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A WALK IN THE CLOUDS – Maurice Jarre

October 26, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments


Original Review by Craig Lysy

The screenplay for A Walk in the Clouds was adapted and updated from the original 1942 Italian film Quattro Passi Fra Le Nuvole. In this incarnation the setting is California following the end of WWII. Paul Sutton (Keanu Reeves), a veteran adapting to civilian life, boards a bus and by chance meets Victoria Aragon (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon). She is headed home from college to help her family with the autumnal grape harvest of their estate called Las Nubes, or “the clouds.” Victoria is unmarried and with child and fears for her fate when she breaks the news to her traditionalist and old world Mexican father Alberto (Giancario Giannini). A sympathetic Paul proposes to masquerade as her husband in order to assist her in her time of need. As fate would have it, Paul and Victoria fall in love, weathering countless obstacles, including Alberto’s fierce opposition in the process. A crisis that threatens Las Nubes overcomes all opposition and serves to bring the lovers and family together for the quintessential happy ending. While not a critical success, the movie resonated with the public and also earned Maurice Jarre a Golden Globe win for best Film Score.

Director Alfonso Arau was intent on hiring two men to complete his romantic vision; renowned cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and composer Maurice Jarre. Both succeeded brilliantly! Jarre was asked to provide the film with a romantic sweep infused with traditional Mexican ethnic accents. His score is anchored by three primary themes; the gloriously romantic string laden Main Theme, which is emoted with a sweeping and lush lyricism. This love theme animates the film and is inextricably entwined with our lovers. The second theme, the Las Nubes Theme is a folksy Hispanic statement for guitar that speaks to the traditional Mexican roots of the Aragon family and their treasured Las Nubes vineyard. Lastly, we have the Music Box Theme, which speaks to the horrors of war that continue to plague Paul. The use of a delicate music box style theme juxtaposed to Paul’s recurring nightmares of war is brilliantly conceived and serves to amplify the poignancy of Paul’s inner struggles

The “Main Title” features a fine introduction to the Las Nubes and Main Themes. We open with a sparkling chord of woodwinds and shimmering glockenspiel glissandi from which arises a passage of the Las Nubes Theme. Emoted on classical guitar, it serves as a prelude for the Main Theme that simply explodes at 0:45 with a stunning romantic grandeur that just brings both tears and a quiver. In cue seventeen “Main Title (film version)”, we are provided a more intense, refulgent and extended statement of the Main Theme, which I believe is superior in all respects. Returning to cue one, at 2:05 we segue atop noble French horns into “Boat Arrival” where Jarre infuses muted militaristic snare drums as we see Paul’s arrival back in the U.S.A. The optimistic major modal melodic line speaks of a confident and man happy to come home. The woodwind work and glockenspiel accents are a joy. These opening cues are a score highlight and a beautiful introduction to our story. “Ticket Switch” features Paul returning to his pre-war job as a chocolate salesman at his materialistic war bride’s demand. It is a ternary cue that opens with a shimmering A-phrase statement of the Main Theme, which reflects Paul’s inner desire for a fulfilling family life. Jarre provides carefree woodwind carried travel music that emotes a happy ambiance. Yet darkness enters the narrative at 1:36 in “Train Flashback” where Jarre introduces his Music Box Theme, which plays atop dark chords as we see the images of war that plague Paul. At 2:14 the carefree travel music born by strings and woodwinds returns in “Catching Bus” as Paul begins a fateful journey that will forever change his life

In “Miracle Wish” Jarre takes us on a journey from sadness to hope as we see Paul meet Victoria for the first time. As she relates her sad circumstances we hear plaintive celli and muted horns sound, yet from out the sadness rises hope atop the woodwinds as the melodic line brightens with Paul’s heartfelt offer to assist. This cue is expertly attenuated to the film’s narrative. Well done. With cue four “Tinfoil Rings” sparkling glockenspiel introduce the Main Theme as Paul removes decorative tinfoil from two chocolates to serve as their wedding bands. A happy Las Nubes Theme sounds on full orchestra as Victoria’s spirits are raised. We close the cue with a tender reprise of the Main Theme on flute. Now in cue eighteen “Tinfoil Rings (film version)” the music is played with less restraint. The closing woodwind carried line of both cues is just wondrous. Cue five “Star Wishes” is a tender cue, which opens tentatively on guitar, piccolo and strings, which speaks of Paul’s aspiration. From out this rises hope for a brighter future with the Main Theme taken up first on solo oboe, then strings before concluding on guitar. Cue nineteen “Star Wishes (film version)” offers subtle variances that do not warrant elaboration.

