Film scores

Soundtrack review: Old boyfriends (David Shire – 1979)

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It seems there is a bonanza of David Shire music to be uncovered these days. Nearly every major label is releasing one of his old scores and giving them the special edition treatment. It’s Intrada’s turn now to bring to us the score for the 1979 movie “Old boyfriends”. This is a movie with quite the bill: it’s directed by Paul Schroeder (the guy who wrote “Taxi driver” and “Raging bull”) and the main character is played by Talia Shire (incidentally the composer’s wife at that time and the female star of the “Godfather” and “Rocky” franchises”. The story is about a psychiatrist who seeks out old boyfriends who had a negative impact on her in the wake of her failed marriage.

The opening of the score catches me by surprise. The “Main titles” are a storm of sounds and instruments raining upon me and making me look around to see how I ended up in the middle of the action. I need to focus and catch the ideas flying around me. I hear that unmistakable 70s thriller sound, I hear shadows of European movie scores and I hear a composer determined to make a statement and make us think that this score will be more aggressive than we expected.

The love scene comes next and quiets down the storm a bit. It’s always a joy to hear pure orchestral music like this in an age when sound effects seem to dominate the sound. David Shire’s composition is a soothing balm for our souls and a reminder of how film music should sound. I close my eyes and enjoy the violin, the piano and every other instrument. I am enjoying this sanctuary of nostalgia. The shadows of film noir in some of the more serious cues remind me of Bernard Hermann at times and I love it.

“Old boyfriends” focuses on the internal turmoil of the main character. Reading about the movie I expected a quiet and intimate score but the music almost never rests. The only breaks are for the love scene themes (one for each boyfriend) and my favorite is “Diane & Eric”. There something about it that makes me feel melancholic. That wonderful dialogue between two piano motifs which are joined by a lush saxophone insert later on make for a gorgeous cue which will echo deep inside you. I had to stop and listen to it a few more times because David Shire managed to express in music just how a buildup of emotions feels like.

“Luddington walk” is romance at its best: rich, warm and melodic. I could fall in love with this cue. This is the trade of a great composer: no matter how short this score is I feel as if I’ve been part of this story for ages. Each moment of “Old boyfriends” has something special in it and I don’t need more than the mere 31 minutes of run time to be convinced that this is a marvelous piece of film music history. I am happy to get the change to listen to it after 36 years. This one is a must for any film music lover.

Cue rating: 93 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 22 / 31

Album excellence: 70%

Highlights:

Main Title

Love Scene: Dianne & Eric

To Luddington

Luddington Walk

Love Scene: Dianne & Wayne (Theme From Old Boyfriends)

Jeff Returns / Finale

End Title (Theme From Old Boyfriends)

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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