All About Mother

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All About Mother

Posted on: May 11th, 2014 by tommyj

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Helen Mirren, Julia Roberts and Anne Bancroft have played various mothers, but the most chilling screen mum in recent years has been Jackie Weaver as Janine ‘Smurf’ Cody in the Australian movie, Animal Kingdom (2010). Composer, Anthony Partos’ music is full of an unsettling dread, as it progressively propels mum and her scummy brood towards their fate. Partos, a three-time AFI award winner, often blends acoustic, ambient and electronic sounds to great effect. His brief, but uncannily effective theme for the ABCTV series The Slap (2011) is electrifying. Partos has most recently composed for the ABC TV series Janet King (2014) and Redfern Now (2013).

Susan Sarandon plays a much more conventional mother in Stepmom (1998). She’s Hollywood’s old standby: the long-suffering, all-sacrificing, terminally-ill mum, who’s been replaced by ex-hubby’s new model, (Julia Roberts). Unashamedly sentimental, and shot in sylvan hues, the film is pitched, in the trailer, as a romcom, but it’s more of a weepie. The mood is matched by John Williams’ score. He expertly underscores the emotional journey and provides some nice touches of humour.

When there’s pregnancy and sudden death at the convent, Mother Miriam Ruth (Anne Bancroft) – the most interesting character in Agnes of God (1985) – believes a miracle may have occurred. Court-appointed psychiatrist, Jane Fonda, thinks otherwise. Composer Georges Delerue’s music sounds like he’s on the side of God, but scientific music is not Delerue’s thing. In a distinguished career, which includes music for Day for Night (1973), Platoon (1986) and The Black Robe (1991), Delerue’s score for this tussle between religion and reason bears his trademark ability to evoke mood and character; here strings and woodwind, in the classical style, are particularly effective.

In Some Mother’s Son (1996), Helen Mirren, a middle-class Belfast widow, is stunned when her son is convicted for murdering a British soldier. Republican mother, Fionulla Flanagan is proud that her son has been involved in the same incident. Although it’s about the Irish Republican hunger strikes of 1981, the film eschews politics to focus on the emotional, human impact of the sectarian violence. The score by Bill Whelan, a native of Limerick, is unmistakeably Irish – full of passion and longing. Whelan is most famous for the 1994 stage- show, ‘Riverdance’, and is probably responsible for the world-wide craze for Irish dancing which ensued. He has worked with U2, Van Morrison, and has composed for other Celtic-inflected movies like My Left Foot (1989) and Rob Roy (1995).

All About My Mother (1999), like many of Pedro Almodovar’s later films, is a melodrama with a healthy dose of emotional sophistication. After the death of her teenage son, single mother Manuela goes in search of the father, and becomes involved with a famous actress, a transvestite prostitute and a nun (amongst others). Underscoring the screwball pace and the camp humour is a score by Almodovar’s favourite composer, Alberto Iglesias. The music is both cool and intense – and influenced, in places, by that master of the intense, Bernard Herrmann. Iglesias, probably Spain’s most successful living composer, was trained in guitar, piano, composition and electronic music. He also creates works for concert hall and string quartet, and has composed several original scores for Nacho Duato and his National Dance Company.

During the 1960s the Italian film industry was at full-tilt, and composer Ennio Morricone was much in demand. In fact, he scored about 10 films a year during that decade. This prolific output might account for the score of the 1969 release, Cuore di Mamma (Mother’s Heart) sounding a bit like the studio pick-up band are playing it at first sight. Nevertheless, it’s an inventive and melodic Morricone score, in which he blends various keyboard sounds with strings. The track we air today is a kind of baroque counterpoint to the surreal action of the movie.

Prolific is not a strong enough adjective to describe singer Lata Mangeshkar. She’s in the Guinness Book of Records for having sung over 25,000 songs in 10 Indian languages. Most of her songs were for movies, because since 1931 Indian film songs have played a crucial role in the popularity of their movies – the songs are what initially attract the audiences to the movies, and ensure their success. This week, a pop hit, based on a bhajan which tells of a dialogue between Lord Krishna and his mother. It’s from the 1978 movie Satyam Shivam Sundaram. Krishna’s vocal is by another veteran Bollywood singer, Manna Dey.

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