By John Caps.
Some seasons ago, Lincoln Center’s Film Comment magazine published an annotated survey of the history of Hollywood film music, “Soundtracks 101.” There I took readers from the beginning of descriptive/narrative soundtrack scoring in 1933’s King Kong through latter day experiments in sight/sound correlation like Waking Life where the score players were actually shown on screen. Needing some parameters, we limited that survey to English language films but, as everyone knows, film music actually began overseas long before Hollywood had a zip code: film scoring originated in the Old World. But until movie film stock could be encoded with a soundtrack, either a magnetic fullcoat strip or an optical exciter track, there was little point to planning a carefully synchronized music score for a dramatic film. Even if an orchestra were engaged to perform the music as those early silent films were being projected for the audience, there was only a scattershot correspondence between the details of the scoring and movie action.
And yet in the restless early days of cinema, even that imprecise interplay proved irresistible to major composers like Saint-Saens and Prokofiev and Honegger, and major directors like Eisenstein and Gance. They felt compelled to explore it further. Especially in France and Russia specific scores were being commissioned for their major silent films as early as 1908 while early German filmmakers more often settled for a score made of snips of familiar classical music: Fritz Lang’s M, for example, keeps tracking-in Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” from the Peer Gynt Suite.
In those days they did not think in terms of “scoring a film” as though music were an integral part of the cinema. Composers considered themselves to be writing “incidental music” as one might do for a theater production or, with more elaboration, for a ballet. But once sound films were introduced, the movie/music relationship gained sophistication and developed quickly into a craft of its own. While filmmakers were learning how running the track of a precisely coordinated score could complete the dramatic spell they were trying to cast in the dark, composers were discovering a genuinely modern multi-medium in which they could participate and which could even be used as a vehicle for self-expression.
I have flagged 50 films from around the world whose scores, whether symphonic or jazzy, pop or atonal avant garde, grim or satiric or romantic, interact in interesting or dramatically pertinent ways, with their films. They come from many countries: Russia, Japan, Italy, Sweden….a good many come from France which was a center of experimental concert music in the 1920s (the Paris years of Stravinsky, Les Six, Copland, etc.) and, as we’ve said, of highly original soundtrack composing in the early films of Renoir and Cocteau, then in the films of the French New Wave. Anglo awareness of foreign film music came, oddly enough, not from the art house screens but rather from a handful of internationally best-selling soundtrack albums issued in the early 1960s: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Black Orpheus, Le Voyage en Ballon, or A Man and A Woman. Cover versions of their main themes became pop chart hits just as a few foreign language directors were beginning to develop a US following – Fellini, Bergman, Kurasawa, Truffaut. Oscar’s first acknowledgement of the foreign cinema, with its own awards category, didn’t come until 1955. In 1961, for the first time a foreign language performance won the Best Actress Oscar (Sophia Loren) but not until 1995 did the music for a foreign film become Oscar’s “Best Score”: Luis Bacalov’s Il Postino, then Nicola Piovani for Life Is Beautiful (1998), and Tan Dun for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000). But Oscar be damned – there are endless riches to be found on the soundtracks of world cinema: scores and composers that deserve broad attention. The range of their musical styles and the variety of their ethnic sounds can often be challenging. They all work, however, toward the same purpose: to help tell the human stories on screen. Everyone knows that great films can soar with no help from music at all: witness Bergman, Bresson, Olmi. But there are times when the partnership of score-and-screen is wonderful. In the history of foreign language film music there is much to celebrate and, for future filmmakers and composers, much to emulate.
The Interpretive Power of Film Music: 50 Scores from World Cinema
OKTYABR (aka OCTOBER aka TEN DAYS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD) (1927-Russia) Dmitri Shostakovich
Post-Potemkin (1925), Sergei Eisenstein used this screen recreation of Russia’s Bolshevic Revolution to test his theory of film editing – that visual storytelling should not worry about continuity but should proceed by “a series of shocks.” Then as now, the results can be confusing if also thrilling. Shostakovich’s music is as much “about” that visual virtuosity as about Russian history. Edmund Meisel of the German Film Research Institute at Berlin had written the first Oktyabr score but, in that pre-sound era, it was never permanently attached to the film. When in 1966 Grigory Alexandrov produced a restoration, Shostakovich eagerly approved as elements from his 11th symphony were adapted to the soundtrack and found that they worked better as film scoring than they had as concert music. While statues of the Czar are destroyed by a mob on screen, unison strings play the Force of History theme; a Brotherhood theme highlights a brief respite in the struggle but the protesting populace (basses and low brass in searching chromatic phrases) cannot be distracted for long. When Lenin steps before the masses, Shostakovich marshals breathless forces – furious strings, clarion calling horns, gong-blurred percussion, a fugue-like statement where all sections of the orchestra contend in an ecstasy of violence: all power to the Soviets. Government forces try to stem the influx of workers to St. Petersburg by raising the drawbridge and, in the panic, people are crushed, crazed bourgeois ladies stab a soldier to death with their parasols, and one mangled horse teeters off the bridge over the abyss. Calamitous scoring overwhelms the senses here, then hushes to single tones like water droplets as we see Bolshevic leaflets float down the river, temporarily defeated. And this is all in the film’s first 20 minutes! Elsewhere there is a satiric martinet march by fife and slide trombone for the war ministers and a bawdy, brutal piece for the capitalist looters of the palace.
LIEUTENANT KIJE (1933-Russia) Sergei Prokofiev
A typographical error in a report to Czar Nicholas I creates the fictitious “Lt. Kije” for whom a paper trail must then be fabricated in order to avoid official embarrassment. Prokofiev relished the chance to compose mock-pompous fanfares pretending to announce the birth of the phony lieutenant, even a rowdy drinking song as though “he” were treating everyone to a round of vodkas. To cover their tails, the clerks who invented Kije must continue updating his dossier periodically, giving him a lover (represented in the score by a sardonic baritone serenade (“Well, what has my heart decided?”) and eventually marrying him off (where Prokofiev makes sport of all ceremonial music and, thereby, all monarchies). In the end, and to everyone’s relief, they stage his death (scored with a graveside trumpet and a reprise of the various themes). Prokofiev’s melodies are simple, rollicking, and plainly Russian, but he has scored them with a modern edge, sometimes changing key signatures in the middle of a tune, sometimes welcoming dissonant harmonies to bolster the satiric protest against all bureaucracies which is, of course, what the Kije hoax represents.
MAUVAISE GRAINE (BAD SEED) (1933-Germany/France) Franz Waxmann
Before Waxman (dropping one ‘n’) and director Billy Wilder would move to Hollywood and win Oscars (Sunset Boulevard, etc.), they worked together on this charming Paris-based adventure about a chopshop garage that repackages stolen vehicles for resale. As a drama following Henri who joins the gang when his father disowns him, as a romance once he meets Jeanette and they hit the road together in flight from the police, and as a comedy with a trio of established French comics appearing as garage workers, the film seems vivid and engaging, but as Waxman’s and Wilder’s first film credit, it contains important prophecies. Wilder’s sharp sense of timing began here. Waxman likewise showed his future-skill for adapting different genres of music to the needs of a narrative. His opening theme has the curtain-raising enthusiasm of a Depression era stage show but then becomes genuine movie scoring over a shot speeding through the streets of Paris. Clarinet, celesta, and harp come forward in the ensemble as Jeanette becomes more important to the story, representing her with a polite waltz. As Henri and Jeanette flee Paris, Waxman’s opening tune is orchestrated as a full band gallop. Later, sans auto, the couple hitches a hay wagon ride and Waxman offers his sweetest slow dance version of the tune, giving solos to violin and trombone, as Wilder divides his frame between the reclining fugitives on the left and the passing soothing sunlit landscapes on the right. History reports that Waxman’s first formal film score was for Fritz Lang’s Liliom (1934) but Graine gives a better sense of Waxman’s excitement at having found a new toy – the soundtrack music score.
GOLGOTHA (1934-France) Jacques Ibert
Far removed from the grandiose and operatic film versions of the Christ story that Hollywood produced, director Julien Duvivier’s retelling of Jesus’ last week was character-based: an internal epic with Robert Le Vegan as a cognitive Christ and Jean Gabin as a rather existentialist Pontius Pilate. Determined not to push his Passion Play as melodrama but rather to follow it as a humble observer (an approach which tends to bore modern audiences) he used the music score to carry the weight of narrative authority. Ibert, although a pale colorist as a concert composer, liked the concrete contexts of cinema storytelling that focused his talents. His music here ignores Biblical specifics: no Hebraic themes or tonalities. His festive fanfare for the Passover is a fresh, open affirmation of the brotherhood of man, yet as the festivities continue and the rhythmic pulse on the soundtrack grows heavier, we are reminded that the Romans are monitoring these celebrations with ulterior motives and will soon intervene. A stormy scherzo – active string writing, biting brass and villainous bass clarinet – accompanies the political crisis Jesus causes in the temple. Soon His doom is sealed and as Calvary looms, Ibert introduces the ethereal sound of the ondes martenot (an electronic keyboard invented in 1928 with a distinctive other-worldly sound) as representative of the presence of the divine in Jesus’ very human suffering. Ibert is more directly descriptive during Jesus’ final agony – tremolo strings, rolling thunder-drums and the almost Sci-Fi like swoops of the ondes martenot. In the end, though, scoring returns to the humble job of accompanying the funeral procession with a Satie-like carol blending the human and the divine in an air of benediction. The original soundtrack was conducted by Maurice Jaubert.
