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on January 26, 2010
The music presented here from "The Man Who Wasn't There" is all quite good. As some have mentioned, there are some technicalities that stick out (some background noises from the recordings), but these are not a deal-breaker by any means. Personally, I bought the album solely for the incredible theme from the movie and was surprised to find more Beethoven than Carter Burwell, though, this is not a bad thing. I don't listen to too much classical, but every once in a while I'm in the mood for it and this compilation is the perfect thing. The only cue I'm not too fond of is "Nirdlinger's Swing", it just doesn't seem to fit in with the rest (though it was used perfectly in the film).

All in all, I'm glad I bought it, and would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the film, as the music really takes you back into the movie.
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on February 17, 2016
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on May 28, 2002
This album creates an ambience that captures the film noir flavor of the film, yet lacks much of the substance that makes for a great film soundtrack. I must disagree with the opinion of Mr. Moodindigo2 when he asserts that you should not go looking for perfection in an album, rather accept it for what it's worth. Somebody once said, "If you only accept the best, you'll never be disappointed." Beyond the technical flaws discussed in other reviews, I found the choice of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8, (AKA The Pathatique) so hackneyed that I almost gave up on the soundtrack before the second track played. And then they went ahead and repeated it! Aaaaaaack!
To be fair, there is some very interesting music on this CD, especially the brief pieces specifically written for the movie by Carter Burwell. I found the songs compelling and beautiful. However I was very disappointed with the classical pieces interspersed throughout the album. I'm a bit of a completist when it comes to classical music, and because I'm so familiar with them, I found the Beethoven pieces distracting when they didn't transition into the next movements. One track infuriated me because it was cut off in mid-movement! Even if it didn't play all the way through in the movie, that's no reason to cut it short on a CD!
Also, since I'm being critical: I didn't find the phrasing or playing of the piano pieces especially moving. I guess I've been spoiled by far superior versions by Brendal, Kissin and others that I own. Again, why settle for less than the best?
Five stars for the music written by Carter, but minus three stars for the sound quality, editing and performances of the classical works. Look to THE RED VIOLIN, 2001, A SPACE ODYSSEY or even AMADAUS for a lesson on how classical music should be used in a movie soundtrack.
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on August 14, 2002
You might know Burwell best for his score on Fargo but 'The Man Who Wasn't There' is another solid job by one of Hollywood's best composers.
While nearly half of this cd focuses on some songs by Mozart and Beethoven, the score is solid. You will hear the main theme played four different ways on this score but they are all splendid, a melody that is somewhere between the description of relaxing, beautiful, and dark.
Another Burwell cd I highly recommend is Hamlet. Hope you enjoy either of these cd's if you pick them up in the future. I know I have. Enjoy!
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on May 10, 2011
Well, first of all, you've gotta love the Coen Brothers. They don't make formulaic films. The Man Who Wasn't There is all ambiguity and dark subtle humor with a melancholy context. What music could you write for a film like that? And since a main character is enamored of some of Beethoven's finest, how do you approach the composition? Do you counterpoint or complement? I can't imagine a better complement to Pathetique than the main theme for TMWWT. It's beautiful and wistful and it will stick in your head. It's a narrator within the story, a beautiful sad waltz that could not be anything but a last waltz for the protagonist. Like the Coen Brothers films other than Raising Arizona, O Brother and The Big Lebowski, The Man Who Wasn't There is one you 'get' or don't. But like the others, it merits at least a second viewing. The three legs that hold this film steady in the first rank of Coen Brothers achievements are the period correct, underplayed performances, the stunning black and white cinematography and this simple, rich and devastating combination of chosen and written soundtrack music.
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on May 4, 2003
If you can't seem to find enough merit to this soundtrack to label it impressive or at least concede that it has managed to weave film noir and classical music together in a tapestry of dark, rich, soulful bittersweetness, then you have obviously missed something. Let's not linger too long in thought on it.

