Daniele Luppi

Malos Hábitos (Bad Habits)

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While Mexican director Simón Bross' award-winning film Malos Hábitos (Bad Habits) was on screens in 2007, it took another four years for Italian composer Daniele Luppi's provocative score to be released. Luppi, who has collaborated with Mike Patton in his group Mondo Cane, and with Danger Mouse, has also scored numerous conventional Hollywood films including Under the Tuscan Sun, Hell Ride, Nine, Inside Deep Throat, and Assassination of a High School President -- all of which reflect the debt he owes to Italian film composers from Nino Rota to Piero Piccioni to Ennio Morricone. Luppi's score for Malos Hábitos is a standout, radically different. It's very simple in its construction. The film's narrative revolves around intertwining stories of abuse, adultery, anorexia, and other emotional and behavioral tenets inside a dysfunctional family. These are portrayed aurally in the 20 cues here; all of them feature piano as their primary instrument, sometimes backed by chamber strings with a restrained tonal palette, but that's what makes Luppi's cues daring. There are no large dynamic shifts in the score; a gloomy undertone appears at the beginning of the work and gradually inserts itself into the listener's head like a mantra as three or four ideas are used repeatedly in different manners. That said, there isn't any stasis; all the music walks forward -- often pensively -- to a subtly tragic conclusion. The piano is the voice of isolation, dislocation, lack, and loneliness. When strings do appear, they are there to underscore, rather than to contrast, the instrument in the cue. There are only a couple of places where the piano is played with an off-kilter dissonance: "Gordibuena" (and its numerous variations), which features a lighter theme (with piano being doubled by a glassy, tinkling celeste); and near the end of the work, when an acoustic guitar and accordion briefly appear. Onscreen, as an extension of both the film's narrative and sketches of its various characters, these themes were pointedly effective. Taken on its own as a listening experience, Malos Hábitos is quirky, though unrelenting in a softly articulated yet impenetrable darkness. For a composer who scored the aforementioned films, Malos Hábitos is a definite but welcome curve ball that adds both depth and dimension to Luppi's résumé.

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