L’ATALANTE (1934-France) Maurice Jaubert
With director Jean Vigo already dying of tuberculosis as this film was being finished, his distributors moved to recut it with more mainstream values and to rescore it with a pop song by Bixio. Fortunately, history has restored both Vigo’s masterpiece and Jaubert’s much-loved, quintessentially French music score to their full lengths. Always returning to one stalwart, heart-felt ballad, the score actually runs only about 15 minutes yet wields great influence on the film. It’s the story of two newlyweds who live aboard the barge L’Atalante plying the Seine, of Jules the barge’s grotesque but sympathetic 1st mate, and a cabin boy. When the young wife grows impatient with river life and runs off to see Paris, her husband becomes despondent and nearly loses his job with the barge company except for the intervention of Old Jules who sets out to the city to bring her back. He finds her in a music shop, just in time, listening to Jaubert’s ballad. We hear it first from a handful of singers (“The barger’s life isn’t all fun….”), then on a wedding accordion, then on a smooth alto sax as the couple walks from the chapel down to the river to begin their travels together. It is heard with a churning rhythm imitating the barge’s engineworks; it is heard in a pastoral mood during morning on the river and with a shimmering vibraphone in an underwater sequence. The key musical moment comes towards the end, though, when Vigo intercuts shots of the estranged lovers, each sleeping alone but fantasizing their reunion: Jaubert’s ballad both resolves their love story by bringing them together again and universalizes it for the rest of us. If the river is life, the barge is marriage, Old Jules and the cabin boy are burlesque gods, and Jaubert’s famous tune is what we poor humans make of it all.
REGAIN (AFTERMATH) (1937-France) Arthur Honegger
This bucolic film by Marcel Pagnol, set in Provence, starred Fernandel as Gedemus a simple-minded knife grinder in the deserted village of Aubignane. He purchases the freedom of a girl, Arsule, who has been raped by passing workmen, but soon has to deal with the competition of a newcomer, Panturle the Poacher, who wins her heart. The setting gave Honegger the chance to write his own “4 seasons” score. Although the producers scrapped certain cues that he had written and applied others where they were not meant to be, most of the composer’s intentions and all of his spirit remain in the finished film. The Main Title music with its brave open leaps of octaves and 5ths, pays homage to the wide horizons of the countryside. His winter music is grounded in cold repetitive piano chords with muted trumpet reminding us of the opening theme, low strings hanging damp and midrange strings in graceful figures like blowing snow. The coming of spring brings the cool sound of alto sax (a favorite with Paris composers then) and welcome solos from flute, clarinet, etc. as though woodland birdsong. A high thin string sound segues to summer. Gedemus has his own playful theme for piccolo set against various eccentric solo instruments (muted trombone, low piano, tambourine and rattle). There is also a lovely nocturne (“Panturle and Arsule Near the Stream”) in which is embedded both the promise of love and the caution that no summer can last. Tougher music depicts country storms and the drudgery of plowing season. For his part, Honegger was able to write more varied and colorful music here than he did for more intense films like Abel Gance’s Napoleon because the story was less focused, more incidental and, indeed, more needy.
ALEXANDER NEVSKY (1938-Russia) Sergei Prokofiev
Since Eisenstein’s film about the 13th century hero who drove the German invaders from Mother Russia is more like a pageant than a realistic story, its music score could be filled with iconic larger-than-life themes – the low grinding motif for Russia under Mongol occupation, a peasant’s song for mixed chorus that rallies the people, a male chorus intoning Nevsky’s own stately anthem. Yet Prokofiev uses modern scoring techniques – music under dialogue, music catching screen action, even synchronized to some of Eisenstein’s cuts, even helping with scene transitions. The high point is the long battle on the ice of Lake Chudskoe in which dazzling orchestration flings all those themes at us. During the German retreat, three themes are playing simultaneously, warring tonally. The inspiring song of Nevsky soars at the end, making Russian patriots of us all. Soviets used this score to bolster their people during a later Russo-German conflict, WWII.
MERMOZ (1943-France) Arthur Honegger
It would seem impossible to make a dull film about France’s most celebrated aviator Jean Mermoz, who risked his life many times to develop dependable air mail roots in the 1920s across the South Atlantic and within South America but, except for the music score, director Louis Cuny has done just that. To be fair, it is the script’s declamatory style that grates today while the adventures themselves – Mermoz’ four-day ordeal after crash landing in the frozen Andes, or ditching an unwieldy pontoon plane off the coast of Africa – were episodic and tough to sustain. Still, Honegger’s scoring turns out to be more cinematic (more kinetic) than the film. His flying theme, written in the sunny key of C major for solo trumpet with other brass joining in canon formation around it, sings out in intervals of the “heroic 5th.” There is a buoyant motif in the strings for lift during the sequence of crossing the Andes, then the whole orchestra becomes more violent in 16th note figures, the piano playing in discordant taunting jabs, as the elements conspire against the plane. An Atlantic crossing was more about stamina than heroism so Honegger’s harmonic movement is slower there, prolonged by tremolo string figures and a dark undulating bass line, rising and falling in parallel thirds like the ocean waves below. Harsh brass and percussion detail a lightning storm; then there is a break in the cloud cover and a moving theme for unison strings as Mermoz receives a radio message of support from his family back home. Honegger wove ten minutes of music from his earlier failed ballet score, “A White Bird Has Flown Away,” into this 50 minute score wanting to preserve the airborne motifs he had created there.
HETS (TORMENT) (1944-Sweden) Hilding Rosenberg
Even though the cinematic universe of Ingmar Bergman would seem to be fertile ground for subtle music scoring, fraught with inner unspoken themes of torment, passion, shame, and classic narrative themes of faith, doubt and myth, the great director repeatedly eschewed music in his films. Even when Eric Nordgren supplied full scores, Bergman chopped them up and vetoed many of the pieces. One crafty way to sneak scoring into Bergman’s world is through films like this: a Bergman script but helmed by Alf Sjöberg. Here is the shady tale of a sadistic teacher, an expelled student, and the girl they both covet. Rosenberg uses a full orchestra in close alignment with the three-way emotions – turbulent and tortured for the Main Titles, ominous and brooding as the student Jan-Erik suffers disasters at school, tragic and cautionary discovering the girl’s death. Rosenberg would eventually write eight symphonies and seven operas on his own time and would soon shift to an atonal Serial style of composition. But his tone here seems a fine blend of Sibelius and Hindemith, the lyrically ageless and the starkly modern – an apt description also of Bergman’s world?
LA BELLE ET LA BETE (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST) (1946-France) Georges Auric
For Jean Cocteau’s fairy tale film about doubt and desire, guilt and redemption, with its silvery cinematography, its spooky castle (the gesturing candelabras, the watching mantelpiece), its sad catlike villain (“poor beasts who want to prove their love”), and Belle, the loyal heroine who works hard to please her father, her fiancé, and the beast, music plays a big part in the intended enchantments. Auric provides the strong neo-classical opening to the film in F major that includes his all-is-well fairy tale theme. There is a lovely neo-romanticism to the courting music when Belle and the beast walk through his gardens, yet a more strained, pained lyricism in the strings as they go off to separate rooms that night, she as his hostage and he no less so. There is a humorously detailed and lightly scored interlude for the town dressmaker who has to deal with Belle’s greedy sisters, but there is brooding dramatic music too as the beast ponders his own essential estrangement from the world. Wordless chorus is often used in scenes exploring the castle as well as those moments hinting at the beast’s unseen killings (all we see are his smoking paws). Whereas Cocteau had been dictatorial in past collaborations with Auric, here because of postwar delays and his own illnesses, he let the composer work alone for four months. The result is a score with a voice of its own, not tied specifically to every shot, but steeped in the spirit of the fairy tale and obviously in harmony with the parable at its center.
LADRI DI BICICLETTE (THE BICYCLE THIEVES) (1947-Italy) Alessandro Cicognini
Controversy still simmers over whether or not Vittorio DeSica’s great neo-realist classic about the hard luck of the working poor (so stoically told in real locations and with non-actors) should have been musically scored at all. Isn’t realism compromised by such sentimentality? Yet the score quickly insinuates itself with the characters – tentative and trembling string phrases at the start; a feeling of resignation in the father’s theme played on the solo baritone horn. There are lighter sounds of celesta and flute to accompany his young son but a clarinet superimposes the father’s theme there like a warning. Then in a nine-minute finale, as events overwhelm both father and son, the music score swells with pathos, dangerously close to excess. Ultimately the truth of the images outshines any melodrama. What this music best accomplished for DeSica, in the end, was to help an art film about the common man find a populist audience.
GOJIRA (GODZILLA) (1954-Japan) Akira Ifukube
How wrong it would have been to score the destruction of a scale model city by a rubberized polyethylene behemoth (with bamboo rods for bones) as though it were a thoughtful allegory “for Japan’s postwar nuclear nightmare following the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima…” Like the film’s special effects, Godzilla the Terrible was crude and clumsy and unapologetic – perfect descriptions, too, for the music score. Using a barely competent orchestra, Ifukube writes mainly in coarse unison lines (everyone on the same note) with maybe one note of adjacent harmony following along and of course a lot of reptilian stomping beats. The anxious, repetitive opening motif speaks of pursuit but with a crazy broken meter of 7/8, 6/8, 5/8, etc. Godzilla’s first full appearance is presaged by a rising mayhem-motif (16th notes on unison trumpets, then strings) together with the non-tonal stomping sound of the big dude himself (produced by whacking electrified coils attached to an amplifier). Bassoon doubled by the lowest notes on the piano provides a slow-stepping meter as Godzilla famously slogs into a flaming Tokyo Bay; camera flashbulbs which drive Godzilla crazy are noted in the music by brass punches. Besides action scoring, Ifukube composed a number of simple laments for the aftermath of destruction: for chorus, for strings in two-part harmony – and a couple of patriotic marches. Even Godzilla’s own roar was produced instrumentally by loosening the strings on a double bass and manipulating them with a rosin-coated glove. These days the film is viewed with some amusement as an historic relic rather than as a directly experienced thriller. Likewise its marvelously uncouth music score.
PATHER PANCHALI (1954-India) Ravi Shankar
There is no more moving musical moment in all cinema than when Ravi Shankar’s score takes the place of the mother’s cry as she suddenly unburdens to her husband the news of their daughter’s death while he was away. The soundtrack is cut off and the piercing tone of a 4-string tarshehnai astonishingly becomes the mother’s voice as she collapses in grief. Part of Satyajit Ray’s “Apu Trilogy,” this film about one dirt poor family (hopelessly idealistic husband, longsuffering wife, and dreambound children) is not merely one of the great films, but one of the great human documents of our time. The score, like life, is by turns lyrical and troubling: the simple warbling bamboo flute, the pointedly wise sitar, and the strange flowing buzz of the tampura, all held within the narrow harmonies of the Indian scale, mask vast depths.
