The awesome ScoreKeeper is back with a look at Danny Elfman's NACHO LIBRE score.
I enjoyed this movie much more than I expected to. I truly, madly, despise nearly everything about NAPOLEON DYNAMITE (director Jared Hess' previous film), and had the lowest of low expectations for this follow-up.
But NACHO's heart is warmer...and its pace brisker...than ND, and I found the film pleasantly engaging. By no means flawless, but a whole lot of fun. And, really, how can any self-respecting male not completely melt for Ana de la Reguera?
I also had a blast with the music..across the board...but I'll let ScoreKeeper tell you all about that...
Greetings! ScoreKeeper here unmasking Danny Elfman’s score for NACHO LIBRE.
Many people who follow film music keenly were never aware that Danny Elfman picked up the scoring assignment for NACHO LIBRE after the original composer, Beck, suddenly left the project. The stealthy switch occurred so deep in post-production and Elfman produced the score so quickly that his name has yet to make it on the majority of the marketing materials for the film including the official NACHO LIBRE web site. Other than a brief report of the recording session courtesy of soundtrack.net, there has been very little geek-gabbing surrounding Elfman’s latest cinematic endeavor.
Having learned of his attachment to the project I was delighted to hear that one of my favorite working composers would return to the genre that once defined his career. Knowing Elfman’s music as well as I do, I thought I knew what to expect. I was wrong.
Throughout most of the film I thought they had simply cut in some rare retro-Mexican folk/pop recordings and I kept waiting to hear Elfman’s score. “Where was his music?” - I kept asking myself throughout the film. It wasn’t until the end credits that the long list of fifteen or twenty cues credited to Elfman did I realize much of this bizarre cornucopia of music was penned by Elfman himself. There was of course the obligatory pop song used here and there. A couple of them were scribed by canned NACHO scorer, Beck.
I have to say that Elfman continues to impress and amaze me. This isn’t the great Elfman score that makes me want to run out and buy the CD like EDWARD SCISSORHANDS or MEN IN BLACK did. This isn’t the latino PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE, or pop-funky FORBIDDEN ZONE that some people might be expecting. There’s no rousing theme with strobing orchestral colors, whole-tone woodwind flourishes, or tritone-leaping bass lines.
No, this is the great Elfman score that works on a more cerebral level as an afterthought within the technical context of the film. It’s the score of a filmmaker who knows how music can completely compliment Jared Hess’ wry, expressionistic brand of humor. So many other composers would have a natural inclination to want to push the comedy forward with the music whereas Elfman counterintuitively pulls it back. He allows the seriousness of the comedy to blossom untainted by the music.
Elfman approaches the film much like a television sitcom - small, punctuating cues which are frequently interrupted or cadenced after a few small phrases. The music changes drastically on a dime to fit the dynamics of the scene and he’s careful not to over-saturate the film with unnecessary music. One of my favorite cues in the film finds our heroes Nacho and Esqueleto confronted by the knife-wielding bodyguards of a rival luchador. Elfman uses a flutter-tonguing harmonica to great effect which although is short-lived, complements the scene beautifully.
Contrary to my statement earlier I do want to run out and buy this CD. If anything, just to hear such smart music from Elfman apart from the film. Unfortunately there is no scheduled release of the soundtrack that I was able to unearth. Knowing Elfman’s clout in the industry and the fact that I think NACHO LIBRE will rival NAPOLEON DYNAMITE as a cult darling, I think it’s just a matter of time before it’ll be available to the public.
Many Beck fans will be disappointed in his absence from scoring NACHO LIBRE but many film fans will rejoice that those responsibilities were given to the very capable Danny Elfman.