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U-TURN: SOUNDTRACK

CD Soundtrack Review
By Lynden Barber

U TURN
Music from the Motion Picture.
(Songs by Various Artists, Original Music Composed, Orchestrated and Conducted by Ennio Morricone).
Epic EK68778.

Two groups of listeners should be pleased by the soundtrack for Oliver Stone's desert noir, to be released in March, 98: Ennio Morricone fans, and those who delight in the unadulterated joys of cornball 1950s and 60s country music. Those of us who enjoy both will find this a double pleasure, though for the benefit of those who like only one, the two strands are separated out - the songs first, the original score last (of course you can always mix them up using your player's programming or random functions).

"The country tunes are pure gold"

Morricone's score here is one of his most distinctive and attention-grabbing for a while, and the country tunes are pure gold: Johnny Cash (Ring of Fire, Honky-Tonk Girl), Ricky Nelson (Lonesome Town) , Patsy Cline (Your Cheatin' Heart ) along with nuggets by the lesser-known Webb Pierce, Gloria Lynne and Sammi Smith. While much of this may be drenched in sentimentality, it's a mistake, I think, to dismiss this music as kitsch. Three things make it stand out: the sense of ingrained regional character in a music today taken over by chain-brand standardisation; the quality of singing and sheer tunefulness (Johnny Cash's lovable bark notwithstanding), and finally, the way it somehow manages to transcend the era's saccharine conventions by plugging directly into the performers' emotional wellsprings.

Though the film has a contemporary setting, the anachronistic songs establish the backwoods nature of the town where Sean Penn's protagonist finds himself stuck, while the lyrics comment on the action - nowhere more sarcastically than the deliriously cheerful opener, Peggy Lee's "It's a Good Day" - a sure sign that for Penn, it will be anything but (I did say this was a noir)..

"Unusual instrumental combinations to create music thick with atmosphere"

Morricone's 42 minutes of original soundtrack demonstrate this veteran Italian composer's skill for combining memorable orchestral themes with unusual instrumental combinations to create music thick with atmosphere. Despite the film's western setting, he avoids the obvious, eschewing the twanging spaghetti western guitar sound for which he's best known (and which has been pastiched to death). Instead his orchestral arrangements are augmented by an unexpected array of sounds which at times echo some of his best, but less well-known, earlier work: the jew's harp of Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, the stabbing bass piano chords of Peur Sur La Ville, along with the pan pipes of his popular score for The Mission.

Rural America is connoted with banjo and harmonica, the latter joyful and jaunty (over threatening bass chords!) rather than haunting in the manner of Once Upon a Time in the West. As the score progresses, it darkens in mood, reaching a Bernard Herrmann-ish pitch: think Psycho. This is all beautifully recorded, and rewards constant replaying. Whatever you think of Oliver Stone, if you enjoy Morricone - and is there is a movie fan who doesn't? - this is well worth the investment.
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U-TURN
The Film

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: March 5, 1998

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar

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