SHICHININ NO SAMURAI (THE SEVEN SAMURAI) (1954-Japan) Fumio Hayasaka
This most Japanese of all Kurosawa epics actually uses very Western methods for scoring its famous story about a small 16th century village that hires a band of samurai to challenge the bandits who steal their harvest every year. Composer Hayasaka employs a Wagnerian leitmotif approach for the score wherein each important character or group is assigned a particular theme like an ID badge. There is some non-thematic functional music used to transition from one scene to another, the orchestra consisting of brass, winds, Japanese guitar, and male chorus. But the score relies mainly on seven assigned themes: one each for the three major forces at odds in the story: the bandits (war drums and deep piano as heard during the Main Titles), the villagers (wordless male chorus in a primitive folk chant, often accompanied by trombones and horns in harsh opposing harmonies), and the samurai (a proud anthem for horns over piano first heard when we meet the samurai leader Kambei); and four themes keyed to specific characters – one for the rascal samurai Kikuchiyo (Kurosawa asked that his music be untraditional so that young viewers might identify with him more, so Hayasaka wrote him a mambo rhythm), a love theme for the rookie samurai and a village girl, a sober theme for the village elders, and a quirky energetic march in the Japanese pentatonic scale as the villagers travel to the city to search for samurai protectors. Although mostly devoted to this leitmotif system of separate themes, the score occasionally juxtaposes them: for instance, how the villagers’ theme plays as the naïve farmers train clumsily in war tactics, then becomes the samurai theme as Kambei steps in show them how it’s really done.
NUIT ET BROUILLARD (NIGHT AND FOG) (1956-France) Hanns Eisler
There are some film subjects, after all, that trump music altogether. Any composer who tried to simulate or dramatize the bottomless horrors of the Holocaust would be, at least, trivial by comparison and, at worst, disrespectful. Instead, Eisler’s score (which runs the length of the film) for Alain Resnais’ essay looking back at life in the Nazi SS camps seems to be reporting not the direct experience but rather a view from ordinary observers outside looking in. He writes in the detached language of the 40’s avant garde musician (check out similar documentary scores by Ulysses Kay and Benjamin Britten from that period). It is the voice of a so-called progressive society we are hearing but with a disturbed edge as it looks at the newsreels of the camps and sees its own crumbling order. It sounds almost neutral but there is a hint of desperation: the appalled conscience. It’s using the vernacular of ordinary life (tunes and pop chords) as though to maintain civilization with all its necessary diversions even in the face of obvious evil. Eisler does grow philosophic sometimes, as when the few pizzicato violins and basses make an acrid comment over aerial views of one camp, then over grisly footage of what Allied troops found once the camps were liberated: stacks of corpses, pails full of heads, soft piles of human ash. But again the score is not about the atrocities; it seems to be about the distance of memory, the contexts that surrounded these scenes at one remove. That kind of squinting irony is a far cry from, say, Shostakovich’s wildly participatory scoring for Oktober. Eisler shows how the film score can stand away from its subject and, by that space, that denial, be making its own important point.
ASCENSEUR POUR l’ECHAFAUD (ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS aka FRANTIC) (1957-France) Miles Davis
Jazz aficionado Louis Malle found Miles Davis in Paris playing clubs and the idea came to him that Miles should score his first feature film. This was the tightly told story of two couples over their heads in crime – Julien and Florence (Jeanne Moreau) who plot to kill her husband, and two hapless young lovers who steal Julien’s car and are drawn into troubles of their own. Miles had been searching for some new direction for his music after the success of his big band album, “Miles Ahead.” The idea of watching a scene on screen and improvising his music against such an external source fascinated him. He prepared two modal themes (not based on key-chords but on a fixed sequence of notes) but then only used them for reference, improvising his performances while each scene was being projected in front of him, although a few synchronizations were planned for post-production to match certain actions on screen. The film opens with Miles’ bluesy solo as Julien and Florence are seen in close-up planning their crime on the phone. His trumpet’s ‘stoned’ sound has much of the weary jaded personality to which our main characters will come in the end. Notice, too, the duet between bass player and drummer rapping nervously on his ride-cymbal as Julien is interrogated by the police. After the murder, Julien is trapped in the building’s elevator for a time while Florence worries: on the soundtrack, a slow walking-bass line, then dark piano fill and Miles’ high muted trumpet with a black blues for her. She’ll be drawn into the police trap before long anyway, confirming the film’s two main messages: that crime doesn’t pay and jazz never lies.
ENJO (CONFLAGRATION) (1958-Japan) Toshiro Mayuzumi
After his father’s death, Goichi comes to Soen Temple to study as a novice. He already stutters badly and his confidence is shaken more every day by the corruption he sees around him. His father always spoke of one pure ideal: the incomparable beauty of the Shukaku Temple just across the pond from Soen. Rather than see it defiled by ordinary men, Goichi determines to burn it where it stands. Most of the score’s music cues begin with the marimba played in fitful rhythms (quick couplings of notes, then pauses) which are clearly a reference to Goichi’s stuttering. Frequent flashbacks to his troubled past are introduced by the marimba alone in thoughtful arhythmic lines, by atonal string accents, and by vibraphone with its reverberating tones that actually sound like memory. When Goichi sees Shukaku or talks about it, the score glistens with high bells and warm, if abstract, string passages reminiscent of the French composer whom Mayuzumi idealized all his life, Messiaen. As Goichi grows desperate, pizzicato strings join the marimba in a pointilistic torment; yet the score shows sympathy too, softening its harmonies when he considers a beautiful girl or when he stutters to confess, “When you live alone and in despair, words don’t come easily.” One completely original cue begins with the usual hesitant marimba lines as Goichi wanders hopelessly in the city. A stray dog kindly licks his hand then trots away. Goichi gives chase seeking companionship and the disordered notes begin to form a regular pattern between two marimbas, then glockenspiel, then pizzicato strings, soon forming a kind of delightful dance as the dog eludes him. As Mayuzumi was writing this, he was also composing his famous Nirvana Symphony, a work that brought him to the attention of director John Huston for whom he would later work in America.
ORFEU NEGRO (BLACK ORPHEUS) (1959-Brazil/France/Italy) Jobim & Bonfa
Just a candy-coated entertainment and yet full of such beautiful people, such poster-ready views of the bay at Rio, and such a dynamic new kind of music: what they called the Bossa Nova beat which just means “the new bump.” Four charming pieces of new music blew by in the film’s first ten minutes. Certainly it was the start of fame for Antonio Carlos Jobim whose seemingly endless string of sophisticated sinuous melodies was to enrich jazz, pop radio and films for decades. He was not just a lucky beach bum from the sands of Ipanema – he had studied the French chanson, the harmonies of Hector Villa-Lobos, and the structure of American songs, and he had a lot to say on his own. The burst of drumming that opens this film is but a set-up for the first of his songs, “Felicidade,” with its lovely meandering major/minor melody. As in ancient myth, Orpheus, here a trolly driver, is destined to love and lose Eurydice. He meets her at Carnaval and they make love to the tune of “Manha de Carnaval,” a song contributed by another Brazilian Luis Bonfa. Unlike the ambitious Jobim, Bonfa preferred fishing to composing but this high profile film yanked him into the spotlight for a time. Jobim returns with “O Nosso Amor,” an untroubled samba that shows the infectious joy of the hill people donning Carnaval costumes and trading gossip. “Frevo” is his raucous parade march in the form of a dance. True to legend, Eurydice is stalked by a masked figure dressed as Death. For the last third of the film then, as Orpheus loses her, then searches for some magic to bring her back to life, the music is left behind and the movie turns glum; it needs those songs and “bumps”.
ROCCO e i SUOI FRATELLI (ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS) (1960-Italy) Nino Rota
Before Rota’s more famous dark-heart-of-Italy music for The Godfather, there was Rocco: Visconti’s vivid soap opera about a large family come to Milan from the country to look for work and finding temptation and tragedy. Rota’s natural instincts for the lonely folk tune, for garish post-war club music that also has a knowing edge, and especially for the tragic Everyman theme, all have an outlet here. After two crashing chords, that main theme is introduced by massed strings hinting at the operatic scale of the family melodrama. A street singer and guitar begin the song, “Paese Mio,” which will return in the film as a reminder of the brothers’ lost hopes. The small village from whence they came is evoked by Rota’s simple minor key waltz, attractive but dusted with fatalism; two flutes give a lilt to the major key midsection of that waltz recalling the country pleasures of life and landscape. Simone is the first to fall. His turbulent affair with the city woman Nadia is scored with a restless string bass line that could almost pass for a swing rhythm if not for the disturbing chromatic melody on top played by a cheap electric organ, at once glib and sinister. The score’s tragic theme, with its distinctive ‘warning’ first phrase, enters many times throughout the brothers’ odyssey, developing into Puccini-like operatic intensity (listen to the lake scene as Simone’s jealousy leads to murder). In one sense, this is really B-movie scoring, italicizing emotions that are already there on screen. Yet in another sense, perhaps depth of feeling and credibility are not there at all without the music. Rota, of course, could also write ironic circus music for Fellini and Elizabethan ballades for such as Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet. But this direct heart-of-Italy music is Rota at his most convincing.