Context, folks. Put it in context. Soundtracks are not composed and arranged as stand alone albums, but rather as the rhythm to which a movie is played out. Within the confines of these cinematic constraints, the album manages to wriggle and squirm enough to accomplish what other soundtracks fail to do: it becomes more than background noise, and writes itself into and becomes indispensable to the film.
I am not afraid that I must disagree with whomever contests that expecting only perfection, we are never disapointed. On the contrary, high hopes and high expectations lead mostly to disapointment, as anyone who has expected this much from anything could tell you.

The soundtrack has the flavor of noir, that mysterious, twisted edginess and allure. Burwell's contributions stand out. While acting as critic, please don't make the mistake of comparing this soundtrack to purely classical renderings. To do this would be like comparing great tea and excellent coffee and complaining that tea makes a horrible cup of joe. Classical musicians make their money by interpreting others' pieces and playing them with precision. This is not the case when arranging pieces and composing your own score. Hats off to Burwell.
If you enjoy the novelty of original and compelling music, buy this album now. Conventional classical enthusiasts beware.
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on February 4, 2002
I have long been a fan of the Coen Brothers' films, and much of that has to do with the fact they are consistent when working with people. Carter Burwell has composed virtually all the soundtrack scores for their films, and his sound is "Coen" in description: oddly eerie, yet oddly intriguing.
This film is a noir, so the sound of all those classic black and white films is prevalent. Much classical work is intermixed, and done so very well. There is not much original work here from Burwell, but that's not my main contention here--the quality of the recording greatly lacks clarity.
Throughout the solo piano recordings (and there are several), audible noises are very very easily heard. Some noises sound like the fall of a pencil, while others sound like someone opened the door to the recording booth. It is a shame as the music is so beautifully done, but you can't help but be distracted by the noises. It is surprising to catch such obvious goofs as anything associated with the Coens is usually top-notch all the way.
If you can overlook the technical faults, fine, get this recording. You'd probably be better off getting Burwell's scores to Fargo and Barton Fink, sold together as one CD.
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on April 22, 2002
In a perfect world, all soundtracks would contain the scores and diegetic music the screenwriter and/or director intended to be heard in the cinema. In a semi-perfect world, the recordings themselves would a heavenly digital transfer of the original recording sessions. And in an imperfect world, the album would contain all of the sounds and music viewers enjoyed from the film.
After listening to the album, I disagree with the rancor of other reviews of this album. The technical points hold merit, but the distraction is non-existent for the non-audiophile. As a Doors fan, I was initially dissapointed to learn only a handful of the some 30 odd Doors songs in Oliver Stone's film did not make the film soundtrack. "How could they do this!" And after buying "The Bandit Queen"'s soundtrack, I was suprised to find most of the music was a derivative of the actual film score. Do these complaints sound vaguely familiar (see older reviews of The Man Who Wasn't There) Perfection is not found in those albums, nor is it in The Man Who Wasn't There. Yet if one does not go looking for it, one will not be dissapointed, and instead, you are left with an insightful compilation that sets a Film Noir mood to the genre of Classical music. This is not something so readily done with a genre that cut its teeth on Jazz music (See "Romeo's Bleeding"). And the original music composed for the movie is excellent and narcotic. I yearned to listen to those tracks especially, again and again.
Don't compare the album to other music and albums, and you will find a subtle gem that needs only a little bit of polishing to shine through.
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on February 12, 2002
I haven't been able to hear the "audible noises" that the texan reviewer (Ms. Redundancy) seemed so distracted by. The score is great for all the obvious reasons.
I am curious as to whether anyone else unfortunate enough to be familiar with the Billy Joel song (circa 1985) "This Night" from the "Innocent Man" album has noticed that it is a direct and complete rip-off of the Pathetique piece repeated at tracks 1 and 12. Its ridiculous, but it's really plagueing me--I can't listen to it without noticing it.
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on March 3, 2002
I have to agree with the other reviewer--you CAN hear noises on the recording, but you have to have the music turned up a little bit louder than I'd normally play it. For normal listening, though, it is tolerable at a lower volume.
The piano is flawless,and the music is well done, however. Just don't turn it up too high.
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