Even before technology got to a point where any type of sound could be attached to film to tell stories, music was used to set tone, create mood, and even in some cases replace words. In the early days of cinema, it would often be played live by either an organ or in some cases even a string ensemble. If you and yours were truly high-falootin’, you might even get a full orchestra playing to the images being played out on the silver screen. No matter what, the film score has always been an integral part of almost any film for the director to take the audience right where they want them to be at any point in order to have just the right emotional impact.
First-time director Matt Schrader takes some time to explore the history of this art form in “Score: A Film Music Documentary”. Currently making its rounds on the festival circuit and featured during the 11th Dallas International Film Festival, he takes his story from the origins in the one-auditorium houses with an organist all the way up until the contemporaries like Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, not missing a beat in between. There are even interviews in this doc by the likes of Quincy Jones, Leonard Maltin, Garry Marshall, James Cameron, and Stephen Spielberg (in archival footage with John Williams during that chapter). This documentary is well put together, covering all of the major points through the history of cinema as it seems to be directed to those who are looking for a more “101” approach to the evolution of the film score. For people who are a bit more well-versed in movie music like myself, I didn’t really find myself learning much, but that did not mean that there were not times during this where I was not “air conducting” as some of the more familiar passages were being represented. Personally, I would like to have seen some new footage from some of Spielberg or Williams as they look back on some of their more famous works or even some more time spent with Reznor and Ross. I am sure there were some time constraints that Schrader was keeping himself within, and that is fine, but I am also the kind of guy that could watch stuff on this subject for hours on end.
Again, this seems to be more aimed at a larger audience than those of us that are true students of the form, but that does not mean that this is in anyway a bad documentary. This is well thought out, well executed, and I enjoyed it very much. Now, if we could just get more of a Ken Burns-ian length of a docu-series, NOW you have something.