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Review: Mark Kermode & the CBSO, Film Music Live, Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Birmingham | News | Published:

With a well-earned reputation as Britain's most opinionated film critic, it was never going to be a case of "the movies' greatest hits" when Mark Kermode brought his Film Music Live tour to Birmingham.

So no Jaws or Star Wars then. Instead, with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Robert Zeigler, this was a chance for Kermode to celebrate his 50th birthday this month with a very personal exploration of the music from some of his favourite films and for him to explain why it is so important both to him and cinema in general.

Or, as the celebrated 3D film cynic says: "As every film fan knows, music is the real third dimension of movies."

It was also the chance to welcome a different special guest to each of the four nights of the tour; in Birmingham's case Oscar-winner Jeremy Irons.

The first part of a fascinating concert saw the CBSO tackle the likes of a spine-tingling Tubular Bells as used in The Exorcist (Kermode: "The greatest film ever made. Other opinions are available . . . they're wrong.") and instrumental versions of Joan Baez's songs from 70's cult classic Silent Running ("The greatest science fiction film ever made. Some people say it was 2001: A Space Odyssey . . . they're wrong").

Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood's theme for There Will Be Blood was percussive and arresting, and gave the audience the chance to "boo hiss" the Academy Awards committee for disqualifying it from Oscars contention, and there were strong jazz overtones to both Bernard Herrman's haunting theme from Taxi Driver and the special arrangement of Angelo Badalamenti's music from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, which had Kermode transfixed at the front of the stage.

By way of light relief there was the wonderful, hits-packed overture to Mary Poppins. Yes, the man who is The Exorcist's biggest fan also rates the Julie Andrews musical as one of the best films ever made.

After the interval, Kermode welcomed Jeremy Irons to the stage and the music now followed the actor's celebrated career, including the only non-movie piece of the night, the theme to Iron's breakthrough television role in Brideshead Revisited.

Irons proved to be thoroughly affable interviewee, recounting the stresses of playing no fewer than three roles while filming Brideshead and The French Lieutenant's Woman simultaneously and then playing two roles while making one film, as twins in the sinister Dead Ringers.

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There was a running gag throughout Kermode's chat with Irons over the fact that the actor has yet to embrace Blu-ray technology.

"Get yourself a Blu-ray player," Kermode urged him, "because there are some of your movies that are really good on it!"

Irons told how he had been coached by Beatles producer George Martin to play a tricky 18th Century oboe for his role in The Mission, "and then when I saw it they'd changed the music and all I could think of was 'your fingering's completely wrong'!"

The actor also got to bang the drum for his environmental documentary Trashed, which features music by Greek composer Vangelis. But whether, as Kermode wondered, we'll ever get to hear the infamous 'Jeremy and Vangelis stoned tapes' is another matter altogether.

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Irons explained that the documentary is available online and on iTunes.

Kermode's reply: "Is there a Blu-ray?"

By Ian Harvey

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