Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Coming Soon: The Treatment

John Zorn has built a reputation for genre-crossing compositions and a diverse, but dark body of film scores, collected in his ongoing Film Works series. After providing soundtracks to serious documentaries, sexually provocative short features, and Japanese cartoons, Zorn scores his first romantic comedy in The Treatment, opening May 4th in New York (trailer here).

Zorn had collaborated with director Oren Rudavsky previously on the documentary Hiding and Seeking. Although reportedly resistant at first, Zorn was convinced after screening the film. As befitting a New York romance, The Treatment is indeed more neurotic than standard date movie fare.

Zorn, at Rudavsky’s suggestion, composed a score with tango overtones, particularly in the choice of instrumentation with Rob Burger’s accordion, Mark Feldman’s violin, Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz's bass, and in places Marc Ribot’s guitar. Giving a distinctive flavor to the soundtrack is the addition of Kenny Wollesen’s vibes. The result is a sophisticated, but vaguely agitating score that creates a consistent mood, enhancing the on-screen drama.

Whit Stillman regular Chris Eigeman stars as Jake Singer, an exclusive prep school teacher with serious emotional issues, in therapy with Dr. Ernesto Morales, the Freudian from Hell, played with theatrical relish by Sir Ian Holm. Whether Morales’ advice is helping or hindering his attempts at romance with widow Famke Janssen is debatable throughout the film. At times though, Singer’s fantasy interludes of Dr. Morales are difficult to distinguish from his actual sessions—whether these were conscious attempts to problematize the film’s reality were not readily apparent.

The Treatment clearly follows in the Annie Hall tradition of New York comedies of love and neuroses, with stronger writing than many of its precursors. It is not afraid to put its protagonist in embarrassingly uncomfortable situations, and it handles the father-son reconciliation plot line with nuance.

Filmed in the City and featuring a strong supporting cast, including Harris Yulin, Stephen Lang (Crime Story), and Roger Rees (Cheers), The Treament is an entertaining film. It is particularly well served by Zorn’s soundtrack, which has been available well before the film’s release on the 18th installment of Film Works on the composer’s Tzadik label. It opens in New York on May 4th, the same weekend Spiderman 3 debuts on several thousand more screens, so one will have to seek it out.