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EAST WEST – Patrick Doyle

eastwestOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

A truly international collaboration, East West – or, to give it its correct French language title Est Ouest – is the third film in which Patrick Doyle has written music for director Régis Wargnier, following Indochine and Une Femme Français. Set in the heart of Europe during the years immediately following the cessation of World War II, the film stars Sandrine Bonnaire as Marie, a French woman who, at the behest of her husband Sascha (Sergei Bodrov), follows him back to his homeland – Russia – in the hope that they will find a new and better life for themselves there now that the war has ended. Their dreams are quickly shattered, however, when it becomes apparent that all is not well, and that one powerful and corrupt regime has simply been replaced by another one. Realising their mistake, Maria and Sascha try to return to Paris, but find themselves blocked at every turn by the new Soviet power. Things change, however, after Maria meets and falls in love with a handsome swimmer named Alexei (Grigori Manoukov), who may be able to offer then a way out.

Régis Wargnier is obviously an inspirational director for Doyle, whose enthusiasm for every new project seems endless. Without wanting to delve too much into Doyle’s psyche, it is possible that his life-threatening encounter with leukaemia a couple of years ago has done for him what throat cancer did for John Barry back in 1989 – it has given him, literally, a new lease of life and a greater source of inspiration for his work. Like Barry’s Dances With Wolves, the first score he wrote following his return to health, East West is easily one the most attractive and engaging works of Doyle’s career to date – a beautiful, inviting piece of music which cleverly embraces three musical styles: straightforward orchestral writing, rhapsodic piano concertos and guts or glory Slavic marches.

The orchestral writing varies stylistically, with many cues being full of dramatic potency, laced with tragedy and sorrow, but tempered by moments of lovely, lyrical romanticism. Doyle’s main theme doesn’t actually appear until the third track, ‘Arrival in Kiev’, and even then it is virtually buried in amongst reams of sorrowful string writing. It is further hinted at during ‘Babouchka’ and ‘Jeopardy’, performing a delicate balancing act with the almost imperceptible seven-note fanfare heard in the main title, before finally being given its first really noticeable performance during the opening of ‘The Church’, a cue with an almost Alfred Newman-like sense of majesty, especially in its use of subtly echoing brasses. Thereafter, it is virtually ever-present, and is afforded particularly superb renditions in ‘You’re Doing It For Us’, ‘I’ll Never Forget You’ and the heartbreakingly beautiful ‘Freedom’. Sharp-eared listeners may be able to pick out some stylistic similarities between Doyle’s theme and Christopher Young’s excellent string writing on scores such as Murder in the First and Murder at 1600, although I’m sure the resemblances are purely coincidental.

The piano concerto approach is used as a recurring leitmotif to represent one of the film’s important plot elements: the ocean. In the cues ‘The River’, ‘The Race’, ‘The Cliffs’ and ‘The Black Sea’, Doyle makes great use of the talents of acclaimed pianist Emmanuel Ax to add a rolling, churning virtuoso accompaniment to an orchestra which intentionally pays homage to the work of the great Russian composers Rachmaninov and Prokofiev. For the Slavic marches, Doyle combined his own original compositions with those of several Russian writers, and to great effect. The ‘Opening Title’ is especially notable for its snare-drum driven, martial tone and impressive brass writing, while the vibrant, ethnically rich ‘Farewell of a Slav’, ‘Smuglianka’ and ‘Nightingales’ reverberate to wonderfully rich Eastern tones and the throaty voices of the massed Ukrainian Army Choir. The excellent finale, ‘The Land’, effectively sums up all the main themes and makes wonderful use of the voice of Ukrainian baritone Anatoly Fokanov.

East West has recently been put forward as the French foreign language entry for the 1999 Academy Awards. If recent history is anything to go by it would not surprise me in the least to see Doyle pick up his third Oscar nomination for his work here. It would be richly deserved. East West is a rich symphonic and choral score which, through its combination of styles and its memorable main theme, easily stands as one of Doyle’s finest works, and one of 1999’s best.

Rating: ****½

Track Listing:

  • Opening Titles (2:04)
  • Farewell of a Slav (written by Vassily Agapkin) (2:11)
  • Arrival in Kiev (1:52)
  • Forgive Me (1:22)
  • Babouchka (2:08)
  • Jeopardy (2:11)
  • Smuglianka (written by Anatoly Novkikov and Yakov Chevdov) (2:40)
  • The Church (1:07)
  • You’re Doing It For Us (3:17)
  • Betrayal (0:43)
  • Alexei and Olga (2:12)
  • The River (1:50)
  • The Race (1:26)
  • Madame Bovary (2:53)
  • I’ll Never Forget You (3:27)
  • The Plan (1:52)
  • The Cliffs (0:51)
  • The Black Sea (1:54)
  • Nightingales (written by Vassily Solovyov-Sedoi and Alexei Fatianov) (3:26)
  • La Mer (1:29)
  • You Must Stay Alive (2:39)
  • Farewell Tango (1:18)
  • The Escape (3:18)
  • Freedom (1:27)
  • The Land (written by Patrick Doyle and Alla Ablaberdyeva, performed by Anatoly Fokanov) (3:58)

Running Time: 53 minutes 39 seconds

Sony Classical SK-64429 (1999)

Music composed by Patrick Doyle. Conducted by James Shearman. Performed by The Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra, The Bulgarian Mixed Choir and The Ukranian Army Choir. Orchestrations by Lawrence Ashford and James Shearman. Ukranian Army Choir conducted by Vitali Khalavtchuk. Featured musical soloist Emmanuel Ax. Recorded and mixed by Nick Wollage, Charles Harbutt, Tom Leader, Michel Pierre and Guillaume Sciama. Edited by Roy Prendergast, Steve Orchard and Ion Metsovitis. Album produced by Maggie Rodford.

  1. Bianca
    March 15, 2012 at 2:23 am

    Umm…you’ve got your characters the wrong way round. Alexei is Marie’s husband, and Sascha is the swimmer with whom she has an affair.
    Just thought that I’d mention that. 🙂

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