LE VOYAGE EN BALLON (1960-France) Jean Prodromides
Director/aviator Albert Lamorisse combined a desire to show-off his new no-vibration aerial camera mounting system (Helivision) with a feeble story of an inventor and his grandson who drift in a hot air balloon over the varied landscapes of France – an ideal occasion for this charming suite francaise that became an internationally best selling album. Horns open the score mimicking cathedral bells as the floating camera passes church spires and glides over the rooftops of Paris. The grand waltz for the balloon is first heard in hurdy-gurdy style as the street vendors and shops pass below and, of course, it soars each time the balloon is launched from its daily mooring site. There are variations and extrapolations of that waltz all through the film: for harp and flute as we gaze down on the Chenonceaux gardens, for male chorus as we circle the tall masts of a windjammer, and in more advanced harmonies in the winds/strings as we glide over the toiling seaweed farmers at ocean’s edge. For the slapstick assistant who follows their balloon in a motorcar there is a limber can-can and even a Scotts variant thereof as he stumbles through a Celtic wedding. Two perfect Prodromides moments are the chromatic clarinet tune heard over the long shot of a white shirt dropped from the balloon-basket, billowing and gesturing as it falls through the air – and the suspended string tremolo with oboe and harp comment as a single pink flamingo skims the surface of an inlet cove, barely pumping its wings and we, just as gracefully airborne, keep perfect pace. For the film’s U.S. release, someone added a sanctimonious narrative track read by the flat Bostonian voice of Jack Lemmon and called it “Stowaway in the Sky.” Find the French version.
UNE FEMME EST UNE FEMME (A WOMAN IS A WOMAN) (1961-France) Michel Legrand
Even as Godard co-authored the French New Wave in cinema by espousing a disjointed visual/narrative style, he struck a similarly anarchic pose against the traditions of movie music in his films. Here Godard/Legrand are making fun of the Hollywood musical but, no less so, of dramatic film scoring. The frothy plot concerns Angela who tells her boyfriend Emile that she wants a baby; he whines and protests; she strays to Alfred, then comes back. Because she is a cabaret singer, there are opportunities for Legrand songs in the film but Godard parodies them, at one point shutting off the piano accompaniment every time Angela opens her mouth to sing. The real satire, though, is in the so-called functional scoring. Here, Legrand’s orchestral music is hilariously, exhilaratingly exaggerated and intrusive: puncturing dialogue scenes irreverently, underlining the characters’ mundane dialogue as though each line were cataclysmic, sometimes making fun of the characters by playing an anti-climax after some big declaration. It is the very sort of musical hyperbole that modern composers have learned to avoid but Legrand enjoys the sin of exploiting all his virtuosity, from symphonic to pop styles to operatics to jazz – everything he had learned as the prized pupil of Nadia Boulanger – and forcing them upon this flimsy story. At home, Angela and Emile’s spats are almost always “scored” with this sort of running commentary by orchestra until a certain ballet-like sense starts to take over the whole film. There is so much music that their dialogue begins to function as “lyrics.” After about an hour of this thoroughly wacky kind of scoring, we begin to realize that the music has become an important part of our light affection for these characters. It is their language. Legrand has helped turn Godard’s otherwise eccentric joke into the very kind of satisfying romantic comedy he set out to lampoon.
YOJIMBO (1961-Japan) Masaru Sato
What can we learn from the fact that director Kurosawa’s first comedy contains more music than any of his dramatic films? Apparently he believed that comic or grotesque characters needed more off-screen advocacy from a score than did heroes. Here he knowingly leads his protagonist, a displaced samurai, straight into a small town farce. The samurai decides to stay only because he knows he can play the town’s two feuding factions (silk sellers and sake sellers) to his own advantage, offering his services as bodyguard to both. And, as Kurosawa presents them, they are a gallery of clowns – fussy, greedy, cowardly, brutish stumblebums. Accordingly, Sato’s score is a vaudeville of borrowed styles and absurd voices. The hero’s theme features a militant rhythm — bongos, wood block, harpsichord, and low strings – with the melody on flute or sometimes taken by a band of various reeds (baritone sax, English horn) and set against a latin band as though out of some Mexican border town. The dark harpsichord passages suggest some British mystery story while an electric guitar is another anachronism that seems to prefigure the “spaghetti western” scores of the mid-60s. The climactic street fight where the samurai lets each faction kill the other while he hides in a wooden crate is scored with the full sax/brass/reeds band blaring a kind of rumba rhythm full of “wrong” notes and dropped beats. And the last confrontation (the samurai facing one last wise guy) features a “cool crime beat” on a ride cymbal. Somehow Kurosawa makes it all fit. The samurai walks away triumphant with a distinctively modern swagger to a few last barks from the band.
IVANOVO DYETSTVO (aka IVAN’S CHILDHOOD; MY NAME IS IVAN) (1962-Russia) Vachislav Ovchinokov
Tarkovsky’s debut film about a headstrong 12-year-old spy for the Russian army in WW2 who rebels against the offer of sanctuary in a safe military school and demands duty at the Front, combined fierce performances, impressionistic camerawork, and a score whose tone was split between fatalism (low tonal percussion in dark irregular patterns like hearing distant flack explosions) and a lyrical sense of yearning (winds and strings held in the same delicate Franco-Russian harmonies that Stravinsky discovered in his Paris years). It may be that Tarkovsky, in his virtuoso visual style and subtle use of music, was himself rebelling against the recent commercial success of 1959’s Russian “hit” Ballad of a Soldier with its romantic version of heroism and its Hollywoodish music score. Certainly his bleak thesis here sets him apart. Three of Ivan’s four dream sequences are the best, though not the only, places to judge this score – the death of his mother with its sunny opening music and terrible conclusion, the time-reversed applecart scene where we sense the loss (through the strained pastoral music) of all the youthful experiences that Ivan will never know, and the final beach dream with its ecstatic scoring as Ivan runs along the shore reaching forward for something he can’t grasp. Ovchinokov’s score soars there, yet ends with the sound of one blunt drum.
CLEO de 5 a 7 (CLEO FROM 5 TO 7) (1962-France) Michel Legrand
Agnes Varda’s oh-so-60s vignettes about pop singer Cleo Victoire’s long cathartic afternoon awaiting the results of a medical test. Tarot cards have predicted bad news but her faithful secretary insists she must carry on with regular life until 7pm when she can call the doctor. Alone in the streets of Paris, she gets sympathy only from the music score – a kind of pop-chaconne for strings and harp arpeggio. Soon we will hear the same melody coming from a taxi radio, a jazz trombone, and from several juke boxes. Faking normalcy, Cleo gets together with her pianist and lyricist to rehearse some new songs. At the keyboard is Legrand himself in an ebullient performance coaxing, teasing, encouraging her to rise to the music and it is a chance to hear playful fragments of several early unpublished Legrand songs – the romantic “Wayward Girl,” the jazzy “Girl Who Lied,” and a lighthearted shuffle called “Playing” – pop music so fresh and original as to point towards his future international career. The tune she settles on, though, is a Bachinan torch song, “Cry of Love”: the room goes dark, the camera begins to glide around her as she sings, and a full orchestra slides in around Legrand’s piano as she takes the song to heart. We’ll hear it later on harps and guitar as Cleo chats with a stranger in the park. He is still with her at the fateful hour of 7 o’clock when, at last, she gets her doctor’s good news that her tests were not serious, that two months’ treatment will cure her. “My fear is gone,” she says in a newly adult voice, “I seem to be happy.” Four chords from the first tune fill the soundtrack as Cleo and the stranger turn to look at one another.
OTTO E MEZZO [8 ½] (1963 – Italy) Nino Rota
If Fellini can be believed, life is a three-ring circus made of memory, fantasy, and fear. As everyone knows, his main character here is Guido, a famous film director in midlife crisis, confounded by everyone’s expectations of him, retreating into an inner room of worrying and wishing. As quintessential Fellini music – flamboyant, satiric, probing – this Rota score begins with an exuberant but sobering circus march disguised elsewhere in the film as a cheap foxtrot, a swing tune and, using only the bass line, as the lost memory of a troubling lullaby. Guido’s poignantly ridiculous mistress is satirized with an orchestral ‘gallop’ (actually a paraphrase of Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance”) and Rota variously quotes Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Rossini, even Franz Lehar for similarly satiric effect. There is an unforgettable rumba for the prostitute Saraghina’s gyrating dance on the beach and, several times, a gaudy Vox organ seems to represent the tawdry modern world that Guido has to navigate. As demanding mistress, derisive wife, greedy boss, cynical colleagues, and disappointed parents all stir Guido towards a breakdown, Rota’s ‘gallop’ grows to symphonic proportions, insistent and frantic. But it is the return of his opening circus march, now on the solo flute (slowly gathering other players around it) that seems to clear Guido’s mind. His rather trite climactic speech (“Accept me as I am”) is made to seem triumphant by Fellini’s surrealistic staging and by the growing confidence of the end music. The march rises to accept Guido as ringmaster of his own life at last, then shrinks back to solo flute again as an overhead spotlight singles-out the figure of Guido as a child, follows him for a time, then trails off.
BATTALGIA DA ALGIERS (BATTLE OF ALGIERS) (1965-Italy/Algeria) Ennio Morricone
Because of this film’s starkly realistic presentation (an opening graphic begs us to believe that there is no documentary or newsreel footage used in its representation of the 1950s Arab insurgency in Algeria against France) many people don’t realize that the film even had a musical score but Morricone’s contribution to the soundtrack is strong and a good summary of his basic musical language. There are five harsh layers to his battle music (though this battle is confined to the streets of the Casbah between municipal police and terrorist cells of rebels): first a militant snare drum foundation in 6/8 time, then a six-note ostinato (3 up, 3 down) for basses with low piano, then accented trombone notes on the beat, and woodwinds syncopated off the beat. All this gives the impression of music for some TV police melodrama until the fifth layer, two trumpets volleying back and forth as though across a battlefield, reminds us that this is war. That, of course, is the central issue: whether the rebels are criminals and thugs or war patriots against colonization and the marginalization of Muslim culture. The police-plot to plant a bomb of their own and to blame it on the terrorists is scored with suspenseful strings and two oboes conversing worriedly. Then a characteristic Morricone baroque adagio for string orchestra becomes the only sound after the explosion as Casbah residents pull limp bodies from the rubble. Music makes the scene play like a memorial service. And yet this same mourning music is played for the victims of the insurgency later. Thus the score seems to be saying, Terrorism in a conscientious cause is still unconscionable. A few harsh chords close the film in anger.
