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Max Richter - Film Music Magazine interview

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In the world of modern classical-cum-film composers, few musicians are doing more to stretch sonic boundaries than the German-born, London-located musician named Max Richter. Making his way from stage to ballet and concert hall ensembles, Richter's early work impressed as it often combining beautifully solemn string melodies with an alt. electronic attitude. Concept albums like "Memoryhouse" and "The Blue Notebooks" sung with Richter's unique admiration for such composers as Philip Glass and John Adams, not to recently mention his wittily hip deconstruction of Vivaldi for "The Four Seasons."

It was this mesmerizing sound that mixed aching melodies with a hip beat that no doubt attracted Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman, who was looking for a similarly unique dance partner to accompany his groundbreaking animated 2008 film "Waltz with Bashir," a war movie unlike any other that used animation to play the wracked conscience of an IDF soldier involved in his country's invasion of Lebanon. Nominated for a Foreign Language Film Oscar, "Waltz" propelled Richter into a film scoring career that's continued to impress as it hauntingly opened the door to The Holocaust in "Sarah's Key," detailed an apocalyptic loss of feeling in "Perfect Sense," rhythmically tied together the screwed-up L.A. residents of "Disconnect," and even got to play a red planet zombie plague ravaging "The Last Days on Mars."     

However, none of the often-metaphysical worlds that Max Richter's music has trod upon breaks into a whole other plain of existential existence like "The Congress," which also marks Ari Folman's featuring return after too long an absence. For if movies like "Being John Malkovich" or the Paul Giamatti-starrer "Cold Souls" have taken real life actors into smartly-played "meta" situations, then Folman goes many steps further by having a purposefully blank Robin Wright sell her acting imagine in eternal perpetuity to pay for her son's medical care. Folman's questions of art versus commerce, and humanity itself are hotly debated at a "Congress" called Abrahama, a bizarre animated thinktank retreat that would give Roger Rabbit pause. Stuffing his movie with a veritable "Where's Waldo" of pop star imagery, Folman's very slow, yet transfixing pace is somewhere between Ralph Bakshi's "Cool World," Hayao Miyazak's "My Friend Totoro" and Andre Tartovsy's "Solaris," whose author Stanislaw Lem also provides mind-bending story inspiration here.

Richter's musical palette of ethereal percussion, majestic orchestral themes, electronically berserk alt. cartoon music and poignant piano and violin solos powerfully expresses Folman's meditation on identity with equal hypnotic power, linking live action and animated worlds with a lush melodic tapestry and beatific attitude. It's Richter's most impressively intellectual, yet accessible score yet, a work of astonishingly controlled power that sooths as much as It entices the listener's own thoughts of self. If any "Congress" should be celebrated, it's this impressive re-connection between one of two of international cinema's most thought-provoking artists, with Folman once again inspiring his experimental muse to break into a new, transfixing musical territory that truly finds Toontown Zen.  READ THE Film Music Magazine INTERVIEW