November 12th, 2010

Kambei (The Seven Samurai)

The Tower of Set


  • My recuperation has been to good end; I am feeling much, much better. I will be rejoining the world of the living this weekend.


  • As I predicted, there were a lot of people complaining about the differences between the original soundtrack recording of Conan the Barbarian and the brand new recording. What I was surprised about was how many were making noise about the sound quality. While I have to admit that the disc is mastered slightly too hot, I really couldn't believe the types of complaints I was reading. I did come across a very telling comment from one person who said that he "personally remastered" over 200 titles in his collection. Now it begins to make sense; amateur audio tinkerers play around with the sound to tailor it to their own taste, only to be disappointed when professional recordings don't sound the same.


    So anyway, back to Conan. Yes, let's get back to Conan. With all of the comparisons to the original going on, I'm jazzed about hearing the unreleased music sounding this good. And by this good, I mean better performances than what you can hear in the film. It is no secret that the cues selected by Poledouris for inclusion on all of the soundtrack album cues (both the LP and the Varèse Sarabande) were the ones with the best performances, with several portions of the score that sound pretty rickety if scrutinized. "Pit Fighter," "Infidels" and "Battle of the Mounds (Part II)" all benefit from the new recording. So too does the source music, often too indistinct in the film. I was surprised to hear somebody question the melding of "The Kitchen" into "The Orgy," which is how it appears in the film (I may be a bit more used to the idea having re-created the film transition for my Let Me Tell You of the Days of High Adventure compilation).

    As for the rest, maybe it's because of I have a wider variety of tastes than some of my fellow film music aficionados, and so am more used to variations from performance to performance, but I am finding some of the differences between the two recordings to be among my favorite aspects of the new album. The different orchestrations on "Wheel of Pain," the two versions of "Theology/Civilization," "The Search" and "Night of Doom" all give a new spin to very familiar music. The finale of "Anvil of Crom" is more thunderous here and more in keeping with that heard at the Úbeda concert, I strongly believe that this is the way that Poledouris always meant for the piece to conclude. And I have to say that I am surprised at how moving I am finding this new version of "Recovery."

    James Fitzpatrick even went so far as to re-record the retracked music for the orgy fight and the finale. While he specifically recreated a lousy edit for the end credits for the sake of authenticity, the sloppy music edit during the orgy fight has been made a lot smoother.

    Apologies to all of the headbangers out there, but the hordes of bloodthirsty Vanir that this new recording conjures up will shred your heavy metal band to bloody ribbons and gallop off with all of their women (except that Bullwinkle chick from the Mötley Crüe book).


  • Akira Kurosawa is a master filmmaker, and as a result Red Beard somehow manages to spend much of its running time dwelling upon misery, but is in the end somehow inspirational instead of being depressing. Toshirō Mifune's intense performance as Doctor Kyojō Niide grounds the film; while he plays a character whose defining characteristic is his compassion, the idea of Mifune descending into sludgy sentimentality is laughable, and the movie as a whole adopts his gruff and commanding attitude.


    While the general arc of protagonist Noboru Yasumoto (Yūzō Kayama) is relatively predictable, it allows Kurosawa to present an otherwise episodic narrative, exploring different elements of the human experience from the perspective of a healer with the essential undercurrent of Kurosawa's humanism. Yasumoto's gradual realization of Niide's character and, by extension, his own, is portrayed by focussing on the patients themselves, each with their own story that demonstrates how cruel the world is to the callow youth.

    This would be the last Kurosawa film to be shot in TohoScope save Dersu Uzala, making full use of the anamorphic frame. I shudder to think about what would happen to this film's delicate framing if panned-and-scanned. Cinematographer Asakazu Nakai shot the film mostly through telephoto lenses (something of a trademark for Kurosawa), and in addition to the flattened, painterly imagery, one can also see some of interesting editing choices as well, cutting wildly different shot compostions together. Few filmmakers could visually reflect the interior landscape of his characters the way Kurosawa could.

    This would be the last Kurosawa film with Mifune. It was also, perhaps not coincidentally, his last film that concentrated on heroic figures.


  • Work on my Lord of the Rings compilation continues. Frankly, any other mix that I would have put as many hours into as I have this one since I started working on it in earnest the other day would have been already done. This particular compilation is a bit more intricate than any I've ever worked on before, with micro-edits being performed not only to insert or shorten material, but also to move from the album take/mix to the complete recording take/mix or vice-versa. The breadth of choices (again, I'm culling material from fourteen discs) and the complexity of the material is making this very difficult, but the biggest issue I have with it is that I've been waiting almost a decade to do what I'm doing now with this music, and I have to get it right.

    While I'm still aiming for a 2 disc set, I put together all of the tracks that I thought were anywhere near complete on to a disc so I could listen to them in my car while running a few errands and found it totalled around seventy minutes. Now, some of those tracks are still being worked on (one of them is already slightly shortened) and that's without any crossfades and whatnot, but I'm not sure I'll be able to fit everything onto 2 discs. It might still happen though. We'll see.


  • Well, I finally managed to successfully flip an omelet. That's gotta count for something, right? I suppose I'm probably among the few people in the world who might leap at the chance to finally be able to make liver and onions for oneself…

    Orzo. It's like the duckbilled platypus of starchy food. It's pasta but it's rice but it's really pasta but it's rice.

    Unfortunately, increased attentnion to the kitchen has made it much more apparent how important it is to keep that area organized. I really need a place to put all my pots and pans, as at present they clutter up the stove, which is inconvenient and sometimes gets in the way. A bread slice toaster, while on the surface unneccesary, is actually quite useful.