LE GRAND PARDON – Serge Franklin
Original Review by Craig Lysy
Le Grand Pardon is, for all practical purposes, a Jewish version/variation of the famous 1972 film “The Godfather”. The story focuses on the Bettouns, a family of Sephardic Jews and the expanding criminal enterprise run by head of the family Raymond, their godfather. Growing tensions play out as we see Raymond’s inability to compartmentalize his criminal enterprise from the intimacy of his family life as a turf war develops and escalates with a rival Arabic gang. It suffices to say unlike director Alexandre Arcady’s first film, the successful “Le Coup de Sirocco”, that “Le Grand Pardon” was unsuccessful both critically and commercially.
Serge Franklin had collaborated with director Alexandre Arcady on his 1979 film “Le Coup de Sirocco”, so he was a natural choice to score the film. He composed a score animated by three primary themes, which he employs quite well, often playing one against the other. The first is the warm and intimate Family Theme, which features a guitar, a bandoneon, piano and strings. The second is the percussive Power Theme, which has a driving, propulsive and kinetic animating force coupled with fierce string writing. The third is the Love Theme, which has a gentle flowing melodic line emoted by either bandoneon or piano with guitar accompaniment.
“Le Grand Pardon” starts the listening experience off wonderfully with what I believe is a score highlight. We are introduced to the primary theme of the score, the Family Theme, which begins with a warm guitar line played over strings that is soon joined by a bandoneon and the Roland TR 808 automated drum machine. Slowly but inexorably we are treated to an accelerando as the music, propelled by the TR 808 blossoms into the wondrous major modal Power Theme filled with amazing animating energy. Franklin shifts the main melodic line between the strings and bandoneon effortlessly while infusing the music with ethnic coloring. The melody is simply infectious and I cannot understate how much I love this cue! Bravo! In cue 23 we are treated to a more intimate down tempo rendering of the theme by solo piano, while in cue 24 the theme is expressed vocally as an up tempo song sung by Herbert Pagani.
“Générique Début” immediately evokes a sense of unease and tension with the sound of a shophar (the Jewish ram’s horn) sounding over eerie shifting violin sustains that play atop a muted drum ostinato. The potency of the music increases as bandoneon and sharp stick percussion accelerate the music into the Power Theme. The cue takes off atop the strings in earnest with a driving force that alternates with interludes of shifting stick percussion and the drum ostinato. This is an amazing percussive and textural cue, which features a fascinating interplay of instruments and variations in tempo. I appreciate the complexity and rhythmic variances.
“Mi Violon mi Flamenco” is another score highlight and reaffirms for me that there is in simplicity, beauty. This intimate piece for small ensemble introduces the Love Theme, which abounds with tenderness and love. The beautiful gentle flowing melodic line is first emoted by bandoneon with guitar accompaniment. The melody is then taken up by solo piano that is eventually joined by lyrical strings. Simply wonderful!
“Jazz Forever”, as the cue title states, is a classic jazz piece which invites you to start tapping your foot in rhythm. It has a big band and nightclub flavor to it and features the usual cast of players; trumpets, electric bass, funky piano and a steady percussive beat. “Up To Date” is a continuation of the previous cue with no discernable melodic difference. “La Pègre à la Une” is a tertiary cue that opens with the warm and intimate Family Theme, launches into a short statement of the driving Power Theme before concluding with the a dissonant jazz infused parody of the Family Theme. In “Bettoun et le Sacristain” we are treated to a more methodical statement of the Power Theme. “Give Me La Salsa” is a sensual 70’s vibe song sung by Tina Provenzano, which provides the necessary ambiance.
“Romance à Biarritz” beautifully reprises the Love Theme, which opens on solo piano with string accompaniment before shifting to solo guitar. Franklin infuses the theme with a Castilian sensibility as lyrical strings join the guitar to end the cue. This cue is simply gorgeous! “Bazak” is a portentous and tension filled cue that opens with a wailing sophar before launching into the syncopated Power Theme. There is a driving self-renewing kinetic flow to this theme that I just find fascinating. “Sur le ring” is a dichotomous cue that features a beautiful interplay of themes. We open with the Family Theme on guitar with bandoneon accompaniment that transitions to the Love Theme with the bandoneon taking up the melodic line and the guitar switching to a supportive role. The blending of these two themes and the reversal of instrument roles is really well conceived and appeals to my aesthetic. I just love this cue!
