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Maps To The Stars by Howard Shore (Review)

posted Sep 7, 2014, 9:33 AM by Koray Savas

Howard Shore's popularity skyrocketed in 2001 with The Lord Of The Rings, and that trilogy of deeply woven and intricate scores will always be synonymous with his name. However, the Shore that I was introduced to, and will always be in love with, is the one that works for Fincher, Scorsese, and Cronenberg. His signature dark and brooding suspense style permeates through nearly all of his dramatic work, and his long-lasting collaboration with Cronenberg, in his own right a unique visionary, is the fruit of Shore's expansive career. Maps To The Stars is their 16th film together over the past 35 years, and is proof that the duo still know how to embody the term idiosyncratic.

The music is haunting and reflective, with hypnotic ethnic percussion rhythms interspersed between tender strings. The film is about Hollywood and all the passions and obsessions that come with it. Shore is able to really dig into the psyche of the characters, typical of his work with Cronenberg, and accentuate their struggles and desires. Julianne Moore plays a fading actress hoping to play the part in the remake of a film that made her mother famous, who is suffering from nightly visions of her mother's ghost. The aforementioned percussion rhythms flesh out these supernatural experiences and form them into this surreal repetitiveness that really digs under the skin. The score's back and forth between this nightmarish ritual and the yearning hopelessness of the string writing pull at each other to create an odd balance of unease and elation. The musical journey is quite subtle in its build and progression; Shore doesn't make you feel like you are going anywhere until you have reached the end and it hits you. "Love Is Stranger Than Death" through "Blanket Of Stars" is where the music ultimately leaves its mark, and sends you off with a distraught yet calming sensation.  "I Write Your Name," in particular, has this very strong Clint Mansell vibe that achieves so much emotionally through so little.

Maps To The Stars is a testament to Howard Shore's musical identity as a composer. The score is dark, morbid, and entrancing in a way that only Shore can achieve. It is unlike anything else he has written but is vintage Shore, and easily his best work since 2010's Edge Of Darkness. His Middle Earth scores have cast this giant shadow over the rest of his career, that it is a shame that a gem like this remains in the shadows.