Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


October 1998

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Gato BARBIERI Last Tango in Paris OST  RYKO RCD 10724  


Crotchet (UK)
Soundstone (USA)

Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris opened in 1972 to great controversy over a sexual episode in one scene portrayed by the stars Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider. The last thing anyone paid attention to was Gatto Barbieri's music. Ryko have reissued the Last Tango... OST LP for the first time on CD, at the same time as performing a similar service for the LP OSTs of Elmer Gantry and Equus. Where additional musical material is available, they have added this and are to be thanked for taking the trouble to do so. There is additional material in this album also with a further 29 (sometimes brief but always worthwhile) sequences beyond the initial LP's 11 tracks.

The music is part of that genre of erotic, neon-lit, lonely big-city music predating by a couple of years the archetypical score of this type, Bernard Herrmann's Taxi Driver. Of course, this type of music traces its antecedents back to the film noir scores of the 1940s. This is music out of which Philip Marlowe steps from the shadows. I find it irresistible.

The prominent additional elements in this score are the Gallic tone and the classic instrument evocative of metropolitan loneliness and slinky seduction: the saxophone. Here it is given a great deal of exposure and whoever the player is, it is beautifully played for every dripping gramme of succulence. The Parisian locale is inevitably summoned up by the accordion and the tango (music recently highly fashionable). There is also a Moroccan element (try Track 23) which instantly reminded me of the wonderful film The Hairdresser's Husband.

What a pity that the saxophone soloist is not identified. The instrumentals are played with a sense of warm engagement and with a glowing (but never queasy) string accompaniment; not that the strings are alone. There are classy contributions from drums, bongos, guitars, woodwind.

If I find fault with these Rykodiscs at all it is with their reticence about the composers (never mind conductors and orchestras) of the scores. This particularly true for the present disc where Barbieri is not identified at all on the back of the case. The whole series sell itself as souvenirs of the original films rather than tapping into the interest in particular film composers.

Of the three Rykos I have reviewed here (Gantry, Equus and ...Tango...), this has the longest playing time. While atmosphere is powerfully sustained and can be cut with a knife it may be too much of a good thing for some. There is more than an hour of music built around a single theme. The best thing to do may be to listen in two half hour chunks.

You will know whether you like this type of music. Packaging and accompanying information is fine though again I have my reservations about the durability of the multi-folded leaflet which serves the purpose of a booklet. Its advantage is that there is space to reproduce, at a sensibly large scale, facsimiles of the film poster and various stills. Excellent sound quality. Someone has extracted a great deal of detail from the soundtrack. Recommended for the nocturnal jazz enthusiast, saxophone-fan and of course anyone who want a souvenir of the film. ROM content.

Robert Barnett

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