“Mort de Roland et Viviane” opens with a plaintive solo cello emoting the Love Theme. The melodic line is taken up by a hesitant piano, which is joined in a closing trio with bandoneon and cello. This short cue is beautifully constructed and the interplay of instruments superb. “Casino de Biarritz” features a pleasant repeating six-note theme that has a nightclub slow dance ambiance. A steady percussive beat underpins the melody, which is rotated among the instruments; first woodwinds then bandoneon and finally alto saxophone. “Le grand mambo” as its name suggests is a funky mambo full of fun and syncopated energy. In “Bettoun Libre” guitar and violins perform the Family Theme. A bandoneon takes up the melody with strings before yielding to the guitar, which completes the cue.
The next two cues provide a common ambiance. “Poursuite Sur les Quais” is a funky, pulsatile driving action cue replete with wailing electric guitar. “Maduro Con Queso” takes up where the prior cue left off by continuing the syncopated funk, this time providing vocal accompaniment. In “Nuit Blanche” we shift gears, returning to guitar, bandoneon and strings emoting a sad rendering of the Family Theme. This rendition features the primary melodic line shifting among the instruments with sequential solo statements by guitar, bandoneon, cello, viola and concluding with the guitar. This cue is first rate, really well constructed and I appreciate the solos.
“Parking” opens with the bandoneon calmly emoting the opening line of the Power Theme, until we hit the accelerator with the Roland TR 808 automated drum machine, which fully launches us into the theme. Furious strings, saxophone, bandoneon and dynamic pounding percussion propel the cue forward with its usual animating energy. “La Loi du Talion” is a rich and complex cue and for me, a score highlight. It features varied and complex percussive effects that play against a furious string ostinato that references the Power Theme. At 1:10 the music ends abruptly and transitions to an eerie shifting string sustain from which arise dark low register piano chords with pizzicato strings effects. The cue slowly builds and we are then treated to a wondrous interplay of a muted Power Theme, the bandoneon carried Family Theme and lastly, the cello borne Love Theme. Wow, all three themes join in and work to create an amazing cue. This is exceptional writing! We conclude with “Générique Fin”, which like the opening “Le Grand Pardon” cue finishes as we began with a warm and emotional rendering of the Family Theme that joins with the Power Theme in an extended and rich interplay. The music is hopeful, abounds in major modal colors and ends the score with a very satisfying flourish.
Allow me to acknowledge and thank once again Cyril Durand-Roger and Laurent Lafarge of Music Box Records for a most welcome restoration and reissue of a classic French score. The score features 61 minutes of music that includes more than 30 minutes of previously unreleased music. The quality of the restoration is excellent with crisp and clear sound. Until now I was unfamiliar with the canon of Serge Franklin. This is a most welcome and appreciated introduction! He provides a rich ethnic score filled with complexity, shifting rhythms and textures as well as three wonderful themes. This is classic French film score writing and I recommend that you add this rare score (limited to 750 copies) to your collection. You will not be disappointed.
Buy the Le Grand Pardon soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store
- Le Grand Pardon (3:43)
- Générique Début (3:37)
- Mi Violon mi Flamenco (3:11)
- Jazz Forever (3:27)
- Up To Date (2:28)
- La Pègre à la Une( (1:10)
- Bettoun et le Sacristain (1:09)
- La Guerre du Casino (0:33)
- Give Me La Salsa (music and lyrics by Serge Franklin, performed by Tina Provenzano) (3:13)
- Romance à Biarritz (1:58)
- Bazak (2:15)
- Sur Le Ring (1:32)
- Mort de Roland et Viviane (1:37)
- Casino de Biarritz (3:26)
- Le Grand Mambo (2:35)
- Bettoun Libre (2:19)
- Poursuite Sur Les Quais (1:30)
- Maduro Con Queso (2:33)
- Nuit Blanche (2:07)
- Parking (2:37)
- La Loi du Talion (3:18)
- Générique Fin (3:01)
- Thème d’Amour (Piano Solo) (3:05)
- Le Grand Pardon (written by Serge Franklin and Herbert Pagani, performed by Herbert Pagani) (3:16)
Running Time: 59 minutes 40 seconds
Music Box Records MBR-005 (1982/2011)
Music and composed and conducted by Serge Franklin. Orchestrations by Serge Franklin. Recorded and mixed by Henri Loustau. Album produced by Cyril Durand-Roger and Laurent Lafarge.