PIERROT LE FOU (PIERROT GOES WILD) (1965-France) Antoine Duhamel
Director Jean-Luc Godard worked from an American pulp-fiction novel about Fernando, on the run from his rich wife, and Marianne who seems to have gangster connections. Feeling pursued and threatened, the couple wanders aimlessly across a glitzy 60s landscape of highways, absurd parties and all-night gas stations. As Godard filmed, Duhamel wrote four extended pieces in his own vernacular totaling 20 minutes for string ensemble with one alto flute providing its cooler detached tone. He then pronounced himself fascinated with the way Godard set about chopping up his music into random bits: cutting into a music cue for a 10-second foot-chase, then lopping it off without warning; using 2 minutes of another piece under a conversation but then turning his back on it. In other words, Godard was using shreds of the scoring tapes like some caulking paste to fill-in spaces in his film, without regard to musical meaning or structure. His purpose, as always, was to confound traditions. What is remarkable besides the experiment itself is how this music retains the emotional power of its sad, sober philosophic voice even though it is heard in such a shambles of interruptions, repetitions, and exclusions (only half of what Duhamel wrote is ever used). The four “themes” in their original form are actually extended movements which rely more on inner harmonics than on anything like melody. The 8-minute lamento movement for Fernando shifts between 6/8 and 4/4; the second is a more agitated piece in accented 8th notes used in tension scenes; the third is a more sinewy piece often used for Fernando alone; the third is hushed and hesitant using quarter-note pauses in each measure, sounding both woeful and resigned. As an essay for strings, this music represents a remarkable neo-romantic elegy with a nihilist edge; as the raw material for an experimental soundtrack it becomes its film’s reluctant proxy.
DER JUNGE TORLESS (YOUNG TORLESS) (1966-Germany) Hans Werner Henze
Director Volker Schlondorff saw in this psychological tale of bullying and conscience at one of those typical Austro-Hungarian boarding schools circa 1910 a rich metaphor for the way German middle classes tried to remain aloof as they watched the Nazis rise to power. Young Torless, likewise, observes from an intellectual distance two boys begin tormenting a weaker Jewish classmate named Basini. Schlondorff tells his surface story directly, but he relies almost entirely on the music score to carry the metaphor. Like the gray featureless flatlands of the setting, Henze’s themeless, rootless, post-modern Bergian musical language seems like the very voice of no-man’s-land and his decision to choose an eccentric collection of obsolete ancient instruments, with their strained untextured voices, keeps the metaphor before us. There is the flat (no vibrato) sound of the stringed drehlieien and several antique wind instruments with their tight squashed tones (halfway between a kazoo and a bagpipe). There are different-pitched recorders and at least two long-extinct horns – one baritone and one alto – which tend to warble off pitch like the breaking voice of adolescence itself. The recorders play a mock-fanfare to announce the supremacy of the bully culture that is using Basini as scapegoat to consolidate its power. The score experiments with aggressive rhythms as the tormenting of Basini begins in earnest. Now, of course, Torless has so long delayed taking a moral stand against such harassment that in the end it is too late to interfere and thus does the Observer become an Accomplice. Henze’s music score has known this all along; its rueful countenance and strange voices have been sizing-up Torless and warning us about him from the start. When he tries to run away, the music dogs him with violent strings that match the rhythm of his footfalls.
DAS SCHLOSS (THE CASTLE) (1968-Germany/Austria) Herbert Trantow
Vienna-born actor Maximilian Schell felt so strongly towards Franz Kafka’s allegorical novel about the bewilderment of modern Man in a faceless bureaucratic world that he co-produced this low budget feature with director Rudolph Noelte. They shot in a truly snowbound Austrian village dotted with 19th century huts and inns and stables all nestled at the foot of a castle-topped hill with a multilingual cast of rough Austro-Germanic faces. Schell, of course, plays K. the wandering Land Surveyor supposedly summoned to the village by officials of the castle but puzzled that they have no use for him. The score, which employs a late Baroque orchestra of strings, flute solo and harpsichord, begins with a powerful C-minor pedal-point in the basses that continues throughout the introduction for flute and mid-range strings – sober music with the Germanic ancestry of Bach. Soon a more continental flute theme begins to humanize K as he meets Frieda the barmaid who tries to help. A scherzo for harpsichord and orchestra appears as K is provided with two ridiculous assistants who frolic around him in the snow like idiots. Still K can find no one in authority and the more alienated he feels, the more tainted with modern ideas is the music score: especially note the film’s climax as K spots a sleigh headed for the castle and chases after it on foot. In the film’s last distant shot, the dividing line between grey snow and grey sky is indistinct so that it appears K is somehow following the sleigh off of the earth, up towards Heaven or oblivion. So too, Trantow’s subtle harmonic colors have taken the music from the certainties of Bach towards the question marks of Debussy, that other prophet, alongside Kafka, of the Age of Anxiety.
LA FEMME INFIDELE (UNFAITHFUL WIFE) (1968-France) Pierre Jansen
The long working relationship between composer Jansen and director Claude Chabrol produced many fine film scores. For this simple chamber soap-opera about a bourgeois husband who kills his wife’s lover, then tries to keep up the appearance of an orderly life, Jansen used a “mannerly” classical trio – piano, violin, cello – carefully composed in tight, atonal modules that represent the love triangle we’re watching. Jansen’s atonality gives a scowling yet refined impression, strong but wary, even sly with foreknowledge of the crime-to-come. His message seems to be, ‘something is wrong here.’ For the film’s first half, the score links to the husband’s psychology, emerging when he is alone, or when he begins to suspect his wife’s infidelity, and then intensifying in dissonance as his jealousy grows. (Sometimes vibes and a low electric organ add to the suspense as he hires a detective to spy on her.) When the surveillance report comes back, he knows what he has to do. Two things change in the score at this point – Jansen breaks up his trio into duets (piano/cello, cello/violin) and he begins to write in more tonal, more balanced lines as though accepting the worst and relieved to be taking action. That action, of bludgeoning her lover to death, is shown without music but the film’s longest score-cue follows immediately as the husband carries the body, wrapped in white linen like a parcel, to the trunk of his car: banging jazz-like chords on the piano over a cello song. As the body sinks into a dirty pond, a light trembling figure on the cello and cascading piano lines follow it down. Only when he is cornered for his crime and led away by police is the familiar piano/violin/cello trio restored but this time it climaxes in the most tonal chord in the whole score. It seems to be Jansen’s opinion that “something is wrong” with bourgeois life – some deep dissonance – and that almost any rebellion, even murder, restores a kind of balance.
IL GIARDINO DEI FINZI-CONTINI (GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINIS) (1970-Italy) Manuel De Sica
Widely considered Vittorio De Sica’s late-career comeback after years of compromised productions, this sentimental tale set in Mussolini’s Italy follows Giorgio, a young working class Jew, who falls for Micol, the unapproachable daughter of the upper class Finzi-Contini family during her last summer in “the garden” (with its tennis courts and bike paths and gazebo rendezvous) before the Fascist regime takes it all away. Helping De Sica strike the right tone between nostalgia and tragedy, is the blatantly emotional score by De Sica’s own son, Manuel. By writing in themes as demonstrative as an Italian opera, yet scoring them with delicate post-impressionistic harmonies and with quiet solo instruments, a most sympathetic tone is achieved. When Giorgio and Micol remember their days as childhood sweethearts and the score lightens with harpsichord or, at other times, a simpler piano song, the film’s appeal seems to broaden beyond wartime, applicable to everyone’s lost summer. De Sica the Younger is more intuitive than schooled in music and rumor has it that these orchestrations were not by De Sica at all but rather a young American Julliard graduate, living in Rome at the time, Bill Conti, later famous for his own punchy pop music to Rocky. There are some solemn ensemble moments such as the clarinet-led piece (subtly Impressionistic) as Giorgio absorbs the fact that Micol, once so close, doesn’t love him now. But the overall effect of the score is that of a doomed idyll. The Finzi-Contini family, it is said, “Don’t even seem to be Jewish,” yet they are rounded up by Mussolini with all the rest, class privileges notwithstanding. The sight of their garden estate receding through the rear window of their escort car caused contemporary audiences to weep when the film played its first run, largely because Manual De Sica’s not-quite-cloying music score proved compelling.
LES DEUX ANGLAISES ET LE CONTINENT (aka TWO ENGLISH GIRLS, aka ANNE AND MURIEL) (1971-France) Georges Delerue
The films for which Delerue is best known (Hiroshima Mon Amour, Contempt, Jules and Jim) featured only a few pieces of music. So we seek to represent him where music is more fully engaged. With the possible exception of his jazz-flavored scores (Calmos, Police Python 357) Delerue’s characteristic language was a kind of melancholy baroque dialect channeling Handel and Vivaldi and Rameau. This 30-minute score for Truffaut’s mid-career soap opera about compulsive love (one man loved by two sisters) set in turn-of-the-century Paris and the Welsh coast makes lovely use of the baroque lento as the form of most of its themes: long legato lines with all the strings playing at once in a dusky minor key – sometimes with solo flute or oboe doubling the melody on top. There is a pathetique theme, struggling indulgently as Muriel declares her love for Claude, later a confessional cavatina as Muriel narrates a letter to him about their breakup. Anxious strings appear for the first time as Muriel discovers Anne’s affair. As the years go by, Delerue adds a more formal plucked bass line as though plodding off the steps of a life. His one major theme outside of the lento form, more renaissance in character, is the gentle hopeful rather innocent piano tune in ¾ time heard in the early days when what will become an edgy love triangle was still a love circle. The melody is perfect Delerue and has a generous “Let me tell you a story” quality that Truffaut particularly wanted. He and Delerue worked together on 11 films over 25 years; Delerue even makes an on-screen appearance in this one playing a solicitor.
