Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Gustavo Santaolalla or Biutiful Sounds

Biutiful (2010) got awards and nominations everywhere from Cannes and Kodak Theatre till the numerous critic's associations all around the States, the Goya Awards (Spain) and the Ariel Awards (Mexico) , but my aim here is not to meticulously praise its endless merits. My aim is to remember one of its most attractive yet alienating features, its music. Leaving Xavier Bardem and the multi-layered plot aside, Gustavo Santaolalla is one of the key names in this beautifully sad film.

The minute I saw his name I remembered some crazy summer nights stories that Natasha have been telling me years ago, when I was equally promising her to marry her with Manu Chao (and I believed it). She had been to a concert Santaolalla gave in Athens, was amazed by his music, enthused by his free spirit and easy-going personality and his amiable band Bajofondo, exchanged contact details with the promise to see each other soon, but, you know how these things work. The most exciting people you meet, end up being a blurred dream after a while; they are lost in the dizziness of their creativity and millions of contacts and leave you with your friends, who might not be as exciting, but at least, they are yours (just saying).

Gustavo Santaolalla is originally from Argentina, but working in the States. He won the Oscar for Best Original Score two years in a row for Brokeback Mountain (2006) and Babel (2007) and he was nominated numerous times for different prizes. He has an exclusive (sic) friendship and creative relationship with  Iñárritu for whom he has composed music for all his feature films: Amores perros, 21 Grams, Babel and of course Biutiful. How does it feel to have the chance to write music for such a list of powerful images, I wonder. How does it feel to grasp the essence of them and translate it into sounds? Santaolalla's music dreams are a fusion of rock and folk, they say, but in certain moments I find them way more post-modern and intricate that that.

He uses chords, and chords again, he concocts exotic sounds, sometimes threatening, sometimes desperate or excruciating. His sounds are not always pleasant; they grab your hair till you scream, they tear your clothes, but you still stay with them. Biutiful was a similar case. Irritating sounds for the irritating concept of talking to the dead, but you stay put, you don't move from your couch, you are hypnotized by the images and the sounds and the way they give shape to abstract feelings of deception, wasted effort and tantalizing thoughts. That magical realism invented by writers found a perfect fit in his compositions. Of course, Bardem's face, engraved with pain opens the way to the heart for nightmarish sounds, but not quite.

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