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LILI – Bronislau Kaper

September 29, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments


Original Review by Craig Lysy

MGM producer Edwin Knopf hired director Charles Walters to bring to life Lili, a fantasy tale based on a Saturday Evening Post short story “The Man Who Hated People” by Paul Gallico. For the film a talented cast was chosen; Lili Daurier (Leslie Caron), Paul Berthalet (Mel Ferrer), Marc (Jean-Pierre Aumont), Rosalie (Zsa Zsa Gabor) and Jacquot (Kurt Kaznar). In our story Lili, a naive country girl travels to a small provincial town in hopes of locating an old friend of her late father’s. When she discovers that he has died, a shopkeeper offers her employment as a guise to take sexual advantage of her. Marc, a handsome carnival magician whose Nome de plume is “Marcus the Magnificent” perceives her danger, covets her for himself and comes to her rescue. Yet her purity of heart dissuades his intentions and through him she gains work at the carnival assisting its master puppeteer Paul. Her wonderment and childlike innocence supports just endearing story-telling through his puppets; a brash red-haired boy named Carrot Top, Reynardo, a sly fox, Marguerite, a vain ballerina, and lastly Golo, a cowardly giant. Paul begins to fall in love with Lili but is embittered with life due to a leg injury he suffered during the war that ended his career in the ballet. We sadly see him reduced to expressing his true feelings for Lili through his puppets, while being mean-spirited when out of character. Lili eventually leaves Paul’s torment and while walking out of town, imagines the three puppets, now life-size, joining her as she finds a new life path. As she celebrates by dancing with each puppet, they all magically transform one by one into Paul. Lili realizes through each of them that they are a facet of Paul. She realizes her love for Paul and runs back to the carnival where they embrace and kiss passionately as the puppets applaud. The film was a critical success, earning composer Bronislau Kaper an Academy Award for Best Score.

Kaper was originally assigned by Musical Director John Green to score both the epic The Plymouth Adventure for MGM studio executive Dory Schary and the smaller more intimate film Lili. When scheduling made this impossible, Kaper chose Lili explaining that its demands as a musical for songs and ballet were challenges he had always sought. In retrospect Kaper felt Lili was the favorite of his canon and an enduring example of what music can do for a film. He related, “As immodest as this may sound, my score became the life of the movie.” For the score he provided two themes. His “Hi Lili, Hi-Lo” is the Main Theme, a song whose free-flowing, carefree and playful dance melody is rendered in a multiplicity of forms, which animate the film. The Disillusionment Theme heard during moment when Lili is unsure or disillusioned is a subtle construct of repeating phrases for strings and winds doloroso that serves as a counterweight theme to the ebullience of the Main Theme.

We begin in fine style with a score highlight. “Main Title” opens to heraldic celebratory trumpets as the film’s opening credits roll. This bright prelude ushers in a full rendering of the dance-like Main Theme, which graces us with a youthful, carefree and playful innocence. At 1:26 we segue atop flute and strings into the “Prologue” where we see Lili seeking directions in the town. Gentle woodwinds carry the dance of the Main Theme with both grace and some frivolity as Lili explores the town with her childlike innocence. We conclude with a tinge of unease as she becomes unsure of her surrounding. In “Lili Follows the Boys” Lili discovers that the family friend whom she was seeking has died. By chance she becomes fascinated by a troupe of performers from the carnival and so follows them. We are treated to a delightful interplay of the Main Theme on a shifting parade of playful woodwinds and the Disillusionment Theme, as we are informed that Lili is unsure of her path forward.

“Dog Act Rehearsal #1” features the womanizer Marc luring an infatuated Lili to his cabin for sexual conquest, yet he is ultimately dissuaded by her childlike innocence. Kaper provides a carnivalesque ambiance with accordion and whistling to animate the first scene, which plays against his ignoble motives. Nicely done! At 1:22 we segue into “Dog Act Rehearsal #2” where the accordion changes to emote a classic French romanticism as Marc seeks his conquest. The following quiniary cue is a marvelous pot-pourri! In “Peach Girl” Marc frees himself of Lili by getting her a job at the cabernet so he can pursue a new conquest. A festive carnivalesque accordion animates the scene. At 0.29 we segue into “Merry-Go-Round” where Kaper provides a classic Merry-Go-Round carnival melody. At 1:11 we accelerate upon piccolo animato and kindred winds into spirited play for “Ferris Wheel”. At 1:32 we segue yet again into “Nautch Dance”, which offers an exotic Indian dance as we see an Indian dance troupe entertain the restaurant clientele. At 3:17 we conclude our journey with “Nautch”, which is merely a coda for the previous melody. The marriage of music to film imagery here is just superb!