EL ESPIRITU DE LA COLMENA (SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE) (1972-Spain) Luis de Pablo
In a tiny town on the Castilian plains, while the Fascist Franco regime rages far away, six-year-old Ana and her older sister Isabel join their neighbors in the town hall to watch Frankenstein, this month’s trucked-in movie. Their father is a distracted beekeeper; their mother writes endless letters to a lover missing in the Spanish civil war, so the girls are growing up in a world of silence and imagination. Ana wants to meet Frankenstein for real and she will search for him in her own wide-eyed, fearful-yet-hopeful way near the old well and later in the night woods. Director Victor Erice’s carefully composed honey-colored images and De Pablo’s opening music for flute and piano with its bi-tonal melody in 7/8 time, both eerie and innocent, admit us to a world of wonders. There is a happy Spanish dance for guitar and recorder that accompanies the town kids to school and a lonely folk song that the mother plays on their out-of-tune piano thinking of her lover. A walk in the woods, the girls with their father, begins with an airy waltz for harp and flute; but when they come upon a poisonous mushroom, more worrisome chromatic intervals creep into the music. There are evils in the world, the father says, and it is that lesson (maybe about creeping Fascism, maybe about approaching adulthood) that both attracts Ana and freezes her. That’s her Frankenstein and two soprano soloists sing De Pablo’s weird convocation as Ana summons him.
LE TRAIN (THE TRAIN) (1973-France) Philippe Sarde
Paris Conservatory student, son of an opera singer, Sarde was just 27 when he took this screenplay home and composed a 9-part essay for strings (with a few horns and winds) on the general subject of locomotion. Jean-Louis Trintignant and Romy Schneider played refugees Julian and Anna fleeing Nazi horrors on the last border-bound train. Always more musical than onomatopoeic, Sarde’s score still manages to evoke the dynamics of a train journey and the sense of destiny at the end of the tracks. Director Pierre Granier-Deferre was so taken by the pre-submitted score, that he shot parts of the film to the tempo and atmosphere of the music, including the otherwise silent B&W war scenes. Sarde’s string section gets a real workout here, often the source of a variety of different chugging and rotating meters in perpetual motion: in the opening music a shrill spinning figure in the violins against violent accents in the brass and basses, later a struggling jagged rhythm (trombones and low strings) dominates Anna’s theme (which once was a quiet waltz) as the drama of escape intrudes on her relationship with Julian. Muted strings mimic forward motion more reflectively later. There are static interludes, too, evocative of an engine at rest, venting and hissing at a rail siding. In the end, Anna’s waltz is influenced by Julian with a sadder, resigned 4/4-time for journey’s end. That Sarde was able to maintain the musical integrity of each piece (they’re all written in descending lines like a train losing momentum) gave early proof that he would develop into a major player for international film music.
STAVISKY (1974-France) Stephen Sondheim
There is a unique transparency to the orchestra that Sondheim assembled for this score about a 1930s French swindler (Jean-Paul Belmondo) dealing in phony stocks and political promises but soon becoming a pawn of the larger national forces that will lead to Fascism. Though Sondheim was the voice of Broadway in the 70s and 80s, he was never happy being known for his wise and witty lyrics. He saw himself as a composer first, star pupil of the avant garde Milton Babbitt, and he saw this score as a chance to prove that. His natural compositional language was already appropriate for Stavisky: the disillusioned modernism of Schoenberg mixed with the free-roaming luxuriant tonalities of post-Impressionism Ravel mixed with theater pop. For the film score, Sondheim added a sly parlor society chic (with a fondness for sweet piano trio interludes) and even a few crafty gangster film-music clichés (tremolo strings, chase rhythms). His main theme sets the tone – cool soprano sax against a nonchalant foxtrot vamp yet given a film noir sense of foreboding which Sondheim can then exploit throughout the film as Stavisky falls in and out of trouble and love. The wife Arlette’s motif is brighter, more knowing, and translates easily into a grand society waltz. For the Trotskyite Erna whose idealism Stavisky seems to envy, there is a purer theme, sometimes livened by sunny flute flourishes – so different from the music of regret and remembrance when Stavisky visits his father’s old house and feels ashamed. The orchestration suggested by Sondheim, executed by the gifted Jonathan Tunick, is well matched to the film’s era and yet stands apart too with its ironic foreknowledge of how Stavisky’s personal downfall, even as it implicates other government officials, is bound to be overswept by events on the world stage and by a whole new kind (i.e. Mussolini) of swindler.
LE JUGE ET L’ASSASSIN (THE JUDGE AND THE ASSASSIN) (1976-France) Philippe Sarde
The “assassin” is Bouvier, a depraved killer of defenseless shepherds and farmhands who roamed the hills of Brittany in the 1890s. When finally apprehended, he begged for help, knowing he was insane. In the film, an ambitious judge Rousseau pretends to befriend Bouvier, hoping to charm his way to a cold-blooded confession. Thus, in his own quiet civilized way, the judge is as ruthless as the assassin. Sarde enters the fray immediately with the Main Title music – an impetuous atonal cello passage of chaotic rhythm and accented strokes of the bow (doubled by piano) interrupted by alarms from a violins/horns combination, subsiding finally into a slow swaying, repressed and lonely folk-like tune for strings and accordion. This is the music of Bouvier’s madness and sadness. For a while the music representing Rousseau’s world is a series of peasant airs by Sarde – a drinking song with lyrics about the “rough winter of ’70,” a parlor aria about sending sons to the Prussian Army (with Sarde himself in costume, seated at the piano), and particularly one chanson that traveling troubadours are singing about the shepherd killings. Bouvier can hear this latter song from his prison window: the craggy voice of the bearded balladeer, the solo harp accompaniment which Sarde gradually complicates while adding strings, flute, horn, one at a time. With those restless songs, string laments, and atonal agitations, Sarde is really scoring not the characters but the turbulent times when reformers and anarchists were challenging the status quo, testing the corruptibility of “respectables” like Rousseau. Bouvier’s private aberrations were just stirring the pot.
EMPIRE OF PASSION (aka IN THE REALM OF PASSION) (1978-Japan) Toru Takemitsu
Entirely self-taught yet praised by Stravinsky, Takemitsu always wrote sparingly for films, yet tried to set each score in a unique aural universe. To him, the composer’s purpose was “to carve sound out of silence.” In Nagisa Oshima’s horror story of revenge, lustful lovers Toyoji and Seki are haunted by the ghost of her husband Gisaburo, the rickshaw man, whom they have murdered. Takemitsu’s score establishes its other-worldly voice from the start – mixing the traditional pentatonic scale with the unsteady quarter tones of ancient music, modern chromatic shadings and atonal atmospheres – in an ensemble including harps, vibes, tonal rods, an assortment of winds (oboes, bassoon, bass clarinet, bass flute, and high piercing Japanese flute), also wood block, log-drums, a few brass, and a chamber grouping of strings. A nightmarish rocking motif from the off-tuned harps opens the score, then winds play a strange melody in unison at the high and low extremes of their ranges. Those harps prove to be the sign of the haunting. As Toyoji first declares they must kill Gisaburo, low winds and horns in pentatonic chord progressions are offset by dissonant sensual strings with a single violin playing an alluring chromatic line as passion takes over. They dump Gisaburo’s body into an old well in the forest and hope to be done with it but deep brass, strings and winds in the score declare otherwise. When a wheel on Seki’s wall begins to turn like her husband’s rickshaw, she knows she is doomed – an oboe holds one note as the quarter tone harps enter behind it with their ghostly rocking and their haunted 7th chord.
DIE BLECHTROMMEL (THE TIN DRUM) (1979-Germany) Maurice Jarre
Jarre found fame in 60s’ France (Sundays and Cybele) and Britain (Lawrence of Arabia) yet sought an entirely distinct sound for this Volker Schlondorf classic about baby Oskar who vows to stop growing until the Nazi regime of his native Berlin is ousted. Still kindergarten sized, well into his teens, Oskar learns his own form of terrorism. With only a piercing vocal screech that shatters glass and a few raps on his toy drum to protest the world around him, he can wreak havoc: he sabotages a Nazi rally (tapping out a waltz rhythm that muddles the marching troops) and jealously interrupts his mother and her Polish lover by splintering all the windows near their rendezvous. Jarre gives her affair the most steaming, roiling, passionate sax song. It is later reprised, first as a carefree whistle (the oblivious lover) and as a lonely clarinet solo (Oskar’s lament). Jarre who trained as a percussionist uses a flamboyant array of drumming throughout the score, including warped kettledrums and snares played on the rim to mimic a tin drum, strange Polynesian hand shakers and miniature bells. His sonorous peasant theme, heard as we trace Oskar’s ancestry back to his grandmother, is crude but constant in its simple lines – yet it is punctuated by the startling voice of a fujara flute [with its ragged split-tongue sound] representing the film’s fantastical POV. For the bombing of the post office where Oskar hides, Jarre didn’t want battle music: the explosions are filmed in silence against a Chopin-like piano polonaise. In the end, Hitler falters and Oskar begins to grow again. Only his ageless grandmother has survived the war with him. Her peasant theme, now unsettled with rolling timpani and that fateful fujara, returns to see Oskar off on the train.
DE VIERDE MAN (THE FOURTH MAN) (1983-Netherlands) Loek Dikker
Director Paul Verhoven’s lurid puzzler about a gay writer caught between disturbing dreams of dismemberment and the very real dangers of a murderous spider-woman is rightfully seen as a horror film and Amsterdam-born Loek (Lucas) Dikker has surely scored it that way. A slowly swelling ground note in the basses opens the score with an air of peril; then bassoons, then unsettled strings and a rich brass/wind blend come in as we watch, behind the Main Titles, a spider attending to a number of ensnared flies. Gerard the writer meets Christine at one of his lectures and she asks him home. Even the news that three of her past husbands have died in accidents is not enough warning for Gerard, but we do hear early concerns in the music score. For an unschooled jazz musician, Dikker’s fluency with the typical horror movie scoring techniques is impressive – high tremolo strings and piquant wind-phrasing help create a strong atmosphere of lust and lost bearings. There is a more romantic theme heard as Gerard and Christine run on a beach: piano arpeggios over a strained string accompaniment suggests that in Verhoven’s world even love is not quite the comfort it ought to be. And, anyway, between spider and fly, trust is impossible. There is a third motif that feels more like Gerard’s sought-for liberation heard once in church, once looking at the moon with Christine, and once deliriously believing his nurse to be the Virgin Mary. It was with such music that Dikker began to gain a wider reputation, moving on immediately to good scores for English language films like Ben Kingsley’s Pascali’s Island (1988).
