I'd been very impressed with La Haine, Mathieu Kassovitz' film from 1995, so I gladly agreed to work on his next film, Assassin(s). The film takes on some very difficult subject matter - the interconnection of violence, media, and youth - and travels to some dark places.
To add some light and a distinctive tone to the otherwise dark score, I included a glass harmonica. This instrument is a series of glass bowls or plates rotating on a horizontal axle, played by rubbing the glass with one's fingers. While people had played musical glasses with wet fingers for centuries, this form of the instrument was invented by Benjamin Franklin in the late 1700's. Its popularity has been limited by the rumor that players have a tendency to go mad, either by the incessant finger vibration or the absorption of lead into the skin.
I very much enjoyed the collaboration with Mathieu, and when we took the film to Cannes he told me "You'll see, I'm famous in France," which was true. He had an entire acting career of which I was unaware. But his fame made him the target of particularly nasty attacks from the French press who felt the film oversimplified the subject of violence. I've never seen anything like it. It was the dark side of the fact that France takes film seriously as an art and a matter of cultural inquiry.
Un film de Mathieu Kassovitz
Scénario Nicolas Boukrief et Mathieu Kassovitz
Composée par Carter Burwell
Monteur Musique: Todd Kasow
Enregistrée et mixée par Michael Farrow
Interprétée par le BBS Concert Orchestra
Régisseur général: Ian Maclay
Enregistrée à Air Studios, Londres en mars 1997
Directeur Artistique: Carter Burwell
avec Michel Serrault, Mathieu Kassovitz
France Release April, 1997
The Assassin(s) soundtrack album can be difficult to find. For demo purposes, here are some examples from the score:
"Lenser Pierre Aim’s gliding camerawork and cool, symmetrical compositions are no less eye-catching than his distinctive B&W work on 'La Haine.' Editing and sound design also are highly tuned. Regular Coen brothers collaborator Carter Burwell’s potent, dark score and a sprinkling of edgy Gallic rap cap off the slick but empty package." - David Rooney, Variety, May 25, 1997.