In “Magic Act” Kaper offers 5 vignettes of Marc’s magic act with his voluptuous assistant Rosalie. A drum roll and comic heraldic horns opens the act with “Magic Act #1”, which flows with a zany yet playful comedy. At 0:43 we segue into “Magic Act #2”, which features comic dancing woodwinds and silly strings! At 1:20 we segue into “Magic Act #3”, which features a playful dance by comic woodwinds. At 2:12 we segue into “Magic Waltz” where Kaper provides a faux classical waltz infused with comic accents. We conclude Marc’s act at 3:05 with “Magic Finale” where the orchestral builds to a grand comedic climax with an array of silly woodwinds and slapstick accents! Bravo! At 3:40 we segue into “Dog Act” where we see Lili being fired and then rebuked by Marc for watching the show instead of serving customers. We have a reprise of the slapstick, comic and carnivalesque music heard in “Dog Act Rehearsal #1”. At 5:02 we flow into “Can-Can” for a frenzied dance that yields at 5:13 to the end of this cue’s journey with “Ladderpole” where a distraught Lili climbs the trapeze ladder in contemplation of suicide. Kaper employs a distraught line of woodwinds and strings doloroso to emote Lili’s torment and pain. A dark crescendo commences as she begins her climb but its culmination is severed when a voice calls out to her. Once again Kaper’s music is perfectly attenuated to the film.

In “Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo” we see Lili enraptured by the puppets who she befriends as though they were alive. Her interaction attracts a crowd and we realize that she provides the magic that elevates this act. Kaper scores the scene by offering his Main Theme as a song, which features the voices of principle actors Leslie Caron and Mel Ferrer. Its playful oompah-pah rhythms may seem corny to modern sensibilities, but it works splendidly in film context. We conclude with great fun riding a classic accelerando. Bravo! In “Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo (accordion)” Paul and Jacquot recognize the magic and crowd allure from Lili’s interaction with the puppets and so hire her to join the act. The Main Theme is taken up by solo accordion for a heart-warming rendition. “Adoration Ballet” is a beautifully fashioned cue, which offers a dreamscape as we see in Lili dreams her dancing with Marc during his magic show. Kaper fashions a surreal ambiance that leads us into a playful dance filled with a delightful joie de vivre. At 1:43 we transition on lush strings that speak of her longing for romance. We diverge sharply at 2:25 as an unwelcome Rosalie enters to compete for Marc’s affections. Kaper provides a wonderful big band 1940’s sound to animate the scene. We conclude with and otherworldly ambiance replete with harp glissandi, which informs us of Lili’s return to consciousness.

In “Merry-Go-Round #1, #2, #3 / Ferris Wheel / Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo (Merry Go Round)” Lili is seen doing the puppet show, which over time endears her to the crowds as well as the carnival troupe. Kaper supports the montage in fine carnivalesque fashion with his Merry-Go-Round and Ferris Wheel Motifs. We come to a fine conclusion atop a warm rendering of the Main Theme. “Ring” reveals a jealous Paul berating Lili over her affection for Marc, who as it turns out is leaving the carnival having secretly married Rosalie. Unbeknown to Marc, Lili has come into possession of his wedding ring, which he misplaced. Kaper plays against the tension and emotions of the moment by providing a backdrop of festive carnival music. This is really well conceived. In “Goodbye to Marc” we see a sad yet reconciled Lili yielding to the pain of unrequited love by returning his missing wedding ring. The mood is captured by woodwinds doloroso and solo violin, which offer tender interplay of Main Theme and Magic Act Finale statement.

