

The Lovely Bones marks not only director Peter Jackson’s return (to semi-realistic film-making, following his Lord of the Rings blockbusters) but also that of musician Brian Eno. Lovely Bones is the first feature film since 2005’s The Jacket with a full, original Eno score. Here’s a survey of how various film critics reacted to it:

A.O. Scott at nytimes.com, on the film’s more fantasy-laden sequences:

“It’s a mid-’70s art-rock album cover brought to life (and complemented by a score composed by the ’70s art-rock fixture Brian Eno), and while its trippy vistas are sometimes ravishing, they are also distracting. ‘Heaven,’ a Talking Heads song once pointed out, is ‘a place where nothing ever happens.’”

David Denby at newyorker.com:

“Heaven is notoriously harder to make interesting than Hell, but Jackson has outdone other artists in cotton candy—there are luscious hills and dales, and gleaming lakes and fields of waving grain, and sugarplum fairies with music by Brian Eno rather than by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.”

Todd McCarthy at variety.com:

“Jackson shows his low-budget horror-film roots in the way he shoots the sinister scenes, with silhouetting white lights, heavy fog effects, wide-angle closeups and generic synth backgrounding from Brian Eno’s otherwise effective score.”

All of which said, the majority of reviews at major publications didn’t even seem to note the Eno score, except with the occasional credit-bundle sidebar: washingtonpost.com, latimes.com, villagevoice.com, slate.com, guardian.co.uk, chicagotribune.com.

By Marc Weidenbaum

Tags: , / Comments: 4 ]

4 Comments

  1. estevan carlos benson
    [ Posted December 31, 2009, at 2:25 pm ]

    Mercy, where should I start.

    Early on in this movie, a movie I have issues with, I immediately felt this score was suffering. I knew nothing about this film and had no idea who was involved in it outside the director. I recall telling myself, “As soon as this is over, I’m going to IMDB and I’m going to contact the sound designer and person in charge of the score.”

    I was pretty floored to see it was Eno. We can not encourage him to continue doing work like this any longer.

    The score felt like a interpretative dancer popping in front of the scene trying to explain the story to you. Practically every musical gesture was made with a fist. Eno needs to freshen up on his Cage and realize the sounds of the environment sometimes speak more than a forced composition.

    I felt like I was barraged by two people simultaneously trying to tell me the same story. Jackson threw fast cuts, over the top close-ups and slow motion. All the while Eno smothered it in overly-sentimental keyboard melodies, “swooshes” and the ambient equivalent of the cliched, “DUM DUM DUMMM” theme.

    How many different ways does a movie need to communicate that a scene is full of “danger”? At the very least the score can pull back to avoid the pits of melodrama. I’m sensitive to scores and sound design and so I hold those involved to higher expectations. Eno made glaring mistakes in this score. Thumbs down.

  2. Marc Weidenbaum
    [ Posted January 4, 2010, at 11:43 am ]

    Esteven, I still haven’t had the opportunity to catch the film. I’d hoped to in LA during a New Year trip, but the timing didn’t work out. It’s not out yet in San Francisco, where I live, but I trust it’ll be here soon — all the posters around town simply say “January.”

  3. David Woodall
    [ Posted January 16, 2010, at 5:33 pm ]

    I cannot disagree more with the first poster. While the movie certainly had flaws, I for the most part enjoyed hearing his songs in a movie. Now, I will admit I am a huge Eno fan, and recognized nearly all the music in the film from his previous works. most, if not all of the music in the film were pieces Eno wrote in the past, and I heard very little to no original music scored for the film. It was almost bizarre to me hearing one of my favorite eno tracks of all time juxtaposed with a body being dumped in a landfill. I certainly enjoyed the film’s music more than The Road. After I watched it I immediately thought using brian eno-esque ambient tracks would have lifted the movie up a bit and made it more watchable.

  4. Martin
    [ Posted February 22, 2010, at 4:11 am ]

    Weeell.. The movie was set in the ’70’s.. I thought there was a deliberate attempt to avoid anachronism (any Eno fan would have noticed an excerpt from, say, ‘Apollo’ or ‘Nerve Net’) so thought that re-using bits from his ’70’s work was just fine..

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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