Film scores

Soundtrack review: Giant (Dmitri Tiomkin – 1955)

giant

“Giant” is one of the most appreciated classical movies of all time. This massive 201 minutes long opus starring James Dean in his final role, Liza Taylor and Rock Hudson won critical appraise and is still highly regarded. I remember seeing it once and being impressed by the saga feel it had. It chronicles the life of a Texas family from 1920 until World War II. The movie is about discrimination for race, class or gender and these themes dominated the movie. The score was written by one of the most influential and brilliant composers of the golden age, Dmitri Tiomkin. The music was rereleased by Milan Records this year and it’s a good chance to get familiar with it.

I like the opening of the score. The inspirational male choir that accompanies the music of the “Main titles” make sure that everything around me fades away and that I find myself in Texas in 1920, looking at dust and oil rigs and getting ready for good and honest manual labor. But that’s not all. As the score progresses I find myself being pulled deeper and deeper into early century America, which luscious string inserts and a brass section that’s joyful and pleasing.

Then the romance comes in and it really sounds… perfect. It’s as if Tiomkin himself invented the romantic themes of that era. I recognize every single look and whispered word of every love story I’ve seen in classical movies. That sweet violin… I can almost see the images and the slightly interrupted movements of the characters because of the imperfect technological possibilities of the era. But forget about this. It’s all about the music and the romance and “First love” just charms me and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It makes me think the sweetness of discovery, of the first flame and of that impatience of seeing the one you love.

Hearing this score is like sweeping the dust of a treasure you find in the attic. Even the dust seems magical and wonderful and you don’t mind slowly wiping that coating away to reveal something precious and beautiful. When I hear “Jett Rink theme” I can’t imagine this being written by someone who wasn’t born in America. And yet Tiomkin was born far away and yet is able to capture that unique feeling of Americana perfectly. Seriously I’ve rarely heard a more purely American 40s or 50s score. The harmonica, the mandolin, the melodies… a perfect stamp of a special time.

“Giant” is one of the most special and beautiful scores you’ll hear this year. It’s a wonderful and romantic trip down memory lane and it will just warm your hearts. Please, do not miss this one.

Cue rating: 95 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 29 / 43

Album excellence: 68%

Highlights:

Main Title (Giant Theme)

Hunt Scene

Love Theme (There’s Never Been Anyone Else But You)

Jett Rink Theme

Toy Trumpet March-christmas Morning-angel’s Return

Romantic Interludes (Love Theme)

Fight Scene

Home in Reata

End Title

 

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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