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Original Title:

South Korea 2003

Jo Yeong-wook

Old Boy - OST

Review: Park Chan-wook's extraordinary thriller-drama is innovative, a beautiful piece of art and different in many ways. So it's no surprise that the soundtrack is heading into the same direction. A lot of it might sound unusual at first, however, as you dive deep into the music you start to realize the profound quality of the compositions and at the end you will definitely reserve a place in your heart for the CD. Sure, Jo Yeong-wook with his music creates a sometimes experimentally sounding work and especially the strong use of waltz-like motifs is something you first have to get used to, but if you managed to do so you will understand that you are holding a little masterpiece in your hands. This is because the music, despite of or maybe just because of the artistic finesse always offers music themes that are instantly burning itself into your brain and so are easy to recognize when they get repeated. So you can say, that the soundtrack accomplishes the same feat as the movie did, namely combining art with commercial entertainment on a high level.

The first piece "Look Who's Talking" is introduced by a little and familiar dialogue from the film. Such small dialogue snippets are also used in a few other tracks, yet luckily this is not the case too often or at least only at the beginning of a track. The track opens with quite piano playing and a few strings until it explodes. Drums burst in and a little bit of techno-style music is responsible for a raising adrenaline level.
Most of the pieces of the soundtrack you could perfectly dance a waltz to, nonetheless they are imbued with enough originality that you won't get lost in a homogenous sound mash. In the center of music are strings, which in accordance with a piano create a flowing mood, that is as well inculpatory as it is tragic. At the same time there is a certain tension build up by the dark undertone. "The Count of Monte Christo" is a good example for this.

"Jailhouse Rock" is more of the experimental sort. A mixture of soft techno and Trip-Hop, which is very appealing and whose electronic instruments and the e-guitar blend in very well in a nice symbiosis with the background beat. "In a lonely Place" is an even more apparant mix of the just mentioned style and a quite wailing strings accompaniment. In addition to the unique beats there is a trumpet that starts to play along giving the track something tragic-heroic.
To enumerate every great title of the CD would be tedious, because almost every track is special. The next one, "It's Alive" delivers a marvelous climax and "Look Back in Anger" is also very pleasing with its quite and already familiar theme. Unfortunately, it's here that you start to realize that the music was composed on a sythesizer. The melody of the cello in the background somehow strongly reminded me of a music piece of the SNES game "Zelda - A Link to the Past"...

The only title that was not originally composed for the CD is Vivaldi's "Winter"-segment from "The Four Seasons". However, it fits perfectly into the rest of the CD and moreover is a classic and an earworm which is always nice to listen to.
The very waltz-accentuated piece "Cries and Whispers" gets some alternations in "Breathless" whereas the strings are replaced by a piano which now plays the main theme. "Farewell, My Lovely" makes use of the same theme again and at the end as a crowning moment it is even hummed by Yu Ji-tae.
"For Whom the Bell Tolls" is the only waltz-like piece of which it is safe to say, that it conveys a friendly atmosphere. Nonetheless, this is an exception, because mainly the undertone is a depressive and disturbing one.
In "The Old Boy" we recognize the motif of track 5 and along with it, it was used as the background music for the famous corridor-fight. "Dressed to Kill" and "Frantic" take the same tension-building theme even if the alternations give the tracks completely different styles. In contrast, "Cul-de-sac" is a little bit more quite and is one of the few tracks that just conveys a feeling of sadness.

"The Big Sleep" picks up the motif of "The Old Boy", yet sounds more like a musical farewell. The last track "The Last Waltz" is fittingly the highlight of the CD. We are now familiar with the melody and the use of a bassoon, which creates a certain amount of warmth as well as a bit of sadness along with the strings, just works out perfectly. Especially, when the pictures of the movie are still making rounds in your head, because then the music ascends to an almost magical level.
A little sidenote: You can see what kind of a film fan Park Chan-wook is by taking note of the track's title names. Every piece was named after a famous (or not so famous) classic of its time.
As already mentioned, maybe the waltzstyle won't get near to you at first, nevertheless, as time goes by you are so convinced by the compositions that you might even become a waltz-fan...

However, apart from the waltz-like charm of the tracks there are enough more action-orientated ones, that will carry you away with their catchy beats. Yet, the true highlights of the soundtrack are the tracks in which the whole tragic of the film becomes apparent through the music. The CD becomes even better every time you listen to it and if you watched the movie then some of the tracks might give you joyous goose-bumps. For this the score deserves an absolutely subjective extra point.
Director Park mentioned that he would have liked to have more money for his movie, because he would have recorded the soundtrack with a big orchester if he had had the resources. Nonetheless, even without a whole orchester backing up the music, the end product is impressive. Experimental and melodically easy to listen to at the same time, it delivers lots of catchy melodies, that will make you remember this OST for a long time!

Copyright 2006 AsianMovieWeb

Track listing

01. Look Who's talking
02. Somewhere In The
03. The Count Of Monte
04. Jailhouse Rock
05. In A Lonley Place
06. It's Alive!
07. The Searchers
08. Look Back In Anger
09. Vivaldi "Four Seasons"
      - "Winter" 1st Mov.
10. Room At The Top
11. Cries And Whispers
12. Out Of Sight
13. For Whom The Bell
14. Out Of The Past
15. Breathless
16. The Old Boy
17. Dressed To Kill
18. Frantic
19. Cul-de-sac
20. Kiss Me Deadly
21. Point Blank
22. Farewell, My Lovely
23. The Big Sleep
24. The Last Waltz

Running Time = 60:07

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