I have to admit to not being overly familiar with the work of Joe Hisaishi, although I
have read that he is a winner of several Japanese Academy Awards. Having listened to this
soundtrack, I am as ignorant as I was before as to what qualities have earned him these
This is really no more than slickly orchestrated ear candy. At first itís built
around a catchy piano theme, which is a fine precept. Piano themes feature among the most
memorable of film and television scoring Ė Chariots of Fire, Hill Street Blues and
the like. But those themes are not only catchy, they are subtle and clever and richly
evocative. Hisaishiís theme is merely catchy because itís a sweet,
straightforward melody that resolves neatly. Which is fine in and of itself, but not much
(keyboard) chop when it serves as an endlessly repeated motif that attempts to carry the
When it is developed into more broadly suggestive chords, itís mostly suggestive
of other familiar tunes (more than a hint of Up Where We Belong) and a propensity for that
grand old art of using other composersí good ideas less well then the originals.
The production is appropriately bright and sugary, and as inoffensive as it is unlikely
Continuing with the play-it-safe philosophy, the polished piano tones are complemented
after a while with Ricko Suzukiís weeping violin. Suzuki does finesse a gorgeous and
haunting lament from his instrument that wends its way through appealingly melodic lines
of laughter and sadness, before it too is immersed in the vat of syrup.
Itís difficult to despise the lush simplicity of this soundtrack, and impossible
to get excited about it. Perhaps the best that can be said is that itís superficially
pretty; and pretty superficial.
Published: November 16, 2000