I havenít seen
Jacques Audiardís 2005 film De Battre mon Coeur síest Arrete (The Beat
My Heart Skipped), nor the film it was based on, James Tobackís Fingers.
Both films concern a low level hood who rediscovers his passion for piano, the
character (played by Harvey Keitel in the Toback version and by Romain Duris
here) ill-fatedly attempting to mix the conflicting worlds of mob violence and
piano performance. It sounds like an interesting idea, and on the strength of
this CD Iíll be checking out the recent version at least for sure.
This is a strange
album, coming at regular price but with two discs. The first disc is comprised
of forty-five minutes of source cues (and by that I literally mean the music
track played in the scene by the character Ė including dialogue), pre-existing
pop tracks (a mixture of English and French-language songs), and fresh
recordings of piano works by Brahms, Bach and Liszt used in the film. While the
classical tracks as performed by Caroline Duris are all worthy, and the pop
tracks not exactly bad themselves, this is the kind of disc that would drive
most film score collectors mad due to the lack of original score material and
the extensive inclusion of dialogue and effects tracks throughout.
Itís the second
disc that makes this a special release. It contains a single twenty-four minute
cue with the entire original score for the film from Jacques Audiardís regular
collaborator, Alexandre Desplat. While the conditions sound less than ideal,
this one track is one of the best pieces of film music Iíve ever heard,
smoothly editing together the score cues to achieve a devastating extended
suite for string orchestra, piano and percussion. Itís the epitome of Desplatís
blend of minimalist and romantic writing. The opening sets sparse piano chords
in high violins, reminiscent of ĎTake the Target Outí from the composerís score
for Syriana. Two ideas are presented by piano Ė a seven note theme and a
six note one that are the basis for most of the development that follows.
violin-piano combination is sustained for six minutes, with light percussion
adding eerie harmonies to the hypnotic sound. The low strings enter in a short
interlude that releases the tension, but tension rises again as the warmer
colours of the low strings gather the violins and piano as they go in
variations on the basic themes. And the piece develops from there Ė exploring
an uplifiting theme, but with subtle dissonances in the high strings signalling
fragility. The main ideas become ostinati in the low strings at one point, and
later warm major key melodies in the strings. At one point an optimistic melody
intervenes, but the darker ideas of the film restore the tension with
devastating counterpoint of the two themes, and the piece rounds out with a
reprise of the hypnotic opening textures.
It plays like a
single moment, a kind of dream. And I love it. I highly recommend the score cue
to fans of Desplatís Birth, Syriana (particularly the more
textural-electronic cues) and Christopher Youngís The Tower. Desplatís
work here particularly brings to mind the Young score, which it resembles in
subtle thematic development, though Desplatís orchestration sustains a more
riveting contrast of tone colours throughout. It doesnít open up all its
secrets on a single listen, but it is a very accessible score that could
survive equally well in a concert hall as it does on disc. Sadly the liner notes
by director and composer on NaÔveís release are not so accessible Ė being in
French. Iíd love to read their motivations for decisions, and particularly
whether there was an intended reference to any of the classical tracks on the
first disc, so itís a shame to say the least.
Itís an odd album
overall. The contents of both discs could have fit on one, but since it
wouldnít have saved NaÔve any money to release it this way, I can only assume
the album producer felt the two very different sides to the music in this film
played better in isolation. Iím inclined to agree. A rare work of quality.
Disc One: 2
Disc Two: 5
Review copy donated by reviewer. My thanks to David OíConnell for drawing my attention to this work.