In “Curtain Down” Lili realizes that with Marc’s departure and Paul’s constant criticism that she has no future with the carnival. She bids farewell to her dear puppets and closes the curtain for the last time, which earns her a ferocious rebuke from Paul. Kaper supports the pathos of the moment with exquisite interplay of the Main Theme and the Disillusionment Theme. At 2:33 we segue atop solo trumpet into “Lili Leaves Paul” where we see Lili walking alone along a country road. A pastoral ambiance tinged with sadness carries her along. At 3:32 we segue into “Ballet (Lili and the Puppets)” where we see Lili shift to a dreamscape that reveals her dancing down the road with now life size versions of the puppets! Kaper propels the scene with a wonderful renderings of the Main Theme, sometimes as carefree whistling, sometimes playful, all of which flowing as dance. Yet as she dances with each puppet they magically transform into Paul. Kaper uses disquieting dreamscape interludes of the melodic flow to inform us of these transformations. The marriage of film imagery and music is perfect! At 7:55 we see Lili and Paul, now alone dancing together in “Paul and Lili”. The score begins a stirring emotional ascent and soars to its apogee, as it swells magnificently to achieve a supremely romantic climax atop the Main Theme! At 10:55 in “End Title and Cast” the dreamscape dissipates and Lili returns to the here and now. She realizes that she truly loves Paul and races back atop flight music to the carnival. We see Lili and Paul embrace and kiss as we conclude on a most satisfying and heartwarming statement of the Main Theme, which concludes with a wondrous orchestral flourish! Bravo! Lastly, the bonus cues offer alternative cue versions that feature different instrumentation or solo piano that is worthy of your exploration.

Please allow me to thank Lukas Kendall, and George Feltenstein of Turner Entertainment for this splendid stereo release of the complete score of Lili. The score’s remixing and digital mastering has achieved excellent sound quality. This score is the road less traveled. Lili was a challenge in that it was a musical, a fantasy, a comedy and a romantic drama. Kaper responded with a wondrous versatile main theme that fully captured the film’s emotional core, songs, ballet music, carnivalesque tunes and romantic drama. Scene after scene his music enhances and is perfectly attenuated to the film’s imagery and emotional narrative. In my judgment Kaper clearly demonstrated mastery of his craft in creating this fine Golden Age score. I highly recommend it for inclusion in your film score collection.

Buy the Lili soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Main Title/Prologue (3:33)
  • Lili Follows the Boys (1:36)
  • Dog Act Rehearsal #1/Dog Act Rehearsal #2 (3:24)
  • Peach Girl/Merry-Go-Round “A”/Ferris Wheel/Nautch Dance/Nautch Playoff (3:27)
  • Magic Act/Dog Act/Can-Can/Ladderpole (7:30)
  • Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo (written by Bronislau Kaper and Helen Deutsch, performed by Leslie Caron and Mel Ferrer) (2:11)
  • Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo (Accordion) (2:51)
  • Adoration Ballet (5:00)
  • Merry Go Round #1, #2, #3/Ferris Wheel/Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo (Merry Go Round) (3:56)
  • Ring (0:52)
  • Goodbye to Marc (2:29)
  • Curtain Down/Lili Leaves Paul/Ballet (Lili and the Puppets)/Paul and Lili/End Title and Cast (12:21)
  • Main Title/Prologue (Original Version) (3:33) [BONUS]
  • Dog Act Rehearsal #2 (Piano Pre-Record) (2:11) [BONUS]
  • Ferris Wheel (Longer Version) (0:49) [BONUS]
  • Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo – Album Version (written by Bronislau Kaper and Helen Deutsch, performed by Leslie Caron and Mel Ferrer) (2:08) [BONUS]
  • Magic Act (Piano Pre-Record) (2:30) [BONUS]
  • Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo (Merry Go Round – Complete Version) (1:58) [BONUS]
  • Trailer (2:23) [BONUS]
  • Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo – Stereo Excerpt (written by Bronislau Kaper and Helen Deutsch, performed by Leslie Caron and Mel Ferrer) (1:22) [BONUS]
  • Adoration Ballet (Piano Pre-Record) (4:25) [BONUS]
  • Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo (Whistling Version) (0:54) [BONUS]

Running Time: 71 minutes 23 seconds

Film Score Monthly FSM Vol8 No.15 (1953/2005)

Music composed by Bronislau Kaper. Conducted by Hans Sommer. Orchestrations by Robert Franklyn and Gerald Fried. Score produced by Bronislau Kaper. Album produced by Lukas Kendall and George Feltenstein.

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