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Pop & Hiss goes to the movies: Elliot Goldenthal brings out the tension in ‘Public Enemies’

December 8, 2009 |  3:58 pm
ElliotGoldenthal Michael Mann's "Public Enemies," which chronicled the life of bank robber-turned-tragic-hero John Dillinger, is rich in music. Otis Taylor's bluesy banjo of "Ten Million Slaves" makes an early appearance, and jazz vocalist Diana Krall sings the standard "Bye Bye Blackbird." All of which freed up composer Elliot Goldenthal and his orchestra to work on the tension in Dillinger's character.

"My job was to create the dramatic fabric rather than the chronological fabric," Goldenthal said. "The chronological stuff was covered by the source music. Yet there was no composing with electronic music, including electric guitars. No synthesizers and loops. We wanted it as orchestral as we could and we wanted it very acoustic."

Goldenthal's "Public Enemies" work is fraught with tension. Even the pieces that score the love scenes come with an underlying tragic, foreboding tone. Heavy on violins, Goldenthal's compositions build slowly, and even a delicate, minimalist piano in one cue is soon overtaken by a more dooming melody.

"John Dillinger isn't always the same John Dillinger who robs a bank," Goldenthal said. "Dillinger is sprouted in the Dust Bowl and, all of a sudden, he's fashionably festooned and adored. That contrast was my big influence."

--Todd Martens


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Pop & Hiss goes to the movies: Michael Giacchino on the 'emotional time bomb' of 'Up'

The above piece appears in the Dec. 9 issue of The Envelope. Click here for more awards coverage.

Photo: Alex J. Berliner