THE EVENING’S ENTERTAINMENT
I have been enthralled by composer Clint Mansell’s ethereal film scores since I first listened to his stunningly beautiful soundtrack to Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain (2006), a severely underrated science-fiction meditation on life, death and resurrection which was elevated beyond the surreal and impenetrable by some of the most dazzling and gorgeous string-lead soundscapes my ears have ever beheld.
Previously best known for the haunting and instantly-recognisable Requiem for a Dream (2000) score (which, trust me, you HAVE heard), Mansell’s subsequent collaborations with Aronofsky – The Wrestler (2008), Black Swan (2010), Noah (2014) – have seen his profile, job offers and award recognition rise while his output has remained recognisably… unique.
Mansell himself is all too aware that his “depressing” style of eclectic orchestration fused with electronic blips and bleeps is not to everyone’s taste. His choice of title for this tour certainly alludes to this, playfully, but in honesty, he all too frequently downplayed his talent and ability during lengthy suite introductions at London’s Royal Festival Hall on Thursday night.
Birmingham-born but now living in LA, Mansell seems like a genuine and grounded individual who would be a fascinating interviewee, reciting humorous anecdotes about Hollywood encounters from an almost everyman perspective, but he really needs to have a bit more faith in his own ability! After all, the packed-out audience all thought highly enough of his talent to pay to see him (and in my case, travel down to London for the privilege). The less said of the ridiculous number of “fans” who seemed to use every monologue as an excuse to go to the bar, the better!!
Backed by live instruments – including the Sonas Quartet on strings, and drums which added power every time they were introduced – and framed by a giant screen which complimented the audio delights with artistic visual displays by Alana Alexander, it took some getting used to hearing music I instantly associate with well-known films accompanied by alternative videos.
In some cases they were perfect (such as the trippy, staccato editing of the TV set and commericialist images during High Rise), in others bizarre (startled wildlife by night-vision during Noah) and, sadly, in the case of the goosebump-summoning finale (“Death is the Road to Awe” from The Fountain), misplaced. I understand the relevance of showcasing scratchy home movies during such a personal piece, but the transcendent music felt at odds with the uncinematic footage, particularly for the show’s crescendo.
Overall, I left the Southbank Centre come lights up at 10pm with decided mixed feelings. Clint Mansell’s majestic music still leaves me awestruck and his personality is magnetically sincere and unfeigned, but his live performance often felt more like an informal studio-hang than a polished concert hall experience.