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Soundtrack review: The setting sun (Maurice Jarre – 1992, 2016)

This is what film music is all about. “The setting sun” is one of the more beautiful and intimate war scores I have ever heard.

“The Setting Sun” is a 1992 historical drama film based on a novel of the same name by the director Rou Tomono. The U.S. release was in 1999. Set during the run up to World War II, the film centers on Tatsuma Kaya (Masaya Kato), a brooding secret agent for the Japanese Imperial Army. His mission is to gather funds for Japan’s impending invasion of Manchuria by any means necessary. That includes robbing a Chinese bank and selling salt in the Manchurian countryside at ludicrously inflated prices. Kaya’s life gets ever more complicated when he runs into an old lover, a Chinese cabaret singer and cat burglar named Lian (played by Diane Lane).. Intrada released the definitive edition in 2016 with the composition arranged in lengthy suites just like composer Maurice Jarre would have wanted. He is one of the best when it comes to romantic orchestral compositions and I am always excited to hear a great composer score a movie with Japanese influences. When Hans Zimmer or John Williams did it they delivered some of their best scores.

For me listening to a Maurice Jarre score is one of the most comfortable places I could be in. He is one of the very few composers I never get nervous about. His name is a guarantee that I will love that score and enjoy listening to it. There’s a certain flow of the music that’s very natural and in tune with the normal passing of time. His music is never aggressive or jumpy. The silky sound makes me feel warm and relaxed and I can listen to a score like “The setting sun” for hours. The Japanese influence which translates into those special string make this one even more soothing and I find myself wonderfully lost in the first big cue, the 11 minute long theme for the main character “Tatsuma”.

It’s not just the strings; the Japanese percussion comes in play in the hymn for the “Imperial Army” and once again I feel no violence or threat in the music. I simply adore the way “Puyi” develops. This is a stunning orchestral cue as beautiful as I’ve ever heard and sits right on that thin edge between film music and classical music. That thin edge carries a lot of nostalgia for me and this is one of the elements most important to me when I listen to music. The familiarity of the sound and the almost hypnotic flow of this score put me in one of my favorite mental places.

Don’t take my word for it though. My personal experience of listening to Maurice Jarre will be different than yours but listen to this amazing score. This is what film music is all about. “The setting sun” is one of the more beautiful and intimate war scores I have ever heard. Both the war element and the Japanese element are subtly woven in the fabric of the music. The horns…the gentle flute… the brass…the percussion…they all come together for an almost concert hall like experience, one that will be unforgettable for me. Tell me how it will affect you.

Cue rating: 100 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 57 / 57

Album excellence: 100%

Highlights:

Main Title (Revised)

Tatsuma

Imperial Army

Lian

Manchuria

Tougetsu

End Credits

Puyi

Yamashita

Main Title (Original)

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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