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Ottman, John (b. 1964)  
 
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Director John Badham gave Ottman complete freedom to devise whatever score he felt appropriate. In his interview with Christian DesJardins, Ottman described the film as a "sort of composer's wet dream because there's no dialogue or sound effects in these long, extended sequences."

For Incognito, Ottman created a predominantly dark, but occasionally romantic, score that recalls not only his own atmospheric themes for Unusual Suspects but also Bach's elegant Baroque concertos. In "Creation" and other themes for this project, Ottman evoked the tortured longing of an artist who realizes that he is betraying his talents. Typical of his characteristic innovative uses of instruments, the composer employed the saxophone, normally associated with jazz, in the more obviously Baroque parts of the score.

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Apt Pupil

In 1998, Ottman again had a chance to collaborate on a film directed by his friend Bryan Singer--working as both editor and composer on Apt Pupil, an exceptionally dark film. In contrast to the exuberant pleasure that he experienced on Usual Suspects, Ottman was emotionally drained by his work on Apt Pupil. As he explained to Mike Shapiro, he was profoundly affected by the mood of the story: "the film was so dark and dreary and relentlessly unforgiving. There's no redemption whatever."

Based on a novella by Stephen King, this provocative movie concerns the complex interactions of a high school student, Todd (played by Brad Renfro), with a Nazi war-criminal, Dussander (Ian McKellen), who has been living undetected in Todd's hometown. Intrigued by stories of Nazi concentration camps, Todd blackmails Dussander into narrating accounts of the atrocities he committed.

As on Usual Suspects, Ottman involves the audience and gives coherence to the narrative through his editing and music. To explain the origins of Dussander's personality, he created for the opening title sequence an extended montage of old war photos, into which some images of McKellen had been incorporated. In accord with his commitment to going against the grain, Ottman wrote sweeping, symphonic music for this montage, thereby endowing Dussander's sordid history with an aura of epic grandeur. Foreshadowing their later interactions, scenes of Todd at school are blended into the opening montage at several points. As he had in Usual Suspects, Ottman interwove close-up views of the faces of the protagonists to add excitement to scenes of their conversations.

Throughout Apt Pupil, Ottman tried to intensify the drama of even mundane scenes--seeking "to suck in the audience and . . . to milk everything as long as humanly possible," as he explained to Gary Dretzka.

Ottman's ability to infuse suspense into slow moments can be exemplified by his handling of the lengthy scene following Dussander's operation, as he lies critically ill in a hospital bed. In editing the film, Ottman repeatedly and rapidly cut back and forth among a profile view of the sleeping Dussander, a close up of the face of another elderly patient, and a TV set, turned to an episode of the comic series, The Jeffersons. As the other man suddenly opens his eyes, the sound of the Jeffersons is drowned by harsh, dissonant music that emphasizes the dramatic importance of this incident, the full significance of which will only later be revealed to the audience.

In editing and scoring the film, Ottman tried to find ways to relieve the dominant mood of ruthless brutality. For example, he briefly evoked a mood of pleasure by intercutting close-up views of Dussander massaging a homeless man's scalp with images of the man's eyes closed in passionate surrender. Of course, this is a very transitory moment as Dussander's massage is simply a prelude to his murder of his unwelcome visitor.

Although parts of the score for Apt Pupil have a dark and unsettling quality, Ottman managed to incorporate surprisingly beautiful, melodic music in many places, as he did, for example, in the scene in which Todd destroys the personal effects of the homeless man killed by Dussander. Ottman disturbed some critics by utilizing an idiosyncratic version of Henry Mancini's delightful Elephant Walk (from the film Hatari) to complement Dussander's attempts to bake a stray cat in his oven. As in this case, moments of pleasure, whether visual or aural, primarily serve to offset the terror of Apt Pupil.

Urban Legends: Final Cut

In 2000, Ottman had the opportunity to direct, as well as edit and score a feature film: Urban Legends: Final Cut. Although commissioned by Phoenix Pictures as a straightforward sequel to the popular slasher film, Urban Legend (1998, directed by Jamie Blanks), Ottman initially hoped to develop complex and sophisticated characterizations. To this end, he shot extensive footage that explained the backgrounds of the principal characters, but he was compelled to omit this material by studio executives, who wanted the movie to consist basically of a series of killings.

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