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SCORE! The 150 greatest OST’s – pt. 14 (of 15)

Almost done! We’re into classic territory now, as we head towards the top 20 soundtracks of all time. Enjoy – and don’t forget to comment!

20.) Paris, Texas (1984) – Ry Cooder

Wim Wenders directs the classic existential love story, starring Harry Dean Stanton, Nastassja Kinski and Dean Stockwell and adapted by L.M. Kit Carson from Sam Shepard’s play. The story of a man who wanders out of the desert with no recollection of who he is is a meditation on how our lives affect the lives of others – especially our loved ones. The soundtrack is awesome, by prolific guitarist and producer Ry Cooder, who has played with everyone from Captain Beefheart to Taj Mahal and who not long ago introduced the world to the Buena Vista Social Club. His soundtracks include The Long Riders, Johnny Handsome and even Trespass. This time out he uses some incredibly poignant slide guitar to create a Brian Eno-like soundscape. Here’s track 1, “Paris Texas”:

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and track 2, “Brothers”:

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and track 4, “Cancion Mixteca”:

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19.) Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) – Joe Hisaishi

Master storyteller Hayao Miyazaki has taken us to some amazing worlds over the years, none more magnificent than this future where man’s destructive nature has fundamentally altered the Earth, creating forests whose toxic spores and giant insects have forced mankind into hiding. But in the Valley of Wind there lives a princess named Nausicaä who’s empathy for all living things might be our only salvation – if she can survive the wars of man which threaten her kingdom. One of the spiritual heirs to Avatar (along with Miyazaki’s later Princess Mononoke), this is a wonderfully hypnotic visual feast of a film, aided largely by Hisaishi’s score, filled with eerie electronics and sweeping romanticism. Beside creating most of the Ghibli scores, including My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, Hisaishi has also scored several “Beat” Takeshi Kitano films (Kikujiro, Brother, Fireworks) – now that’s what you call a diverse body of work.

Here’s an excerpt from track 1:

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and track 2:

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and track 5, “Kushana No Shinryaku”:

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18.) Punch-Drunk Love (2002) – Jon Brion

Paul Thomas Anderson directs this romantic comedy about awkwardness starring Adam Sandler, Emily Watson and Philip Seymour Hoffman, wherein a down on his luck small-business owner gets a harmonium and embarks on a romantic journey with a mysterious woman. Brion also did Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Magnolia, and I ♥ Huckabees. This soundtrack, thanks to quirky compositions and glitchy electronics, outclasses the others and makes the cut. Here’s track 2, “Tabla”:

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and track 3, “Punch Drunk Melody”:

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and track 7, “Punchy Tack Piano”:

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and track 8, “He Needs Me,” a song featuring the vocals of actress Shelley Duvall, ported over from Harry Nilsson’s Popeye and given new life:

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17.) Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) – Krzysztof Komeda

Roman Polanski‘s vampire comedy hearkens back to a simpler time, when vampire movies were few and far between, and a good deal of them were actually watchable. Starring Polanski, Jack MacGowran, Alfie Bass and Polanski’s future wife (and future Manson victim) Sharon Tate, it’s the story of a zany professor searching a remote Transylvanian village for vampires. Komeda, an iconic figure in Polish Jazz, has composed works ranging from Classical to the Avant Garde, and his soundtracks for Polanski’s Cul de Sac and Rosemary’s Baby are also noteworthy, though this is the score that features his most impressive work. Check out the main title:

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and track 2, “Sarah In Bath”:

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and track 10, “To The Cellar”:

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and track 11, “Skiing”:

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16.) Walker (1987) – Joe Strummer

One of the truly sad stories in cinema is the blacklisting of gifted director Alex Cox by Hollywood. The man’s a genius – Repo Man, Sid & Nancy and Highway Patrolman alone corroborate this. And this film, about rogue general William Walker and his mercenary coup d’etat in Nicaragua in the middle of the 19th century is way ahead of its time, thanks to a great script by Rudy Wurlitzer (go read his novel, Quake) and Cox’s directorial vision. Starring Ed Harris, Richard Masur, Peter Boyle, and Marlee Matlin, it’s an aggressively subversive film, littered with anachronisms (modern cars, helicopters, magazines and coca cola bottles) which takes on capitalism with a spirit of Punk anarchism that’s fun to watch. It’s no wonder Joe Strummer, front man of The Clash, was enlisted to compose the score (he also appears as Faucet, and starred in Cox’s Straight to Hell). This soundtrack rocks, and for more on Strummer (who died in 2002) watch the documentary The Future Is Unwritten. Here’s track 1, “Filibustero”:

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and track 8, “The Unknown Immortal”:

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and track 10 – my favorite – “The Brooding Side of Madness”:

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and track 12, “Smash Everything”:

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15.) Kamikaze 1989 (1982) – Edgar Froese