“No Bedtime” concerns itself with Paul and Victoria’s deception and opens with celli and plaintive strings, which emote their circumstance. Yet we ascend brightly atop violins and horns with the A-phrase of the Main Theme, which again speaks of hope. At 1:16 in Teddybear Flashback” we segue into another war flashback with the Music Box Theme, which mutates with a horrific distortion to abruptly end the cue. This effect is brilliantly conceived. “Morning Walk” reveals Paul struggling to continue the charade as he takes a morning stroll. The cue features the Las Nubes Theme, imparts a wondrous pastoral ambiance and features some beautiful writing for woodwinds. At 2:33 we segue into “I’ll Stay” where Paul resolves to stand by Victoria in her time of need, no matter the consequences. We are bathed in a moving melodic line carried by solo cello, which finally yields to the Las Nubes Theme, first expressed in dance like fashion by woodwinds and glockenspiel and then with pure happiness by full orchestra. What a fine ending!

“Butterfly Wings” is an amazing score highlight and testimony to Jarre’s brilliance. The harvest is threatened by a frost and so the family dawns man-made wings, which when flapped as they walk amidst the vines lifts the heat from burning smudge pots to keep the vines warm. We open with two sharp discordant horn blasts that signal the alarm. Snare drums and tremolo strings heighten the tension as the family flows out amidst the vines. Slowly from out a series of string sustains arises a gossamer like rendering of the Las Nubes Theme now emoted with sparkling metallic percussion and woodwinds. The theme expands to a wondrous, lush and sweeping orchestral statement as we witness the wonder of people flying through the fields. We conclude this marvelous cue with a tender flute carried statement of the Main Theme. The synergy of Jarre’s music and Lubezki’s cinematography imagery is simply sublime. Bravo! In the later cue “Butterfly Wings (film version)” the expansion of the Las Nubes Theme is altered. Jarre forsakes the full orchestra and instead emotes the theme with woodwinds that are answered by strings. I believe this serves to enhance the scene’s sense of wonder. It suffices to say that both versions are beautiful

“The Harvest” is an exciting cue! After a tentative opening with an echo of the Main Theme we launch into the festive Mexican Hat Dance. The music slowly and inexorably begins building to a crescendo climax, yet it dissipates atop a string sustain and we instead conclude with a flute emoted reprise of the Las Nubes Theme. With “First Kiss” comes the inescapable realization of love between Paul and Victoria. Jarre treats us to his beautiful Main Theme, which opens lushly, demurs, becoming tentative, yet finishes with the recognition they must follow their hearts to an uncertain future. With this score highlight Jarre perfectly captures the scene’s emotional narrative

“Wanted Truth/Victoria’s Pain/Let ‘Em Know It” is a ternary cue that underscores Victoria suffering the pain of her deception and circumstances. Jarre emotes her difficulty with his Main Theme, yet it is rendered sadly, devoid of its lush and sparkling wonder. “Honorable Man/Whistling” is a dichotomous cue that features interplay of the Main Theme and Music Box Theme. “Las Nubes Return” opens nobly on French horns from which ascends the Main Theme, now full of joy and happiness. We now move to a pivotal and complex ternary cue. “Angry Alberto” features an explosion of pent up anger from Alberto towards Paul that results in a lantern being shattered which ignites the dry autumn foliage. We open with harsh horns, strings and ostinato percussion, which raises the tension and mirrors Alberto’s anger. Playing in counterpoint is the Main Theme embodied in Paul. Slowly and inexorably we begin an ascent to crescendo. At 2:35 discordant horn blasts signal the start of the fire in “Vineyard Fire”. Repeated discordant horn and percussive statements supported by strings tragico underscore the rising and all consuming fury of the conflagration. At 3:52 we segue into “Fire Aftermath” where the stunned Aragon family attempts to fully absorb the destruction of Las Nubes. A forlorn Las Nubes Theme on guitar plays over a violin sustain as a devastated family grieves. And yet from out this loss the Main Theme struggles to break free. Slowly, the hope of a new and better future does indeed gain potency as the family realizes that the original ancestral Viral Vine may have survived. Jarre builds the anticipatory hope of this aspiration with a stirring crescendo that brings a quiver

In “Viral Vine” following the aftermath of the devastating fire, the ancestral old world vine from which Las Nubes sprung is found to have indeed survived and so offers the family the promise of a new beginning. Old world horns introduce the Las Nubes Theme, from which arises a sparkling Main Theme that culminates with a glorious flourish. Bravo! “End Title” provides us with a wondrous reprise of the Main Theme in all it’s sweeping, lush and romantic glory. Now fully stated with both it’s A and B phrases this cue is a perfect culmination to a wonderful score that offers enduring testimony to Jarre’s genius

The cues “Crush the Grapes” and “Mariachi Serenade” are source music that serve to impart an ethnic Mexican ambiance. Leo Brouver composed the music and director Alfonso Arau provided the lyrics. In addition, the saxophone carried “Slow Dance” and “Betty’s Slow Fox” cues provide a classic 1940’s slow dance-like ambiance. I offer my sincere thanks to Nick Redman, Mike Matessino, MV Gerhard, Matt Verboys and La La Land Records for a most welcome and deeply appreciated expanded release that doubles the length of this timeless romantic score. Folks, this late career Jarre score offers enduring testimony to his unsurpassed skill and innate gift for writing romantic scores. This effort is multi-thematic and perfectly attenuated to the film’s imagery and emotional narrative. Indeed the Main Theme stands as one of Jarre’s greatest romantic themes, one that will resonate through time. I highly recommend this score to both Jarre enthusiasts and general collectors alike.

Rating: ****

Buy the Walk in the Clouds soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Main Title/Boat Arrival (4:15)
  • Ticket Switch/Train Flashback/Catching Bus (3:00)
  • Miracle Wish (2:14)
  • Tinfoil Rings (1:43)
  • Star Wishes (2:02)
  • No Bedtime/Teddybear Flashback (1:44)
  • Butterfly Wings (3:01)
  • Morning Walk/I’ll Stay (4:36)
  • The Harvest (3:08)
  • First Kiss (2:06)
  • Wanted Truth/Victoria’s Pain/Let ‘Em Know It (2:56)
  • Honorable Man/Whistling (1:03)
  • Las Nubes Return (1:27)
  • Angry Alberto/Vineyard Fire/Fire Aftermath (7:56)
  • Viral Vine (2:46)
  • End Title (3:09)
  • Main Title (Film Version) (2:16)
  • Tinfoil Rings (Film Version) (1:41)
  • Star Wishes (Film Version) (2:03)
  • Butterfly Wings (Film Version) (3:03)
  • First Kiss (Alternate Opening) (0:55)
  • ”Spring” from The Four Seasons (written by Antonio Vivaldi) (4:17)
  • Betty’s Slow Fox (Source) (2:25)
  • Slow Dance (3:01)
  • Crush the Grapes (written by Leo Brouwer and Alfonso Arau, performed by Roberto Huerta, Juan Jimenez, Febronio Covarrunias and Ismael Gallegos Color d’Luna) (2:23)
  • Mariachi Serenade (written by Leo Brouwer and Alfonso Arau, performed by Roberto Huerta, Juan Jimenez, Febronio Covarrunias and Ismael Gallegos Color d’Luna) (3:01)

Running Time: 72 minutes 11 seconds

La-La Land Records LLLCD-1199 (1995/2012)

Music composed and conducted by Maurice Jarre. Orchestrations by Thomas Pasatieri and George Doering. Recorded and mixed by Shawn Murphy. Score produced by Maurice Jarre. Album produced by Nick Redman, Mike Matessino, MV Gerhard and Matt Verboys.

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  1. January 16, 2017 at 5:45 am
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