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Soundtrack review: Michael Palin in North Korea (Miguel D’Oliveira – 2018)


Soundtrack review: Michael Palin in North Korea (Miguel D’Oliveira – 2018)



North Korea. To the rest of the world, it is an insular, private nation intent on war. But what is it really like? In this documentary series, Michael Palin travels to North Korea in an attempt to discover what life is like there beyond the political propaganda. As diplomatic relations between DPRK and South Korea begin to slightly thaw after decades of hostility, comedian and world traveler Michael Palin is allowed to visit North Korea for two weeks and, to a limited extent, explore the country. Miguel D’Oliveira wrote the score.

I must admit when I saw the title I thought it was a spoof of some sort, I mean we are talking a comedic genius like Michael Palin. Turns out it’s a real thing. The opening cue “Future hope” is the quickest way to hypnotise me and send me back in time with it’s unmistakable, happy, synth wave inspired retro vibe; the pure joy I experience while listening to this cue is hard to describe but if you are a fan of 80s music you will surely understand. I know this is a score for a documentary of a comedian travelling to the most closed in and oppressive country in the world but Miguel D’Oliveira wrote the score as if this was an late 80s, early 90s computer quest game. Ok, the music is not that simple but the vibe, the sound makes me want to play one of those games and immerse myself completely in this atmosphere as if the music was just a gateway and I need to be involved more. I’ve seen enough sci-fi movies to know that this is the kind of music that usually opens a portal and sucks me into the world it creates, transforming me into pixels or whatever. But I digress.

Actually, I might not. This is the effect the music has on me and this is the atmosphere it creates; it’s a cleverly written synth wave inspired album, an electronic retro joy to listen to from beginning to end and, according the composer, the most “him” kind of score he’s ever written. If you enjoy this genre and if you fancy a sunny joyful trip to the 80s, to the decade of arcade games and space dreams and, of course, synth music, please do not miss this album. I will not even try to dig deep to guess or understand why Miguel D’Oliveira went the whimsical, dreamy way for this score because I don’t care. I’m just glad he did. Plus, the last cue is titled “Imaginary neon”; best description for this score.

Cue rating: 89 / 100

Future Hope
Strange and Familiar
The Border
Change Is Possible
Warm Inside
Less Is Less
Imaginary Neon

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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