Wolf Gremm directs German New Wave auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder in this surreal sci-fi film which exists somewhere between Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville, Elio Petri’s The 10th Victim and Jared Drake’s recent Visioneers, which tells the tale of a futuristic “Combine” which controls TV and News outlets in the near future. When a bomb threat is made on the Combine, it’s up to super-cop Jansen (Fassbinder) – an overweight, out of shape, wretched excuse for a super-cop – to investigate. With four days to solve the mystery, Jansen looks to the combine’s enemy, Krysmopompas, and becomes embroiled in an absurd mystery that revolves around the Combine’s mysterious 31st floor – hidden somewhere within their Tower’s 30 floors. Froese was a member of electronica trailblazers Tangerine Dream, who made fine soundtracks to Firestarter, Thief, Near Dark and Miracle Mile – but this solo effort is unquestionably superior – so don’t bother questioning it, just seek out the hard to find soundtrack and listen repeatedly. Here’s track 1, “Videophonic”:

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and track 7, the awesome “Blue Panther”:

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and track 11, “Tower Block”:

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14.) Taxi Driver (1976) – Bernard Herrmann

Martin Scorsese directs Paul Schrader‘s classic character study of Travis Bickle, an unhinged insomniac cab driver who calls himself “God’s lonely man” and obsesses over innocence and sin. It features bold direction by a young Scorsese, one of the screen’s finest performances by Robert De Niro and fine acting by all assembled: Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, Harvey Keitel, Peter Boyle (again) and Albert Brooks. It also features an incredible score by Bernard Herrmann, who’s given us some of the most memorable film music of all time: Citizen Kane, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Vertigo, Psycho, Fahrenheit 451 and Sisters, to name but a few. If there were a Mount Rushmore of film composers he’d be up there – and here he’s given us one of his finest works, combining the feel of late night jazz with neurotic military vamps to create a portrait of unpredictable schizophrenia. Case in point, track 1, the main title”

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and track 15, “I Work the Whole City”:

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and track 16, “Betsy in a White Dress”:

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13.) Superfly (1972) – Curtis Mayfield

Gordon Parks Jr., son of Shaft director Gordon Parks, gives us the other seminal blaxploitation film, starring Ron O’Neal, Carl Lee and Sheila Frazier. This time out our protagonist is a big pimpin’ cocaine dealer who has a change of heart and decides to make one last score before running off to start a new life – but of course the Mob has other plans for him. Funk and Soul legend Curtis Mayfield began his career as a member of The Impressions before branching out in the 1970’s with hit after hit and classic album after classic album. This album belongs in every audiophile and cinephile’s collection. In fact it’s nearly perfect – my only complaint is the line, “the oppressed seem to have suffered the most in every continent, coast to coast” at the beginning of No Thing On Me (Cocaine Song). I always cringe at the logic expressed in that line – of course the oppressed suffer – it’s what makes them oppressed. That’s like saying “the malnourished have always been the least well fed, throughout history.” Aside from that, this is a flawless outing. Here’s track 2, “Pusherman”:

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and track 6, “Eddie You Should Know Better”:

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and track 9, “Superfly”:

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12.) The Great Silence [Il Grande Silenzio] (1968) – Ennio Morricone

Admit it. You were wondering when I’d get to Morricone. Well, here he is – providing the score to Sergio Corbucci‘s unique Western, set in the snow and starring Jean-Louis Trintignant as a mute gunslinger named Silence who’s hired to exact revenge on a cruel villain named Loco, played by the one and only Klaus Kinski. Hyper-stylistic, filled with flashbacks, violence, and a bleak ending, it’s a memorable film – and a memorable soundtrack. One of the other faces on that aforementioned Mount Rushmore, Morricone’s body of work is vast, consistently outstanding, and daunting to sift through, with highlights being Navajo Joe, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, The Big Gundown, The Battle of Algiers, Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, Peur sur la ville [Fear Over the City], Autostop Rosso Sangue [Hitch Hike], The Mission, The Untouchables and Cinema Paradiso. You can really take your pick and find a winner. I did, and it’s The Great Silence. Here’s track 1, “Il Grande Silenzio Restless”:

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and track 2, “Passaggi Nel Tempo”:

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and track 4, “Barbara E Tagliente”:

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11.) La Ragazza Fuori Strada [Cross Country Girl] (1973) – Piero Umiliani

Luigi Scattini directs this Italian melodrama about an Italian journalist who falls in love with a beautiful black girl, and brings her home to his provincial hometown where she faces racism, hypocrisy, derision and cruelty by his family and friends. The soundtrack by Piero Umiliani is definitely the highlight – Umiliani was a jazz musician who played with Gato Barbieri for a time and also gave us the wonderful soundtracks for Il Corpo and Svezia, Inferno e Paradiso [Sweden, Heaven and Hell] – for which he created the famous Mah nà, mah nà song – seen here on target=”_blank”>The Muppet Show. Here’s the opening track, “Volto Di Donna”:

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and track 3, the beautiful “Nostalgia”:

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and track 10, “Cantata Per Maryam”:

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and track 13, “La Prima Uscita”:

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Click to see part 1 (OST’s #141-150) , part 2 (131-140),  part 3 (121-130), part 4 (111-120), part 5 (101-110), part 6 (91-100), part 7 (81-90), part 8 (71-80), part 9 (61-70), part 10 (51-60), part 11 (41-50), part 12 (31-40), part 13 (21-30), part 14 (11-20) and part 15 (1-10).

And tune in next week, as we bring you the finale – the créme de la créme, the thrilling, fantastic, glorious conclusion of our countdown!

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