is undoubtedly a successful composer of film scores, and he has collaborated with numerous film makers who are equally as successful and respected as himself. Joe Dante comes to mind with the composer scoring his early movies, THE HOWLING and PIRANHA, the composer also had a great working relationship with film maker Brian De Palma, and began to work with him back in 1976, on CARRIE, this was a movie that was destined to be scored by Bernard Herrmann
who had previously worked with De Palma on OBSESSION but sadly he passed away suddenly after completing the score for TAXI DRIVER. Donaggio came to the attention of De Palma via his score for DON’T LOOK NOW. This first creative outing led to Donaggio becoming De Palma’a favoured composer for a while, the pair working together on movies such as HOME MOVIES, DRESSED TO KILL, BLOW OUT, BODY DOUBLE and RAISING CAIN, the latter being the last movie they worked on together, De Palma then opting to utilize the services of other composers because Donaggio was busy working on films in his native Italy. So it was something of a surprise to see these two highly creative forces coming together again on De Palma’s latest production PASSION. The movie however in my opinion does not come close to the previous cinematic works of De Palma as scored by Donaggio. PASSION is in fact a re-make of a fairly recent French movie entitled CRIME D’AMOUR, but certainly does not live up to expectations. The score however is a delight, this is Donaggio back firmly in the scoring saddle,(not that I am suggesting he was ever out of it) the composer admits himself he made a number of bad decisions during the 1980,s and opted not to move to Hollywood at a time when he was literally flavour of the month there. Who knows if he had re-located to Hollywood maybe it would have been his name on the credits of films such as GREMLINS, CASUALTIES OF WAR, THE UNTOUCHABLES etc etc. But that as they say is history, Donaggio chose to remain in Italy and work on lower budget movies that were produced mainly by friends of the composer. True he has drifted back into the spotlight occasionally with scores for movies such as UP AT THE VILLA, but very soon faded back into the shadows, the composer’s music however has always been of high quality and in many cases has remained memorable whereas recollections of the film are dim and distant. Sadly this is true of his latest assignment, PASSION is a movie that really falls short of the mark in so many areas, and it will be Donaggio’s score alone that this film will be remembered for. As always the composer hands the baton to his long time friend and collaborator Natale Massara who conducts the Czech Symphony orchestra on this occasion. The opening cue TWIN SOULS, is a quirky almost impish sounding piece, with woods and pizzicato strings punctuating proceedings, the oboe coming into its own on this particular cue, in fact it did put me in mind of something that Herrmann would have penned if he were still with us and I suppose can be referred to as a roguish sounding jaunt that has a slow tango tempo, if there is such a thing. It is however entertaining, well written and flawlessly performed. Track number 2, THE BREAKDOWN is a beautiful sounding theme performed on piano, and has to it a style and sound that Donaggio achieved in the quieter moments of his scores for PIRANHA and HOME MOVIES, piano is joined by a delicate and subtle sounding violin solo which accompanies the melodic and melancholy sound of the piano and compliments and supports it elegantly, relaying and creating an atmosphere that is emotionally affecting. Track 3, THE PASSION THEME, is a highly emotive piece of writing, this being the central theme from the score, Donaggio employing strings and piano to convey a powerful yet heartrending composition which builds slowly into an adagio like passage that is drenched in an assortment of emotions and contains a lavish and lush sound which did bring back memories of his THE MUSEUM track in DRESSED TO KILL. The composer also works this theme into later cues from the score, most notably track number 9, THE LAST DROP. Track 5, KNOW THAT KNOW starts out as a taught and somewhat low key affair, electric bass lays down a tense sounding backing that is built on by the composer with strings and woodwind, these are joined by subtle use of brass, the strings gradually becoming more prominent as the cue progresses building tension and creating an atmosphere that is filled with apprehension and uncertainty, until in the last throws of the cue the strings make a sudden upsurge in a Psycho- esque frenzy that is short lived by effective. This is a score that should be in a place of prominence in any soundtrack collection, it is filled to overflowing with expressive and passionate music which has been created by a composer who deserves more recognition for the wonderful music he has given cinema. This is definitely one to go out and get.
Read other recent reviews by John Mansell: Addio, Fratello Crudele
, The Dark Side of Light