Original Review by Craig Lysy

In L’Incorrigible, lead character Victor played by (Jean-Paul Belmondo) is the quintessential con man, totally beyond redemption, who resumes his nefarious craft following his release from prison. He rents apartments he doesn’t own, sells nonexistent fighter planes to African countries, and assumes many different guises from a gardener, lawyer, private detective, government official, and yes, even a transvestite in order to reap profit from his unsuspecting victims. Remarkably, he manages to fool his charming but very naive parole officer Marie-Charlotte (Genevieve Bujold). When Victor finds out that Marie-Charlotte’s father curates a museum that displays an extremely valuable painting, well, you need little imagination to realize what lies next! The film enjoyed modest commercial success in France.

It was only natural that Philippe De Broca would call upon Delerue to score his film having enjoyed success in earlier collaborations such as Les Jeux de l’Amour, Le Roi de Coeur and Les Tribulations d’un Chinois en Chine. He admired the composer and stated, “In my view, comedy is based on seeing serious things in a funny way. Georges completely understood that approach: in my films he included everything I couldn’t manage to do myself, out of modesty probably. Delerue’s vision, his contribution, were everything I didn’t dare express myself, everything I’d withheld from the scenario or the shooting.” On that note, let us begin the journey…

In “Générique” we open boldly with dramatic descending strings and a drum roll, which introduce the upbeat Main Theme. Interestingly enough, the music emotes with the sensibility of a Viennese dance worthy of Strauss. How enjoyable and how unexpected is this piece. I feel with the listen a joie de vivre. What a wonderful start to the album. This theme permeates the score and Delerue employs it in many guises; in “Victor Traite une Affaire” it emotes a distinctly Parisian air, carried at first by a solo flute that gives way to an accordion, in “Victor chez Hélène” it presents as a formal Viennese dance, in “Le Retour au Bercail” it is comedic and quirky, in “Imprévisible Dénouement” it is again a dance carried with an incredible lightness of being by solo piano and strings, while in “Victor et Camille au Mont Saint-Michel” it evokes pastoral beauty.

“Tendre Marie-Charlotte” is a highlight cue that introduces the Love Theme. This cue emotes the spirit of Delerue, the wonder of Delerue, the yearning of Delerue; a man whose supreme gift and artistry yet again pulls at my heart strings and elicits tears. The tender theme is introduced by solo piano played over strings as a lyrical flowing dance. After a pause, the theme is taken up by a solo flute, which emotes with both tenderness and vulnerability. Too soon the flute surrenders the theme to the piano, which concludes the cue as it began.

In “Le tango de Victor le Séducteur” we have another cue expressed as a dance, in this case, as the title states, a classic tango. The piece has the rhythm and syncopation of the tango, but Delerue strips it of its traditional passion and intensity instead providing a lighter and less intense expression. “Le Rendez-vous du Colibri” is another bouncy little piece with a dance like rhythm carried by woodwinds played over strumming strings. Despite its lightness and rhythm, there is a tinge of sadness of this piece and we suspect all is not as it should be. In “Victor Chez Hélène”, after a formal Viennese rendering of the Main Theme that introduces the cue, Delerue shifts gears and emotes in wondrous baroque style a piece that is clearly Handelesque in tenor and composition. This is well conceived and yet another pleasant surprise from the Maestro as this score unfolds.

“Lieder” is a montage of five classical pieces arranged by Delerue, set to classic poems and sung in solo operatic voice. The first poem, “Das leben ist ein traum”, sung by Micheline Graucher, is carried by woodwinds and strings and fills me with sadness. The second poem “Komm, wir zusammen wandeln”, also sung by Micheline Graucher, continues the sadness of the first piece and is carried by strings with woodwind accents. The third poem, “Katarina di Stresa”, sung by Pierre d’Hollander, is quite powerful with a dramatic arc and carried by full orchestra. The fourth poem “Die Ankunft der Mutter zu Späte”, again sung by Micheline Graucher, is light, carefree and carried by bubbling woodwinds and strings. The fifth and final poem, “Schilfield” sung once more by Madeline Graucher, brings us full circle and reestablishes the serious tone of the opening piece. Delerue employed these classical pieces to provide a sharp contrast to the film’s imagery and as a commentary on the often tragicomedy of life.

