My general remarks about the understanding of French dialogue
in relation to the other CDs in this Travelling Naïve French Classic Film
Score series apply here. Certainly these Renoir films are all considered classics
of the cinema and their screenplays will be familiar.
La Bête humain (1938) had a grey sombre score
to match the tragic story set amongst working class railwaymen of romantic betrayal,
rage, suicide and murder. Kosma's main title music is grim and powerfully dramtic.
Train sound effects mix with rhythms that echo the cross-rhythms of trains crossing
tracks. In contrast there is a little light-hearted pastoral and folk dance
material and music that speaks of romance and pathos but generally it is heavily
emotional and symbolic.
Joseph Kosma was an émigré from Budapest arriving
in Paris in 1935. Renoir was looking for a popular song to use in his film Le
crime de Monsieur Lange. Weiner introduced him to Renoir and Kosma came
up with 'A la belle étoile' which is included with excerpts from Jean
Weiner's score on this album. Kosma's creation is a sentimental café
song one would have heard in the boulevard cafés of the period. Much
of Weiner's music has a darker hue. It begins with street/fairground music from
an organ grinder and trumpet and cymbals – all sounding sour and despairing.
Then there is music of defiance and revolution as workers struggle against an
oppressive boss. The final track is joyful triumphant popular dance.
Kosma went on to score other films for Renoir. His music for
Renoir's masterpiece La grande illusion (the only French film
on the list of the 'twelve best films in the world' drawn up in 1958) is a sardonic
look at war with a heavily ironic march and derisory saxophone figures. Music
hall songs and Viennese waltzes again with a world-weary and soiled tinge complete
these score excerpts and a very Gallic version of It's a long way to Tipperary'.
Kosma's third score on this album is for a gentle, almost innocent,
romance of a one-day-passion that lives, regretfully, in the minds of the illicit
lovers – Une partie de campagne. The Main Title is rather tumultuous
and passionate; though but most of the music is gently sentimental with waltzes
and dances full of outdoors charm and gaiety and, occasionally, material of
regret and turmoil – all very much in the accustomed French tradition.
A nice souvenir for the admirers of Jean Renoir's films. Otherwise
a qualified recommendation.