Home > Reviews > LE BON PLAISIR – Georges Delerue

LE BON PLAISIR – Georges Delerue


Original Review by Craig Lysy

This suspense film directed by Francis Girod is based on Françoise Giroud’s novel, which explores the tale of a the French president (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who is informed after several years of the existence of a illegitimate son born from an extramarital affair with his former mistress Claire (Catherine Deneuve). To conceal the damaging news he conspires to use the secret service to cover up any kind of proof likely to tarnish his reputation.

What is most interesting is how this movie parallels actual historical events. When the film was released, Francois Mitterrand was the newly elected President of France. Unknown to the public at the time was that he had sired an illegitimate child whose existence was kept hidden up to around the time of his death. Many journalists knew of this “state secret” and it is reasonable to consider that perhaps so did the makers of this film. In the final analysis this film may be no more than pure coincidence, but we must admit that the parallels are striking.

While Girod had previously employed Ennio Morricone, Werner Jansen and Romano Musumarra to score his films he had always harbored a hope to some day collaborate with Delerue, whose music he adored. Le Bon Plasir provided this opportunity and Girod without hesitation solicited Delerue’s involvement. He was so pleased with the outcome that he selected him again for his 1986 film Descente aux Enfers. I must say that Delerue provides a very complex score that features suspense, love and mystery writing as well as a folksy American charm. So, let us begin our exploration….

The score opens with “Thème du Président”, a formal and stately march that perfectly emotes the dignity and power that resides in the office of the President of the Republic. We progress to “Générique Début”, which is a beautiful piece and score highlight. Delerue introduces Claire’s Theme, which plays against dark currents of suspense as she deals with the repercussions of her stolen purse that contains an old love letter from the President. The cue opens portentously with dark bass chords and plucked strings from whence ascends Claire’s Theme, a sad and lyrical solo flute line that floats over the bass chords, ultimately joined by violins. This melody is a hand over heart moment for the score and enduring testimony as to why so many people and I adore Delerue. At the 0:56 we hear for the first time the Suspense Motif. The motif is carried by a solo oboe, which plays over tremolo violins and plucked bass. At 2:32 the flute line reemerges and is soon intertwined with the Suspense Motif, which grows in urgency and tension as the cue concludes.

“Thème de Mike” introduces the theme for Claire’s son who is living in America. Interestingly enough Delerue adds quintessential folksy Americana coloring to the theme by emoting it with a harmonica. The theme is simple, carefree and unaffected with a subtle dance-like cadence. Later in “Ballade Américaine” we hear a full rendering of Michael’s Theme carried with bright strings. At the cue’s 1:19 mark we are to a treated to a tender reprise of his theme on harp that is a joy. Lastly, in “Hymne à l’Américaine” his theme assumes a playful march-like quality before concluding with a harmonica fragment of the theme.

Introduced with fanfare and a sumptuous violin “Voyage en Syldavie” is an energetic piece that imparts a distinctly classical tone. At 0:40 the tempo accelerates, gains energy and plays over a steady cadence. What a nice departure, and such a pleasant piece. “Chantage/Pierre Interroge Claire” reintroduces the Suspense Motif, but it is rendered as an undercurrent, more subtle and atmospheric as we witness blackmail and Claire’s interrogation. “Pollux Chez Claire” opens with Claire’s Theme played delicately on harp over a string chord. At 0:24 Delerue ushers in with lyrical strings another of the light classic dance pieces that we have come to associate with him. The dance-like ambiance continues with a more classical and formal expression in “La Lettre du Président”. The use of these pieces that feature dance rhythms is just wonderful! “Partie d’Échecs” introduces a second theme that is also a score highlight and a personal favorite. After opening tenderly with lyrical strings and harp, Delerue introduces at 0:38 a solo flute line that is soon joined by solo oboe in truly sublime expression. Simply wondrous!

