Conrad Pope

Pavilion of Women [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]

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Universal Pictures essentially gave up on Yim Ho's lavish World War II epic Pavilion of Women, consigning it to the video shelves immediately without a proper theatrical release. This was not a significant loss for audiences, who probably would not have been excited by the somewhat bloated, paint-by-numbers drama -- essentially a Chinese Anna and the King with the genders of the principals reversed. But the film's vanishing act must have been a great disappointment to composer Conrad Pope, who poured his heart into the ambitious culture-straddling score. Like Tan Dun's Oscar-winning soundtrack for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (released too late to have influenced Pope), Pavilion of Women combines traditional Chinese instruments, such as the zheng, di, stone flute, and ehru, with an 85-piece Western orchestra and a few operatic choral passages. Pope's sweeping composition contributes a great deal to the epic feel of the film, blending well with the sumptuous production design and camera work. But it also shares some of the film's problems: a tendency toward melodrama (the choral pomposity of "The Fire" is especially grating) and a certain emotional stiffness (the score lacks a truly moving melodic center). Pope's score has some powerful moments, but it is probably destined to join the film in obscurity.

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