MISHIMA (1985-Japan/US) Philip Glass
We meet Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima as he leads a small private army onto a military base to protest the capitalist Western leanings of the government in power. Glass’s reliance on the Minimalist School of Composition appears to reference the ritual aspects of that obsessive main character. The original intentions of Minimalism, with its repetitious, rotating rhythms and common chords, was to remove any dependence on dogmatic melody so that, as during a mantra, the medium itself would become transparent and one could pass through to some transcendent meaning. (One perfect film example was Glass’ score for the non-narrative image-essay Koyaanisqatsi.) Here, such mantra-music is used to tell a story. The film interrupts its black-and-white depiction of Mishima’s raid three times with dramatized episodes from his published novels (they are filmed in vibrant colors against abstract sets). First is “The Golden Pavilion,” a retelling of the story we know from the film Enjo about the stuttering novice monk who sets fire to an idyllic temple. Glass’ swirling chords take on the feeling of a Buddhist chant, especially when chimes are added to the sounds of the conflagration. The second insert, “Kyoto’s House,” opens in a crayon-colored diner as Glass adapts his Minimalism to 60s rock ‘n roll guitars for the tale of a young man who talks of art-and-spirit but thinks only of seduction. “Runaway Horses,” about swordsmen in training, uses a recurring 6/8 meter in which each note is given equal weight so that, before long, the character who must choose between self-promotion or team spirit, between the circular form of the music or the line along which it rolls, begins to remind us of Mishima.
GENESIS (1986-India) Ravi Shankar
Two men, a weaver and a farmer, have fled city life for a lonely settlement on the edge of the wilderness. Only the monthly visits of a camelback tradesman break their routine at all. It is a dry subsistence but as clean and free, simple and sinless as Eden. One night a woman refugee stumbles in on their solitude. She warns them about the cynical tradesman, how he is corrupting their innocence. Or is she the corrupter, bringer of discontent? Shankar’s opening music, like the pure setting of sandstone huts against a pale sky, and like the classical form of the Indian raga, establishes a single chord as an introduction or alap, then takes it through four rhythmically differing sections or talas as we first watch the weaver and the farmer work together to establish their outpost, combining their skills, completing their paradise having banished the world. Tabla drums, sitar, Indian flute and strings, are all joined towards the end of the cue by synthesizer programmed to sound like a larger string section with just a touch of the unreal – we are in the land of myth. Elsewhere in the film, low bowed Indian and western instruments, which give way to the rapid patter of tabla, accompany the growing jealousy between the two men. Two flutes, one holding the note, the other darting around it, describe one season of bountiful crops. Another four-part raga is presented during the scene at the small summer fair in a nearby village. The two men’s worldly ways are being reawakened by more contact with outside life but at a price. With such overtly symbolic characters (they even speak in Biblical aphorisms) and simple parabolic elements to the plot it is up to the music score to draw us in.
NUOVO CINEMA PARADISO (CINEMA PARADISO) (1988-Italy) Ennio Morricone
From the first entrance of the underscore as we meet Toto, a famous director about to return to his childhood village for a funeral, Morricone’s music sets the tone of the narrative: one long nostalgic farewell on the verge of tears. As a youth, Toto helped Old Alfredo in the projection booth of the village cinema and there is wistfulness to the music for those days. Some of Morricone’s orchestral trademarks are here: harsh rhythms between brass and strings as the theater catches fire; passages of layered string writing where one phrase dovetails onto the next producing the floating dreamlike effect for first love. There are some intentional parodies of movie music history too: the tacky dance bands of 30s musicals; the over-rich orchestrations of 40s melodramas; even a reference to 50s Fellini films scored by Rota. But the heart of the score is Morricone’s sweet “memory” theme expressing how important the village cinema was to community life back then (this theme being a paraphrase of an earlier Morricone melody from 122 Rue de Provence) – and the nearly swooning love theme initially associated with Toto’s first girlfriend but later expressive of the more durable devotion between Toto and Old Alfredo (this theme contributed by the composer’s son, Andrea, somewhat echoing the elder’s own music from a 1975 film Per le antiche scale). How much Paradiso’s charismatic score influenced the worldwide affection lavished on the film (including the 1989 Oscar) would be an interesting, but unquantifiable, study.
LA GLOIRE DE MON PERE (MY FATHER’S GLORY) (1990-France) Vladimir Cosma
Romanian-born Cosma, quite the most charming of the composers working in French films the last 40 years, made a madrigal chorus coo like a flock of birds in Clerambard, gave jazz chords to a classical waltz in Le Bal, won a Cesar for his cool Eric Satie-like piano interlude in Diva, and out-charmed this stiflingly sweet film-memoir set in the perfect sunny hills of Provence during one young family’s idyllic vacation circa 1900. In the eyes of director Yves Robert and dramatist Marcel Pagnol, everyone is amiable, their summer villa in the hills is ideal and the partridges are plentiful there, father is wise and nurturing and mother is, well, an impossibly beautiful saint. We experience the family’s reminiscence through a series of vignettes, guided by cozy narration but also by the warm and joyous score. There is a two-part band concert waltz for Sunday walks in Borely Park, there is a sprightly and intelligent piano rag apropos of the era, and an enterprising sort of gallop (with a more tender second phrase) heard first during a family visit to the trolley-quickened city of Marseilles and heard again as the partridge hunt begins at the foot of the Garlaban hills. And weaving all through this precious (though also handsome, richly detailed and confident) storytelling, is Cosma’s disarming theme for Provence – a lush, gracefully swaying piece for unison strings, sometimes mixed with a rhythmic loop of summer cicada sounds. That theme is reduced to a piano bagatelle as the narrative slips from past to present; later as the father triumphs in his family’s eyes the same theme is kicked-up to a playful march meter (hunting horns vs. a sharp piccolo) which is Cosma’s affectionate nod to one similarly happy moment in Prokofiev’s Lt. Kije score
DA HONG DENG LONG GAO GUA (RAISE THE RED LANTERN) (1991-China) Zhao Jiping
Gong Li plays a strong-willed girl (Songlian) forced to interrupt her education to join the concubine household of a rich man. She is to be the “4th Mistress” of Master Chen. Much clanging percussion (molded cymbals, wood blocks, pitched gongs) and a single chord from the strings (erhu and banhu 2-string instruments) announces the entrance of the lantern lighters who mark the door of the mistress Chen has chosen for each night. Songlian is defiant from the start, reluctant to meet the other concubines, refusing to bow at Chen’s ancestral shrine, and far from warm towards him on their first night together. Jiping scores them using a distant female soprano with a wafting pentatonic melody as indistinct as our view of the lovers through a veiled drape. Later when Songlian is left alone in her rooms she steps before a mirror and considering her situation begins to cry: a female choir intones, in 2-part harmony, a repeating phrase that opens briefly onto a freer melody as Songlian dreams, then closes back down to the first phrase again and withdraws. There is a carefree, nostalgic bawu song as the master’s son shares his flute playing with Songlian but Chen forbids her to form any outside attachments. Isolation is the darkest side of her servitude. The female choir sings a profane chant once Songlian discovers a dark hidden corner of the compound where past concubines have been hung for crimes against protocol and to which the 3rd Mistress is now being escorted. The choir is reduced to a solo soprano, the strings drop out, we are left with the clanging gongs and cymbals and blocks, getting ready to announce a 5th Mistress and telling us that protocol will always outrank and outlive the story of any one girl.
MUI DU DU XANH (SCENT OF GREEN PAPAYA) (1992-Vietnam/France) Ton-That Tiet
Like the slow, deliberate gestures of a folk dance, director Tran Anh Hung’s camera glides past exquisitely controlled tableaux of a family at home in their 1951 Saigon village – middle aged couple, three sons, a grandmother, a cook, and the memory of a dead daughter. Ten-year-old Mui, who resembles their lost girl, is brought in as a servant and it is through her observant eye that we view all things – white papaya sap on dark green leaves, rain on bamboo, lizards skittering over slate and the whole history of this family. The film’s second half shows Mui ten years later, now servant to a handsome young man who used to visit the family. Tiet’s scoring gives voice, first to the mystery of young Mui’s awakening awareness of the senses, then later to her grown-up pursuit of love. He uses an ensemble of nine players: piano, flute, harp, indigenous percussion, synthesizer, and an elegant traditional string quartet; his musical tone is of a modernist pointilistic French style – no given harmonic key but tonally seductive and tantalizingly inflected with traditional Vietnamese/Cambodian sounds. To the western ear it conveys a sense of something wondrous and curious, if also disquieting. And like Hung’s carefully stitched together visuals, the soundtrack takes great care to join music and the background sounds of the village – wind chimes, distant dogs, passing planes, constant crickets and tree frogs – the mix producing a mood of hushed anticipation. This is not just ambient music, though, of one suspended mood. Tiet often joins the action: pizzicato strings and jangling bells when one bratty brother taunts young Mui and sabotages her chores; weirdly sliding strings as the grandmother dies; a flute and synth duo as Mui prepares to present herself to her new master. It is the “otherness” of this music that we remember alongside Hung’s floating camera, at once exquisitely controlled and wild.
YING XIONG (THE EMPEROR’S SHADOW) (1996-China) Zhao Jiping
With its strange mix of ancient setting (3rd Century China) and anachronistic characters (king Zheng Ying’s modern casual dialogue, his nearly chic liberated daughter Yueyang, and the king’s childhood friend, Gao Jianli, now a hip and reckless musician), Zhou Xiaowen’s epic character study was the most expensive Chinese film of its time and was thought to be a kind of satire on the New China. Music seems aware of both the satire and the anachronisms. First, it makes a point of juxtaposing modern epic movie music – the brass war bravado and the pumping string rhythms like some Roman epic – to the sudden distinctive entrances of the traditional zheng (a finger-plucked flatbed instrument with an ageless twang). But it does not quite blend them – the zheng’s ancient timbre rankles against the modernist harmonies even as the film never quite reconciles its modern sensibilities with its historical premise. Ying can only become emperor once he has united the six estranged provinces around him. He asks Gao to compose an anthem, something to stir the people’s hearts towards the new China he is building. Gao stalls and falls in love with the king’s daughter. Jiping’s scoring for the abstract love scenes is developed out of the film’s opening music and begins to approach western romanticism. Although the anthem will be finished at the moment of Ying’s triumph, Gao will not live to hear it performed. We do, though: it is a bragging, thrusting piece for chorus and orchestra combining most of the instruments and forces we have heard thus far and lyrics about the immortality of the emperor. Ying ascends the ceremonial pyramid, having sacrificed his friend on the way to the top. A children’s chorus reminds us that he who is emperor now weeps for Gao who was the shadow of his youth.
