SAVANNAH 

Film Score Monthly | September 20th, 2013

 

*** 1/2

Savannah is the kind of old-fashioned movie that’s rarely seen in theaters anymore, and seems more or less made for TV. Thus, it’s refreshing to see one break out of that mold once in a while, since there’s a rich tradition of gentle dramas from such directors as Martin Ritt and Mark Rydell. As directed by Annette Haywood Carter, the true story of Savannah unfolds slowly in the days after slavery, when a young white man who comes from money and plantation living decides to shed his responsibilities and become a bird hunter with his friend, a freed black man. Of course, there’s the predictable societal backlash, but overall, the balance of nature and human nature here makes for a nice throwback to a gentler moviegoing experience.

 

Adding to the overall mood is the lovely score by Gil Talmi, whose contribution is not particularly southern or early 20th century, but more of a universal tone that one might associate with early Mark Isham or Thomas Newman. The soundtrack benefits from a strong main theme, usually played on piano; Talmi does sparingly utilize a playful southern banjo plucking for flavor, but mostly it’s the piano (played by the composer himself) and occasional flute (Chris Bleth) that provide the heart and soul of the film. I especially like the emotional “Time and Tide,” which is followed by an orchestral uplifting in “So Be It.” This is one of those rare albums that you can really get lost in if you just sit down and take a break from your hectic life.

 

Talmi is an Emmy Award-nominated composer known more for his scores to documentaries like Forgetting Ellis Island and Bill W. It’s not surprising that he has also written for the PBS series NOVA, which usually features scores like Savannah—music that doesn’t scream out to be noticed, but is recognized nonetheless for the way it fills a theater with emotions when words and images alone are not enough.

 

- Cary Wong

 

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Photos by Joel Fendelman