A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
La Puta y la Ballena sounds so poetic. There is no question, is simply has to translate as something pleasantly romantic-sounding; "The Bridge and the Ballerina", perhaps; or "The Boat and the Balloon". Well no, in fact it means The Whore and the Whale, which was hugely disappointing to me on a personal level. Such, however, are the trials of life. As for the film - I'd never heard of it. This album's superlative liner notes (by Glen Aitken and Gary Dalkin) make me feel almost like I should go to prison because of this. "Not just the most hauntingly beautiful, intelligent and imaginative film of 2004 - it was, quite simply, the best." Praise indeed. It certainly sounds intriguing - it's all far too complicated for me to sum up in a sentence - but essentially it seems to be.a film about a Madrid-based journalist who traces back through her life, through Patagonia and Buenos Aires. Hopefully I will be able to see it - though I don't suppose for a moment it's readily-available. The best things in life rarely are.
Musically, the film was demanding, with Argentina of course being steeped in a grand musical tradition - of the tango - which was to play a big role in the film. However, it also called for a substantial original underscore, and that's what it got, courtesy of composers Andres Goldstein and Daniel Tarrab. As I've said on numerous occasions, I'm not a fan of composer collaborations, but in this instance it's clear that the composers split the different tracks between one another and worked independently thereon - and yet still somehow managed to come up with a hugely consistent score. (Unusually for something like this, the various tracks are individually credited to one or other of the composers in the booklet.)
It's wonderful music, too. Melancholic yet unsentimental; romantic yet not sweeping; it's gorgeous stuff. Just to give you a point of reference, since I assume that most readers will be as ignorant of the works of Goldstein and Tarrab as I am, if it reminds me of anything, it's the restrained romantic scores of Gabriel Yared. If you're a fan of his work on things like Message in a Bottle or The English Patient, you'll be in high heaven over this one. Personal and emotional, the music certainly tugs at the heartstrings, with the underscore itself focusing on an orchestra of Argentinean players - dominated by strings - playing simply beautiful music. A tip of the hat to the native stylings comes with the bandoneon solos, constantly evocative. There's also a superb cameo by solo piano in "An Argument", which is as touching as they come. Pride of place, though, goes to the violin and viola solos which tend to dominate.
After the super score come several tangos, including a couple of originals - Tarrab's "La Lamparita" and Goldstein's "Matilde La Iniciacion". Both are superb! I'm a sucker for tangos, though. Always make me want to jump into a tux and dance with a buxom blonde. (Come to think of it, most things in life make me want to jump into a tux and dance with a buxom blonde. And I ain't talking Hulk Hogan.) This is another superb release from Mellowdrama Records, who have released some excellent music so far, almost exclusively by composers who are not well-known, for relatively obscure films. Bravo to them. La Puta y la Ballena is probably the best of the lot.
Composed by ANDRÉS GOLDSTEIN DANIEL TARRAB
Album running time 46:12
Performed by members of THE NATIONAL SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA and NATIONAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA OF THE REPUBLICA ARGENTINA
conducted by ANDRES GOLDSTEIN DANIEL TARRAB
Violin LUIS ROGGERO
Viola GUSTAVO MASSUN
Engineered by JORGE MORALES FEDERICO SAN MILLAN
Produced by ANDRES GOLDSTEIN DANIEL TARRAB
Released by MELLOWDRAMA RECORDS
Serial number MEL104
Album cover copyright (c) 2006 Mellowdrama
Records; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall