Home > Reviews > UNTIL SEPTEMBER – John Barry

UNTIL SEPTEMBER – John Barry

September 18, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

untilseptemberTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Until September is a romantic drama directed by Richard Marquand – his first film after completing Return of the Jedi – written by Janice Lee Graham, and starring Karen Allen and Thierry Lhermitte. Allen plays Mo Alexander, an American tourist traveling through Europe, who misses a plane connection and gets stuck in Paris. While her new visa gets approved she goes to stay at the apartment of a friend who is away for the summer; there she meets her friend’s neighbor, Xavier, a wealthy French banker who is married but estranged from his wife and family. As Mo and Xavier spend time together in that most romantic of cities, their mutual attraction is overwhelming, and they eventually fall in love. Despite being a simple, uncomplicated story of passion and romance, Until September was not a major box office success in 1984, and today is known mainly for its sumptuous score by John Barry.

John Barry was still very much a composer in demand in the early 1980s; as the in-house James Bond composer, he had written Octopussy the year before this film, would score A View to a Kill the following summer, and had augmented these works with several popular romance scores such as Somewhere in Time in 1980, Body Heat in 1981, and Out of Africa in 1985, the latter of which would earn him his third Academy Award for Best Score. As such, anyone who is familiar with his output at the time can anticipate what Until September sounds like – a pair of slow, elegant, effortlessly romantic themes augmented by a few iconic instrumental flavors, touches of jazz and, in the case of this film, a subtle French twist to capture the flavor of the city on the Seine.

The gorgeous main theme is introduced in the “Main Title”, emerging from soft flutes and tinkling bells into a rhapsodic theme for piano and strings, which alternate between each other as the melody develops. This core trio of instrumental ideas – flute, strings, a piano – is the anchor of the entire score, dominating the sound, playing off each other in that haunting, delicate, inimitable way that Barry had. Even the subliminal elements, like the way the plucked harps and basses are often prominently featured in the pauses between performances of the lead theme, are clearly identifiable as John Barry staples.

The score’s secondary theme, for flutes and a gently inviting acoustic guitar, emerges during “Candle Light” and again during the beautiful “It’s Love”; such was Barry’s compositional strength that his minor themes from comparatively minor scores were stronger than many other composers’ primary thematic identities, and this is the case here too.

A harmonica, so often used to wonderful effect by Barry over the years, combines with the central core of instrumental textures in “Waiting/First Flight” and “The Morning After”, adding a slight aura of wistfulness and regret to the piece. Barry has often used harmonicas in this way, going all the way back to scores like Midnight Cowboy in 1969, and he was one of the very few composers able to use a harmonica in a setting unrelated to the American West, and have the texture work in its own right.

Later, “Foreplay” introduces a soprano saxophone element that adds a little heat and sexiness to Mo and Xavier’s relationship, just as it did to Kathleen Turner and William Hurt’s relationship in Body Heat years previously; this texture re-occurs later in the slightly darker and more dramatic “One More Time” (which also features a weeping Eric Clapton-style electric guitar sound and very subtle synth elements), and the lovely “End Title” cue.

A sultry solo trumpet rises to the fore in “Seine”, combining with the tinkling chimes and strings, while in the extended “He Catches Her” several of these elements fuse together, with the main Until September theme being augmented by rhythmic bass notes from the electric guitar, and contrapuntal woodwind writing, all of which adds a slight sense of urgency to the piece.

Until quite recently the score for Until September was most commonly found on a 1991 release from the British Silva Screen label, coupled with his score for the 1978 sci-fi film Star Crash. Intrada Records, as part of their Special Collection series, released an expanded version of the score in 2009 with a couple of additional cues, significantly improved sound, and re-arranged into a more sensible chronological running order. After the Intrada release quickly sold out, Bruce Kimmel’s Kritzerland label re-released it again in 2011 although, somewhat oddly, they chose to present the score twice, firstly in Intrada’s running order, and then again with Silva’s shortened and non-chronological order, resulting in a total album time of just over an hour. Each of these releases may be hard to come by these days, but if you are lucky enough to find a copy, its’ well worth investing in, especially for those of you who revel in Barry’s particular style of warm, enticing romantic scoring.

Buy the Until September soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Main Title – Until September (1:17)
  • Waiting/First Flight (1:49)
  • Second Spat (1:50)
  • Foreplay (2:48)
  • Score (1:04)
  • Candle Light (2:32)
  • The Morning After 2(:10)
  • Excuse (1:02)
  • It’s Love (0:57)
  • Memories (3:25)
  • One More Time (2:42)
  • Hotel (1:50)
  • Seine (1:51)
  • Not Again! (1:33)
  • He Catches Her (5:43)
  • End Title – Until September (2:31)

Running Time: 35 minutes 53 seconds

Siva Screen FILMCD-085 (1984/1991)
Intrada Records Special Collection ISC-90 (1984/2009)
Kritzerland KR-20018-9 (1984/2011)

Music composed and conducted by John Barry. Recorded and mixed by John Richards. Edited by Cliff Kohlweck. Score produced by John Barry. Silva Screen album produced by Reynold Da Silva. Intrada album produced by Douglass Fake. Kritzerland album produced by Bruce Kimmel.

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