“Menuet Pour Hélène” is a delight for me, a magnificent cue written again in the form of a classical dance. Embracing the sensibilities of early 17th century French dance, the music, emoted in ¾ time by strings and woodwinds, is slow, soft, ceremonious, and graceful. In “Sortie de Prison” we open with a dramatic orchestral chord from which arises the spritely Main Theme. But the theme is short-lived as we quickly segue into a fast-paced and quirky adventure sequence carried by woodwinds, strings with a steady bass pulse as an emancipated Victor is unleashed upon an unsuspecting and unprepared world! “Le Petit Cirque” is yet another cue presented as a dance, in this case as the title suggests, one that is farcical and comedic. The tune is typical of the type you would expect to hear played at a circus on a calliope. The melody, which is first emoted by a solo trumpet line and later by flutes, is countered by steady bass as it dances here and there fully embracing its innate silliness.

“El Greco,” as the title suggests, emotes with a Castilian sensibility, opening with a solo oboe and Spanish guitar. The piece is tender, romantic, alluring, and for me, to short! I would have loved if Delerue could have fully expressed this wonderful melody without the constraints imposed by the film. With “Camille Prépare Son Coup”, just when you begin to think you have this score figured out, Delerue provides another unexpected twist! Lo and behold, in the finest tradition of Mancini, we are presented classic American jazz! The cue is full of suspense, suggesting prowling or stealth given the tension evoked by the sustained string chords, bass counters and metallic percussion of cymbals. The late addition of a quirky flute line only adds to this colorful and eclectic piece. In “Imprévisible Dénouement” we are again treated to the Main Theme fully expressed in a delightful and free-flowing dance. Yet after an interlude Delerue throws in a twist as the suspenseful Jazz Motif is reintroduced. But all ends well as once again the piano carries the irrepressible Main Theme like a leaf upon a bubbling stream.

“Victor et Camille au Mont Saint-Michel” concludes the score beautifully and I must say you just want to get up and start dancing. The Maestro treats us to an idyllic and pastoral rendering of the Main Theme first carried tenderly by solo flute which soon gives way to a more effusive and joyous expression by full orchestral. Simply wonderful! “Thème d’Amour” is a bonus track in which we hear the Maestro play his beautiful Love Theme on piano. I am thankful that this version, played by the Maestro himself was included.

Va Voir Maman, Papa Travaille was directed by Francois Leterrier and adapted from the novel by Francois Dorin. Agnes (Marlene Jobert) is a model wife in her 30s who is unhappily married to a womanizing and callous husband. Her one source of joy in her life is her son whom she loves dearly. One day while she is driving through a game preserve near Paris, her car collides with the car of a divorced man. As fate would have it, the two of them are immediately love-struck. However, once Agnes’ husband’s suspicions are aroused, he threatens to take the boy from her. Fearful of losing her son, she is forced to confront her feelings and the reality of her life. The film was neither a critical or commercial success. Francois Leterrier abandoned his usual choice for composer Serge Gainsburg and instead asked Georges Delerue to score the film. Delerue accepted the assignment and provided a very eclectic score that included his usual modal sounds as well as some pop and jazz pieces. On that note, let us begin our journey…

“Générique Début” Introduces the idyllic Agnes Theme, which is quintessential Delerue. The theme is gentile and emoted quite delicately by a wondrous duet of chimes and xylophone played over strings. In many ways the theme speaks of Agnes’ innocence and inner beauty. I consider this gossamer like theme a cherished score highlight. Indeed since this is Agnes’ story, we hear her theme throughout the score and Delerue renders it in many different forms; in “Serge et Marianne” it is transmuted and expressed in a pop rock mode replete with electric guitar, bass, electronic keyboard played over a repeating drum beat, in “Vincent et Agnès” it is tender carried by electronic keyboard with lush string accompaniment, in “Agnès Amoureuse” it is rapturous with lush violins and harp glissandi, in “Week-end avec Vincent” it is emoted tenderly in contemporary style on solo piano, in “Promenade” it is contemplative with a tinge of sadness, and finally in “Générique Fin” it is resplendent, carefree and fanciful in its dance-like ¾ rhythm.

“Au Parc de Thoiry” can only be described as a circus theme, the type you would expect to be played on a calliope. It is a simple and spritely theme with a dance like quality carried by piano over shifting bass chords with percussion accents. The dance like flavor of the cue continues at the 1:09 mark where we segue with surprise into a tango played on an accordion! All in all, this was a most interesting cue. With “Christine” we begin with an orchestral chord rising in its register in a crescendo replete with magical glissandi harp accents. But instead of a bravado culmination, Delerue introduces a tender flute line with harpsichord accents. But we are again thrown off balance at the 0:38 mark as the music segues into an extended dance-like pop rendering of Agnes’ Theme.

