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Soundtrack review: Kaufman’s game (Philippe Jakko – 2018)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Kaufman’s game (Philippe Jakko – 2018)



“Kaufman’s Game” tells the story of Stanley (Jye Frasca), a young man who dream of becoming a champion boxer despite the fact his physical build makes him unsuitable for such heavy workload. When a stranger approaches him outside the gym with the offer of a specially produced steroid, Stanley gets drawn into the increasingly more violent operations of a powerful organization, while unwittingly entering into a series of tests designed to prove his mettle. Philippe Jakko wrote the score.

The score opens with “Kaufman’s adagio”, a dark and sneaky piece of music that lets me know I am in for a drama. The string motif, almost dissonant, gives me a feeling of unease and uncertainty. Right from the start the composer makes a statement that this will not be a generic score and that his composition is complex and carefully crafted. This feeling is enhanced by the next cue “The boxer” which brings a rolling piano motif that falls like a rain in the background of another dramatic fabric. I enjoy the way these two different sounds, the joyful piano and the somber strings are woven together.

When the suspense starts the balance between electronic texture and orchestral motifs shifts in favour of the first as the music stays elegant and captivating. The bad guys get cold synth motifs to contrast with the warm piano sound for the main character. Every now and then Philippe Jakko brings in atonal, dissonant moments to evoke tension and make the atmosphere feel ominous and uneasy. I also like it that there are times like “The needle” when the score goes full 80s synth and a wonderful feeling of nostalgia takes me over.

I like the way the strings are used on this score to evoke both emotion and terror; “The shower” is a prime example of how the strings can be played to scare. I like how Stanley’s presence is identified throughout the score with his piano arpeggio sneaking in various cues. By the end of the score that piano motif is firmly embedded in my head. As the score progresses I simply enjoy it more and more because the tension is compelling and the music keeps me interested in what comes next.

Philippe Jakko does a great job of writing a layered noir thriller score that simply works on every level; I was happy that there are no fillers in “Kaufman’s game” and that I believed everything the composer told me. The tense moments, the scary moments and the emotional ones all had something special and fascinating about them. Just listen to a cue like “London night”to hear just how cleverly the composer combines different, even weird sounds together in an enjoyable texture. “Kaufman’s game” is definitely a score to be enjoyed on its own as well.

Cue rating: 73 / 100

The Needle
London Night

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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