Cast against type, Kirk Douglas, nevertheless, turned in a fine sensitive,
anguished Oscar-nominated performance as the tormented post-impressionist painter,
Vincent van Gogh in the 1956 Vincent Minelli-directed biopic Lust for Life.
The film also received Oscar nominations for the adapted screenplay of Norman
Corwin and for its art direction. Anthony Quinn won the supporting actor Oscar
for his 8-minute role as Gauguin. Although he was not included amongst the Oscar
honours, Miklós Rózsa always considered his score to be amongst
his finest creations for the screen.
Rózsa's score, reproduced here in its entirety thanks, once again,
to the enterprise of Film Score Monthly, is a mix of dark intensity to underscore
the many tragic scenes of van Gogh's struggles, his relationship disappointments,
his deprivation, his loneliness and his ultimate madness; and Rózsa's
beautiful evocations of the Dutch and French countrysides through the changing
seasons in cues like: 'Light and Colour', 'Orchards', 'Summer' and 'Mistral'.
'Postman Roulin', one of Van Gogh's character models gives Rózsa the
opportunity to express a little light relief – a portrait both pompous and comical.
In one glorious melody (in 'Inertia' and 'False Hopes'), Rózsa manages
to sum up both the tragic struggle of Van Gogh's life and the lasting triumph
of his art.
The best account of his music comes from Rózsa, himself. He wrote:
"He [Van Gogh] was a post-impressionist but post-impressionism in music
comes much later than Van Gogh's death at the end of the 19th century; pictorial
trends are always between 25 and 40 years ahead." [In fact Debussy's Prélude
à l'après midi d'un faun was not heard until after the painter's
death.] Nevertheless, Rózsa chose to follow identifiable artistic relationships
rather than literal ones. He said: "The music he [Van Gogh] himself knew
would have been that of the 1880s: Wagner, Liszt, César Franck - but
I felt that mid-19th century romanticism had little in common with
his work. Somehow I had to evolve a suitable style in terms of my own music.
It had to be somewhat impressionistic, somewhat pointillistic, somewhat post-romantic
and brightly, even startlingly colourful, much like the tenor of his paintings."
As is customary with Film Score Monthly restorations, there are a number
of bonus tracks including some 'oompah-oompah' town band source material, and
The documentation is, as usual, very comprehensive in its detail about the
film and in its analysis of the score.
Essential listening for every Miklós Rózsa fan.
Gary Dalkin adds:
Once again Ian has said really all that needs to said about this great score, transferred to CD to a standard we could never have even hoped for a decade or so ago. Superb sound, considering the 1955 recording date, and a splendid booklet. In a great month for classic score issues this really is another one to add to your collection if you can at all afford it. Though with Rózsa's King of Kings also just out, plus definitive issues of Goldsmith's Logan's Run and Williams' ET, this could prove an expensive time. To say nothing of Williams' new Attack of the Clones and the very fine Benjamin Frankel anthology, The Importance of Being Ernest just out on CPO. Perhaps its time for a word with the bank manager.
Gary S. Dalkin