April 2006 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Michael McLennan
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster: Len Mullenger

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Gabriel Yared, Film Music Vol. 4 – 1983: La Lune dans le Caniveau (The Moon in the Gutter)  
Music composed and orchestrated by Gabriel Yared
Orchestra conducted by Michel Ganot and Gabriel Yared
Performed by Unnamed Ensemble, featuring soloists Lionel Gali (violin), Hubert Varon (cello), Gabriel Yared (keyboards)
  Available on Cinefonia/Yad Records (CFY-004)
Running Time: 45:15
To purchase this release direct from Cinefonia’s website, go to the ‘Cinefonia Records’ tab, place the mouse over ‘Catalogue – CFR’ tab and select ‘Yared Collection’ here.

See also:

  • The Talented Mr Ripley
  • The English Patient
  • Camille Claudel
  • Jean-Jacques Beneix (Betty Blue, Diva) is a director whose films I have difficulty connecting with. Somehow his work, which is no more fanciful than the works of fellow nationals Patrice Leconte (Girl on the Bridge, Widow of St. Pierre, Man on a Train) or Claire Denis (Friday Night, Beau Travail), or even the master of modern quirky romance, Wong Kar-Wai (Chungking Express, Fallen Angels), just comes off as unrestrained cinematic posturing. The ratio of substance to style (signal to noise if you will) just doesn’t work for me. And yet his work is essential to me, because without him, Gabriel Yared would probably not have the stature he currently has as a composer.

    The line of causation runs like this. In 1982, Yared had a few TV credits to his name – Sauve Qui Peut La Vie and Malevil. Beneix contacted Yared after viewing one of these, and their collaboration led to Yared’s placement as the composer of Betty Blue. And Betty Blue is the turning point of the career it seems. Directors Vincent Ward (Map of the Human Heart), Jean-Jacques Annaud (L’amant) and Anthony Minghella (The English Patient, The Talented Mr Ripley) all cite this erotic art film’s score as the motivation to collaborate with Yared themselves. And without the last of these, the director who has taken Yared to the Oscars three times now (winning for The English Patient), it’s hard to see Yared’s career spanning mainstream and arthouse cinema in the way it so effectively has, providing orchestral works of consistent quality.

    So The Moon in the Gutter is a turning-point of its own you could say. The film was maligned, unjustly according to Yared. The description makes it out to be a strange blend of film noir and romantic fantasy genres that almost seems destined to frustrate western film critics, and knowing my history with Beneix, probably me too. It’s well cast though, and has many fans, and it’s probably better summarized by one of them since they’ve presumably seen the film:

    In Marseilles, a woman commits suicide after she is raped in an alley. Nightly, her brother Gerard (Gerard Depardieu) broods at the scene hoping to catch the rapist. He lives with his lover Bella (Victoria Abril) whom he neglects, an alcoholic brother who lurks about, and his father who's stayed drunk since the daughter's death, ignoring work and his own companion. At a seedy bar, Gerard meets a wealthy, nihilistic hedonist and his beautiful sister, Loretta (Nastassia Kinski). Gerard flips for her and thinks she's his ticket out of the slum. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085878/plotsummary)

    Those who know Gabriel Yared for his lush post-English Patient sound will probably be caught a bit off-guard by what Yared describes in his liner notes as “a kind of opera without voices arranged for domestic images.” Among his early works, it’s a lot closer to the eclecticism of Betty Blue and Vladimir Cosma’s work on Diva than the intense formalism of Camille Claudel. Synthesizers mix freely with acoustic elements, though it appears to be a creative choice rather than a financial one, as a larger ensemble of strings (Yared’s weapon of choice) appears throughout the work.

    The score takes as its concept the battle of Loretta and Gerard’s sister’s memory as its focus, thematically identifying each of the women. The main theme for Nastassia Kinski’s Loretta is a gorgeous romance for piano over strings – it’s like an Ennio Morricone reading of the main theme from Yared’s superlative Camille Claudel. Philippe Rombi’s ‘Love Theme’ from Jeux D’enfants also comes to mind. Solo violin and cello parts give focus to the A and B sections of the theme, the A section speaking to the innocence of love, and the B section relating more to the overwhelming passions associated with love. The piece is presented as a gentle waltz for piano and strings in ‘Valse de Loretta’, and its basic chords are never far away in any of the score cues that follow, taking the fore again in a beautiful solo violin reading in ‘Insert Loretta’.

    ‘L’Hopital’ introduces the score’s more unusual side, a blend of exotic textures that again suggests Cosma’s Diva. Synth percussion loops give way to a warm keyboard reading of the theme for Catherine, climaxing with the shimmering string sound Yared used to great effect in City of Angels. The theme proves to be malleable in the composer’s hands – played by an ondes martinot-like synthesizer and interchanged with Loretta’s theme in ‘Chambre de Catherine’, and later presented as a more formal fugue for divided strings in ‘La Fugue de la Cathedral’. Also memorable is Yared’s ‘Tango de l’imapasse’, with bandoneon, piano and rhythmic parts all synthesized – only the violin solo is real, and it’s a dark beauty.

    And then there are the more experimental pieces in the score. ‘La Folie Ouvriere’ is Yared’s musique concrete, “arranged for hammers and tools” taken from the sound designer’s library and treated in a Fairlight. It’s strange, but the tone fits the unusual range of this score. Extreme divisi set a striking rhythmic motion in the strings in ‘Les Folie des Docks’, a piece that climaxes with what could be called an incredibly cheesy keyboard reading of Catherine’s theme. (Forewarned is forearmed.) Gamelan-like percussion (though it’s probably sample sound effects) drives the synthesized source cue ‘La Danse de Bella’, with snaky synthesizer melody and sampled marimba rhythms.

    There’s nothing more experimental here than the end credits cue, ‘La lune dans de caniveau’, arranged by Yared in tribute to “Beatles’ Number Nine”, and Yared probably explains it best:

    “[Catherine’s theme, the fugue] and Loretta’s theme, as well as the Tango and La Danse de Bella all return together in the end credits… For the finale, I wanted all the themes to be linked up and mixed together around a harp ostinato, birds chirping, and a preacher’s voice…”

    It works remarkably well – with a touching orchestral finale, though it’s unlikely to displace the more traditional end credits orchestral arrangement of themes favoured by film score collectors.

    This Cinefonia release was overseen by Yared as part of a six CD set of scores from his early days as a film composer (see Camille Claudel and Les Orientales elsewhere in this edition). Though this score has been released before, the new release offers significant advantages over the old. The liner notes – presented in English and French – give insight into the scoring process, something more soundtrack releases detail. As with Camille Claudel, the composer includes the pre-production demos of a couple of score tracks that were used on-set for filming, as well as additional source cues. ‘Fatalite’ is an all-synthesizer reading of Catherine’s theme, with constant percussion lending the piece a club feel. ‘La Dame de Shanghai’ is an orchestral/synth blend, so is presumably an additional score track – this time unfolding a unique presentation of Loretta’s theme. (‘Un autre monde’ very much follows suit, probably a demo of ‘Insert Loretta’.) ‘Entrée de l’hopital’ presents Loretta’s theme again in a previously-unheard rhythmic setting. The album concludes with a recent recording of Yared playing ‘Valse de Loretta’ for solo piano, a beneficent final touch to a strong release.

    Not to be missed by Yared fans, though those who go weak at the knees on hearing keyboards in all their shimmering glory are advised to think twice.

    Michael McLennan

    Rating: 4

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