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Review by Brad Green:
Sometimes a picture sings a thousand notes. Take a good look at this album cover; you will find few CD facades with such genuine clues as to the audio within. So what do we see? Firstly there’s that rather battered window frame, which invites us to peer into a landscape so utterly painterly that we might as easily be looking at canvass as through glass. The vista is all green and gold foliage and rolling blue hills, and everything is saturated in sunlight. Given the title we can confidently assume that these are Mediterranean pastures. To the fore of this framed vista, Diane Lane almost seems to be floating in her cotton white shirt as she sports a smile that makes a sunny Tuscan morning look like a wintery London afternoon, and seems pleasantly oblivious to the bouquet of sunflowers being proffered from stage left by a disembodied hand.

Now translate all that to strumming guitars and jaunty ensembles of piano, fiddle and accordion, laced with woodwind when the going gets whimsical. According to the blurb, composer Christophe (that’s right no “r”) Beck in league with director Audrey Wells, set out to combine three approaches into the one score. The screenplay is based on Frances Mayes’ autobiographical best-seller: a standard sea-change yarn involving an American writer reeling from a divorce, writer’s block and a bad case of the doldrums, reinventing her modus vivendi under a Tuscan sun. Beck aimed for one strand of vibrant modernity, another that nodded to the style of legendary Italian composer Nino Rota, and a final thread that evoked the peculiar milieu of flirtatiousness, comedy and romance that Anglo-Saxon sensibility customarily associates with the Mediterranean. 

The result presents more cohesively than the strategy suggests. If you wish to make the effort you can peg certain cues quite confidently. The opening track Follow The Sun, reprised in the End Titles, is among the soundtrack’s strongest and its jangling guitars suggest the spring in the step that comes with a new adventure. The hypnotic quaver pulse of I Broke My Heart In San Francisco suggests that the golden hues of the Tuscan countryside could patch it up again and the languid jazz of Wish You Were Here beckons a cautious rediscovery of love and the fresh experience of a rustic dolce vita. 

Although the score lacks a compelling hook or element of innovation to raise it from agreeable to thrilling, it is consistently sensuous, lushly textured and as vivacious as its cover. As such, best enjoyed through a walkman while working up a tan on a chaise longue with a plate of sun dried tomatoes and oversized olives at the ready. 

Published February 26, 2004

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TITLE: Under The Tuscan Sun
ID: 206 62 407-2 
Hollywood Records
SCORE: Christophe Beck

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