“Le Portefeuille” is a suspense cue that opens with woodwinds that are soon joined by harpsichord and plucked harp. As tremolo strings join the tension grows, but then diminishes at 1:48 when sad strings rise to emote Claire’s Theme, which struggles to ascend out of sadness. Interestingly enough, the cue concludes with a comic coda. In “Le Complot Version 1” and later “Le Complot Version 2” a stark harpsichord introduces violins and woodwinds that carry a sad and lyrical line that seems to succumb to despair. “Pierre et Herbert” is another atmospheric suspense cue that opens with flute and harpsichord, but then segues at 1:10 into a light and carefree dance; a most unexpected and amazing change of mood! These two kindred cues represent for me the heart of this score. They moved me profoundly, evoked tears, and offer enduring testimony to the romantic genius that is Delerue.

“Claire et le Président” introduces the Love Theme, expressed in sublime fashion as a wondrous lyrical solo cello statement as Claire and the President meet. As the cello yields to strings we see the tragedy of their circumstances emoted with a deep sadness and regret. Later in “Suicide d’Herbert”, we are again blessed with an extended passage of the Love Theme. The cue opens sadly with a variation of Claire’s Theme emoted by flute, plucked strings and later bass chords. At 0:38 we segue into the Love Theme again emoted cothurnate by solo cello. I just cannot understate the sublime beauty of these cues.

“Mort de Pierre” again changes the mood as suspense and tension are reintroduced. Delerue expertly weaves together harp, strings, harpsichord and woodwinds to create a dark and eerie ambiance. With “Marche Funèbre” the mood continues as Delerue emotes a simple and understated funeral march. “La Bibliothèque de la Residence” is carried by strings and woodwinds, which emote with uncommon beauty and yet bear an unabiding sadness. Tears welled up in my eyes when I explored this cue.

“Générique Fin” concludes the score wonderfully and I must say is a score highlight. The cue opens with Claire’s Theme again carried by solo flute, but at 0:57 Delerue finally graces us with the theme’s violin carried B phrase which enriches its expression. After expressing this equally lyrical phrase we return once more to the theme’s A phrase which concludes the cue in exquisite fashion.

I must thank Cyril Durand-Roger and Laurent Lafarge once again for a most welcome score resurrection. A historical review of this score reveals that the original LP release only offered a mere 24 minutes of score that was regretfully mixed with dialogue. This expanded CD edition of almost 40 minutes offers new sequencing without dialogue from the film. Since the original master tapes were not available, the back-up tapes from Delerue’s archives were used and remastered. I must say that the sound quality is excellent and I heartily commend this restoration. “Le Bon Plaisir” fills another hole in Delerue’s canon for collectors. It provides three simply beautiful themes, among them a Love Theme that features some exquisite solo cello passages. Folks this score abounds with several passages for solo flute, oboe, violin and cello. The suspense writing is perfectly attenuated, never over-bearing and the use of harmonica to impart an Americana flavor both clever and inspired. I highly recommend this score for Delerue collectors and film score enthusiasts as a worthy addition to your collection. With only 1,000 copies pressed I urge you not wait too long to acquire this excellent score.

Rating: ****

Buy the Le Bon Plaisir soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Thème du Président (0:56)
  • Générique Début (4:32)
  • Thème de Mike (1:08)
  • Voyage en Syldavie (1:20)
  • Chantage/Pierre Interroge Claire (1:59)
  • Pollux Chez Claire (1:37)
  • La Lettre du Président (0:39)
  • Partie d’Échecs (1:29)
  • Le Portefeuille (3:03)
  • Le Complot – 1ère version (2:16)
  • Arrivée au Château (0:20)
  • Claire et le Président (2:32)
  • Ballade Américaine (1:56)
  • Mort de Pierre (2:11)
  • Marche Funèbre (0:45)
  • Le Complot – 2ème version (2:16)
  • La Bibliothèque de la Résidence (2:06)
  • Suicide d’Herbert (2:24)
  • Hymne à l’Américaine (0:36)
  • Pierre et Herbert (1:47)
  • Générique Fin (3:06)

Running Time: 39 minutes 36 seconds

Music Box Records MBR-003 (1984/2011)

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

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