Flickering Myth’s writing team discuss their favourite movie soundtracks; next up is David Bishop with The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford…
How many times have you left the cinema and immediately said “I need to buy the soundtrack.”? Chances are, not that often. While Andrew Dominik’s poetic take on the Wild West of America is near perfect in almost every way, it’s the heartbreakingly melodic sounds of Bad Seed members Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, which really stick with you long after the credits role.
Traditionally, a film score should be used to enhance the images, not take over. But such is the power, and prominence, of Cave and Ellis’ score, that it almost dominates the entire film. But then, there’s nothing traditional about this score. Eschewing the usual heroic soundtrack of the Classic Hollywood Western, the soundtrack showcases the unheroic nature of the characters and their inevitable, unheroic, fate.
In a way, because of the lack of dialogue, and for long stretches actual incident, the score naturally comes to the fore more often than not. Jesse James almost plays like a silent film for long stretches, with the story and emotions told through music and facial expressions, rather than dialogue.
Good thing to, because this soundtrack is one of the highlights of modern cinema. Building on the haunting themes composed for The Proposition, the duo expand their range and prove equally at home composing the American West as they do the Australian Outback.
Highlights include ‘Rather Lovely Thing’, ‘Moving On’, ‘Song for Jesse’, ‘Falling’ and ‘What Happens Next’. In fact there’s not one track on the entire album which you’ll find yourself skipping over. Each piece of music manages to honour the genre’s past while at the same time completely re-inventing it. And that is a rather lovely thing indeed.
Also, seek out the track ‘Mary’s Song’ on YouTube. It’s not on the soundtrack album, but it damn well should be.