PAN TADEUSZ (MASTER TADEUSZ) (1999-Poland) Wojciech Kilar
Until Francis Coppola pegged him to score Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Kilar was unknown in the US although he had scored major films of Wajda, Zanussi and Polanski since 1960. This handsome big budget version of the famous Polish epic poem is a fitting career capper for both Wajda and Kilar: the story of two feuding families, the Soplicas and the Horeszkos who claim the same estate. With Napoleon’s armies preparing to chase the Russians out of Poland, these two clans use the entr’acte to fuss with each other about old wounds. Tadeusz is a son of the Soplicas returning from a stint in the army to find old rivalries and new romances heating up. Kilar opens with an oboe-led polonaise (later heard as a wedding dance). Our introduction to the sunny Polish countryside approaching the estate is scored with a wafting open-air motif that speaks of everyone’s fondness for an idyll of home. There is a second warm homeland tune for everything that is good and constant in Poland, and there is the nearly celestial theme for each appearance of the beautiful Zosia. For the peaceful moments, as Napoleon stalls and estate life goes on, there is a Grieg-like pastoral ballad; a brass fanfare leading to a gallop for a bear hunting sequence; a lightly textured andante for a scene about the delights of Polish coffee, and a more comic version of that same theme with more boisterous orchestration as Telimena is caught out in the woods by a summer swarm of gnats. Of course, there is also some military music, more in the form of a bolero than a march. So many of Kilar’s scores have been brief and laconic – here his solid and traditional style has a chance to flourish and enjoy itself.
CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (2000-Taiwan/China) Tan Dun
For this martial arts romance from Taiwanese director Ang Lee about a retired warrior, his love for the woman he once overlooked, and the threat to both of them from a vengeful noblewoman, music proves the best bridge between the film’s epic proportions and more private Eastern ideals. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma performs the romantic main theme throughout the film which, like the whole score, hovers around a single central chord after the manner of much Chinese folk music. Journeying along the Silk Road, the warrior is accompanied by this theme and it reappears, with certain variants, elsewhere as a duet between cello and the thin flat sound of the 2-stringed Chinese bawu. His passage through a bamboo forest is sustained by the sound of the stringed basses – the love theme again but threatened by the spooky figures in the violins. In this make believe world, the warrior can even defy gravity and fly towards his destined battlefield as the score turns entirely to percussion: wood blocks and clapper boards and large tar drums. For the sequence of the warrior in the wilderness, Dun fashioned what he called a “Desert Capriccio”: a theme-less sparring match between cello and the hand-slapped strings of an erhu. Music for the old temple has a floating quality though measured by a regular pulse from synthesized strings. But as, according to legend, the warrior sword yearns to find its mark and perform its purpose, Dun’s score returns to its central chord, the wan sounds of the Chinese flute, the erhu, then the cello ratifying that eternal vow. It is the formality of this scoring that gives this otherwise showy, Anime-ish, and random adventure its structure and, by working behind the scenes, its dignity.
HIRO (HERO) (2002-China) Tan Dun
Zhang Yimou’s computer-slick Jet-Li vehicle follows a rebel named Nameless who must outwit three rivals (Sky, Snow, and Broken Sword) on his way to assassinate the king of Qin. Achieving the palace’s inner chamber, he kneels twenty paces from the king and recounts how the three enemies were overcome. Each story is given a different cinematic color scheme and when the king challenges his truthfulness, contradictory versions are re-enacted. Fancifully acrobatic swordplay in opulent settings (the forest fight in a maelstrom of leaves, the saber contest in a room hung with billowing curtains), football-worthy Steadicam coverage of the mounted hordes in battle, or the alarming/thrilling sight of 5,000 arrows simultaneously released, aimed and arching through the air towards one doomed man, are representative of Yimou’s visual exultations here. But it seems to be the purpose of the music score to ground this hyper-narrative, to give it the unity of a single myth by repeating a single folklike song played at the lowest range of the violin (Itzhak Perlman on the soundtrack) so that it has a timeless rustic sound reminiscent to western ears of some American Civil War ballad. Sometimes a wordless male chorus carries the tune, sometimes it is roused to the bombastic size of video game action scoring, other times its implied harmonics are detailed by smaller sounds such as pitched gongs, temple bells, wood flute or the stringed koto. No attempt is made to develop or explore this melody – it is the everlasting voice of the legend Yimou is building here. Its presence during the funeral procession finale (violin, orchestra, chorus) is all the more effective for being a reprise. Of course, Yimou is using the heavy obvious demeanor of this music to bolster the authority and moment of his tale. But its directness and single-mindedness matches that of its hero.
VOZVRASHCHENIYE (THE RETURN) (2003-Russia) Andrei Dergatchev
Unlike the first film in this survey – with Shostakovich’s stormy orchestral depiction of the Soviet Revolution – the new Russian cinema as represented by this abstruse psychological mystery is being scored not by the schooled symphonic elite but by the laptop proletariat. Dergatchev’s computer generated tones, atmospheres, and occasional rhythms, reflect the cold blue-and-white landscapes of this tale of a father who returns after twelve years to his sons – the child Ivan who resents the intrusion, and the adolescent Andrei who at first just accepts and hopes to cope. The father promises a fishing expedition but, surly and forbidding, he seems to have some other agenda on his mind which the film never reveals. And so when plot clues are withheld and motivations hidden, we search out some universal allusion – in this case, the one about every confused son who hopes to assume the male’s role and every inscrutable father who can’t explain his own life quest. They travel by bleak back roads and lakefronts, heading towards an island showdown. Cold, secretive sounds make up the music score including New Age beds of elemental tonalities, electric piano, the mournful warbling voices (or rather simulations) of the oboe-like volynka, the stringed lira rylei, and the chanting monk. As crisis overtakes the characters, a soft techno beat gains influence over those archaic instruments and their voices all fall into step. Director Andrey Zvyagintsev, while directing three of the most focused performances in recent film history, displays a filmmaking style as occult as Tarkovsky and as formal as Bergman. By the end, the boys will have as deep a secret to carry into manhood as whatever their father was guarding – the universal enigma which this gaunt score personifies.
50 Music Scores for Foreign Language Films
Checklist of the Above-Described Titles
1927 Oktyabr [October: 10 Days That Shook the World] (Russia) Dmitri Shostakovich
1933 Lieutenant Kije (Russia) Sergei Prokofiev
1933 Mauvaise Graine (France/Germany) Franz Waxmann
1934 Golgotha (France) Jacques Ibert
1934 L’Atalante (France) Maurice Jaubert
1937 Regain (France) Arthur Honegger
1938 Alexander Nevsky (Russia) Sergei Prokofiev
1943 Mermoz (France) Arthur Honegger
1944 Hets (Torment) Hilding Rosenberg)
1946 Beauty and the Beast (France) Georges Auric
1947 The Bicycle Thief (Italy) Alessandro Cicogini
1954 Gojira [Godzilla] (Japan) Akira Ifukube
1954 Pather Panchali (India) Raviu Shankar
1954 The Seven Samurai (Japan) Fumio Hayasaka
1956 Night and Fog (France) Hanns Eisler
1957 Ascenseur Pour L’Echafaud (France) Miles Davis
1958 Enjo (Japan) Toshiro Mayuzumi
1959 Orfeu Negro (Brazil) Jobim & Bonfa
1960 Rocco and His Brothers (Italy) Nino Rota
1960 Le Voyage en Ballon (France) Jean Prodromides
1961 Une Femme est Une Femme (France) Michel Legrand
1961 Yojimbo (Japan) Masaru Sato
1962 Ivanovo Dyetstvo [My Name Is Ivan] (Russia) Vachislav Ovchinokov
1962 Cleo de 5 a 7 (France) Michel Legrand
1963 8 ½ (Italy) Nino Rota
1965 Battle of Algiers (Italy/Algeria) Ennio Morricone
1965 Pierrot le Fou (France) Antoine Duhamel
1966 Young Torless (Germany) Hans Werner Henze
1968 Das Schloss [The Castle] (Germany/Austria) Herbert Trantow
1968 La Femme Infidele (France) Pierre Jansen
1970 Garden of the Finzi-Continis (Italy) Manuel De Sica
1971 Two English Girls (France) Georges Delerue
1972 Spirit of the Beehive (Spain) Luis De Pablo
1973 Le Train (France) Philippe Sarde
1974 Stavisky (France) Stephen Sondheim
1976 The Judge and the Assassin (France) Philippe Sarde
1978 Empire of Passion [aka In The Realm of Passion] (Japan) Toru Takemitsu
1979 The Tin Drum (Germany) Maurice Jarre
1983 The Fourth Man (Netherlands) Loek Dikker
1985 Mishima (Japan/US) Phillip Glass
1986 Genesis (Japan) Ravi Shankar
1988 Cinema Paradiso (Italy) Ennio Morricone
1990 My Father’s Glory (France) Vladimir Cosma
1991 Raise the Red Lantern (China) Zhao Jiping
1992 The Scent of Green Papaya (Vietnam) Ton-That Tiet
1996 The Emperor’s Shadow (China) Zhao Jiping
1999 Pan Tadeusz (Poland) Wojciech Kilar
2000 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Taiwan/China) Tan Dun
2002 Hero (China) Tan Dun
2003 Vozrashcheniye [The Return] (Russia) Andrei Dergatchev
John Caps‘ most recent music journalism is for the New York City Opera; his book Henry Mancini: Reinventing Film Music is published this year by University of Illinois Press.