“Surprise Partie” is a classic upbeat fee-flowing jazz piece carried by the usual instruments of saxophone, electronic keyboard, percussion, electric guitar and bass. The shifting between musical genres continues with “Zoo Musette”, which opens with a sprightly melody played by solo harpsichord. But we are fooled again as this is only a prelude from which we segue, quite remarkably, into a Parisian dance-like ¾ rhythm carried by an accordion! “Hôtel du Parc” is for me a score highlight and perhaps my favorite cue of the score. It is a tertiary cue, which opens in gentile fashion with a waltz-like theme carried by solo piano. At the 0:41 mark we segue into a simply wondrous romantic duet of violin and viola with piano accompaniment that is just sublime, and lastly at the 1:44 mark we segue into the final piece, which again features a violin and viola duet with piano accompaniment, but this time written in ¾ time as a waltz.

“Futurissimo” is a modern pop piece that features the usual electronic keyboard, bass, steady percussion beat with trilling and rushing wave-like electronic sound effects. The tenor of the music is soothing, relaxing and for me somewhat mesmerizing. “Générique Fin” provides a wonderful conclusion to score as we come full circle. The cue opens with a prelude of strumming harp played over a string chord, which ushers in a fitting and final reprise of Agnes’ Theme which is resplendent, carefree and fanciful in its dance-like ¾ rhythm.

Allow me to thank Cyril Durand-Roger and Laurent Lafarge for resurrecting these wonderful scores. I advise my readers that in the 1990s, these gentlemen contributed to Music Box: Pellicule Sur Écoute, a French magazine devoted to film soundtracks, and intended for film music enthusiasts. Well, I am pleased to announce that these talented gentlemen have created a new French label devoted exclusively to soundtracks: Music Box Records. Its goal is to promote film music, producing unreleased French soundtracks, in complete versions. Each CD will be produced in limited edition, in the spirit of collection. As a collector of film scores for over 30 years and a lover of French composers, this is for me a dream come true. This CD is not only the first effort by this new label, but also the World Premier of the complete scores of L’Incorrigible and Va Voir Maman, Papa Travaille by Georges Delerue. Now, allow me to conclude with my final ratings.

L’Incorrigible is a most welcome and wonderful surprise. Delerue has imbued his score with the joy of dance-like rhythms, which provide an incredible lightness of being and joie de vivre. The utilization of classical operatic poems and pop music keeps the album fresh and the listener entertained. The quality of the recording is excellent and the release of a complete score is always a treasure. Va Voir Maman, Papa Travaille is a well-conceived addition to this CD as its music is thematic with that of L’Incorrigible. This score also provides a refreshing perspective in that many of its cues like those of L’Incorrigible, are also emoted as dances. But what sets this score apart is the wondrous Agnes Theme, which permeates the entire score, filling all its recesses with its tender beauty, a beauty that could only be born from the mind of Georges Delerue. In conclusion, I must say that I really enjoyed this CD and highly recommend it, not only for Francophiles and Delerue enthusiasts, but also general score collectors looking for an entertaining score replete with dance and love themes.

Rating: ****

Buy the L’Incorrigible/Va Voir Maman, Papa Travaille soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Générique (1:19)
  • Tendre Marie-Charlotte (2:24)
  • Victor Traite Une Affaire (1:10)
  • Le Tango de Victor le Séducteur (1:03)
  • Le Rendez-vous du Colibri (1:37)
  • Victor Chez Hélène (1:24)
  • Lieder (8:35)
  • Menuet Pour Hélène (1:19)
  • Sortie de Prison (1:26)
  • Le Retour au Bercail (0:55)
  • Le Petit Cirque (1:32)
  • El Greco (1:21)
  • Camille Prépare Son Coup (1:40)
  • Imprévisible Dénouement (2:34)
  • Victor et Camille au Mont Saint-Michel (2:21)
  • Thème d’Amour (2:06)
  • Générique Début (2:15)
  • Serge et Marianne (1:57)
  • Au Parc de Thoiry (1:49)
  • Christine (1:32)
  • Surprise Partie (2:53)
  • Vincent et Agnès (2:13)
  • Zoo Musette (2:27)
  • Agnès Amoureuse (1:57)
  • Week-end Avec Vincent (2:09)
  • Hôtel du Parc (2:52)
  • Promenade (1:23)
  • Futurissimo (3:25)
  • Générique Fin (2:37)

Running Time: 62 minutes 15 seconds

Music Box Records MBR-001 (1975/1977/2011)

Music composed and conducted by Georges Delerue. Album produced by Cyril Durand-Roger and Laurent Lafarge.

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