Mr. Cellophane

In a location adjacent to a place in a city of some significance, what comes out of my head is plastered on the walls of this blog.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

My Favorite Scores: The Temp (Frederic Talgorn)

I can't say it enough, kids: I love film music. The sounds, the melodies, the emotions it arouses. I've had an interest in film music for roughly two decades and, in that time, I've come across a number of scores that I've no qualms about calling my favorites.

Before Fatal Attraction burned up the box office and threatened to sweep the Oscars, few movies (if any) entertained the thought that your tenant, your roommate, your nanny, the friendly beat cop or the girl next door were, deep down, fucking nuts. After the release of the 1987 thriller, Hollywood was fleet of foot in exploiting every single one of these possibilities. One of the more forgotten (and forgettable) entries in this 'psycho cycle' (try saying that five times fast) was 1993's The Temp.

Directed by Tom Holland (Fright Night, Child's Play) on the first leg of his slide into irrelevance, the film centered around neurotic junior executive Peter Derns (Timothy Hutton) and the trouble that results when his temporary assistant Kris (Lara Flynn Boyle) decides not to let anything or anyone stand in her way climbing the corporate ladder. Apparently much-messed around with by its studio, Paramount, the film is worth watching for two reasons only: the overqualified cast (which also includes Faye Dunaway, Oliver Platt, Dwight Schultz, Lin Shaye, Maura Tierney and Steven Weber) and the score by Frederic Talgorn.

The Ondes martenot is one of the more debated-over instruments in film music circles. While I enjoy the color it has lent to the scores of Maurice Jarre and (especially) Elmer Bernstein, most people find it overused and annoying. Love it or hate it, Talgorn's use of it here is particularly canny. It's the first sound to be heard on the soundtrack and it recurs throughout; reflecting and commenting on (and even sometimes mocking) Peter's emotional state. (The performing of Cynthia Millar is as impeccable as ever.)

The "Main Title" introduces the composer's three-note main theme on Ondes, interweaving it with ascending piano scales, woodwinds and strings. This creates an appropriately fragile air before switching gears and setting the theme over bouncy winds and chopping strings, setting the scene for a busy office life. (Utilizing these upbeat orchestrations, a sub-motif for said office life makes itself known in "Getting the Report Out" and "Lance Leaves".)

The film sits on the edge of 'is Kris dangerous or is Peter just nuts?' for most of the running time. Doing a better job of understanding this than the film, Talgorn creates an unsettling mood with queasy strings, brooding horns and wailing Ondes in cues like "Masturbation", "Charlene Gives Peter Credit", "Don't Be So Paranoid" and "Peter Goes Through Files".

"Crimes" (assembled from two different cues) finds Peter stumbling across the bodies of his unfortunate co-workers, the Ondes groaning underneath the main theme crying out on high strings. Eventually, though, the Ondes explodes out of the quiet, reinforcing the fact that Peter may not be so crazy.

Surprisingly, not all is psychological probing, as the music has its share of quieter passages, such as "I Had This Problem", "Peter Meets Kris" and "Heart Smart", all of which bring in a flute to strike a note of humanity in the midst of lush string work. The descending woodwinds of "Sharon's Theme" help to create sympathy for Peter's ex-wife.

There's also a "Love Theme" (of strings over a deliberate piano ostinato), though to whom it corresponds is anyone's guess. It doesn't share any thematic similarities to "Sharon's Theme", which is just as well; Peter's relationship with his ex is consistently on thin ice. Also, the melody doesn't show up in the rest in the score, least of all the scenes between Peter and Kris. I can only assume that this track was written to get the composer the job on the film.

A love theme (of sorts) makes itself known in "Offshore Seduction", a flute solo flitting over a bed of strings. This could almost have been the film's love theme had the relationship between Peter and Kris not been so fractured.

In a neat departure from the rest of the score, "No Brakes" is a straight-up action cue that sends the main theme careening out of control much like the car that Peter is driving. The Ondes squeals, a xylophone rattles and its frantic horn work recalls the composer's work on RobotJox (which you can bet will receive a write-up at a future date).

As Peter (however shakily) asserts dominance in the office, the film closes out on the "End Credits", sort of a mini concerto that expounds on the main theme while running up and down the piano scales, backed up by strings.

If you're not an anti-Ondes snob and can appreciate a good psychological thriller score (with a strong emphasis on 'psychological'), you'll certainly enjoy Frederic Talgorn's The Temp as much as I do.

Availability: At the time of this writing, it's available for $3.95 at SAE.

Varese Sarabande VSD-5410 (1993)

Track Listing:
1. Main Title (2:34)
2. Getting the Report Out (1:50)
3. Heart Smart (1:40)
4. Lance Leaves (1:28)
5. Charlene Gives Peter Credit (3:05)
6. Peter Meets Kris (1:16)
7. Peter Goes Through Files (1:56)
8. Masturbation (3:32)
9. Offshore Seduction (2:08)
10. Crimes (3:14)
11. Love Theme (1:44)
12. Paranoia (3:10)
13. Sometimes I Wonder (2:16)
14. Sharon's Theme (1:54)
15. No Brakes (1:01)
16. Peter is Thrown Out (3:05)
17. I Had This Problem (2:00)
18. Confrontation (2:24)
19. Kris v. Peter (0:56)
20. Don't Be So Paranoid (3:18)
21. End Credits (3:49)



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