Home > Reviews > UNITED PASSIONS – Jean-Pascal Beintus

UNITED PASSIONS – Jean-Pascal Beintus

unitedpassionsOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Those of you who know me will know that, in addition to film music, one of the greatest loves of my life is the sport which Americans insist on calling soccer, but which most of the rest of the world calls football. I have been a fan of the beautiful game since I was a small boy, and have followed the fortunes of my club team, Sheffield Wednesday, and the English national team for more than 30 years. Globally, the sport is run by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, better known by its acronym FIFA, and unless you have been living under a rock recently, you will know all about the allegations regarding FIFA and charges of corruption, bribery, and alleged vote-rigging, in relation to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, amongst other things. It has been common knowledge amongst well-informed football fans for years that FIFA is corrupt – in fact, saying that FIFA is corrupt is an understatement akin to saying that Adolf Hitler was a bit disagreeable – and even people who love the sport agree that things need to change significantly. The man currently in charge of FIFA is a Swiss hobgoblin named Sepp Blatter, who has a persona that is basically one step away from ‘Bond villain’. You almost expect to find him in his office in Zürich, stroking a white cat and dropping people into a tank full of sharks. Thankfully, in the wake of these recent issues, Blatter is on his way out of the door, and reform seems to be imminent, but for years and years Blatter and FIFA insisted that they were squeaky clean, incorruptible and innocent, and one of the ways they went about proving this was to co-produce a dramatic film all about the foundation of FIFA, the creation of the World Cup, and all the good stuff it does in the world today. Yes, seriously. In a delicious touch of irony, the film – which is called United Passions – opened in cinemas in the United States on June 5th 2015, around a week after the scandal broke, and it grossed a staggering $607 over its opening weekend. Not $607,000 – six hundred and seven. And they say the American public has no taste.

The film was co-written and directed by Frédéric Auburtin and has an admittedly rather impressive cast: Gérard Depardieu as Jules Rimet (the president of FIFA from 1921 to 1954, and after whom the first World Cup was named), Martin Jarvis as Sir Stanley Rous (the president of FIFA from 1961 to 1974), Sam Neill as João Havelange (the president of FIFA from 1974 to 1998), Thomas Kretschmann as sports executive Horst Dassler, and Tim Roth as Blatter himself. Unfortunately, the film has been utterly savaged by critics, many of whom are calling it “a squirm-inducing heap of propaganda at its most self-congratulatory,” “tedious, amateurish and hilariously ill-timed,” “the ultimate testament to FIFA’s staggering insularity and tone-deafness,” and “the unintentionally funniest movie of 2015”. As the satirist John Oliver said on his HBO show Last Week Tonight, only FIFA could produce a sports movie where the heroes are the administrators.

Possibly the only aspect of the film to retain any semblance of dignity and quality is its score, which was written by the 49-year-old French composer Jean-Pascal Beintus. If you have scoured the credits of any Alexandre Desplat score over the past decade or so you will have seen Beintus’s name listed as an orchestrator, on everything from The Queen and Lust Caution to New Moon, The King’s Speech, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Argo, The Imitation Game, and Godzilla. Beintus scored a TV movie in 2003 also directed by Auburtin, contributed music to Leonardo di Caprio’s documentary The 11th Hour, and has worked on a couple of short films, but for all intents and purposes United Passions is his theatrical debut. It’s a shame that this is so because, had Beintus’s music accompanied literally any other film, his work may have received some positive press, but as it stands he is likely to be tarred with the same brush as everyone else involved with this abomination of a motion picture.

Beintus’s music is everything FIFA undoubtedly wanted it to be: serious of purpose, solemn and respectful when it needs to be, flavored with hints of world music here and there, but overall painting a picture of a group of men who are decent, hard-working idealists with the best interests of the game at heart. The score is predominantly orchestral, with special emphasis on strings and solo piano. The opening cue, “United Passions,” is a lovely, sentimental piano theme, and many of the cues thereafter adopt a similar tone reflecting the self-importance FIFA sees in itself, as well as the altruistic world view it thinks it imparts. Cues like “A World Championship” and the gorgeously textured and uplifting “Your Dream” convey a sense of honor and conviction. “Depression” revisits the piano theme heard in the first cue, while “The Death Match,” “Elegy,” and “Kids Game,” all feature a wordless cooing choir, albeit with distinctly different emotional aims.

Elsewhere, a jaunty, can-do spirit full of light, prancing strings, elegant piano lines, and hooting woodwinds give cues like “Long Life FIFA” and “New Year’s Eve” a sense of sunny optimism, while cues like “Africa,” “Rio,” “Papelitos,” and the conclusive “United Clip,” work in a sort of world music pastiche with tribal drums and shakers in the bookends, and slinky string writing in the middle pair. “Maracanã” tries to recapture the excitement and energy of one of the world’s most famous stadiums with some quick-fire string runs and undulating action music rhythms, while cues like “Brazil Champion/Havelange President” and the conclusive “The Election” are almost celebratory in their tone. As much as I enjoy the music out of context, I have to admit that the thought of this last cue underscoring scenes depicting Sepp Blatter’s rise to power is enough to make one’s skin crawl.

Throughout the score there are also several clear echoes of Alexandre Desplat’s compositional style, making me wonder who has more influence on who. Has the years of working with Desplat made Beintus sound like him, or does Beintus have an influence on Desplat’s sound through his orchestrations? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but it’s certainly an interesting topic to ponder as you listen to the lovely string harmonies of “First Article,” or the trio of bubbling “Lets Go” cues, all of which have Desplat’s musical fingerprints all over them.

It really pains me to praise anything to do with FIFA, Sepp Blatter, or this abortion of a movie, but the score to United Passions really is a fine one, filled as it is with delicate orchestrations, some effective thematic writing, and no shortage of emotion. One cannot blame Jean-Pascal Beintus for doing the job he was hired to do, and political considerations aside, United Passions is an enjoyable, appropriate score which will appeal to Alexandre Desplat fans considerably, even though its similarity to his work in places causes it to suffer from a little bit of a lack of a distinct personality of its own. I can only hope that, as a result of his association with this film, Jean-Pascal Beintus does not suffer any sort of backlash or stigma, because that would be a shame. My advice to film music fans is to try to forget the film that this score accompanies, and enjoy it on its own terms.

Buy the United Passions soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • United Passions (1:38)
  • London Stadium (0:43)
  • First Article (1:15)
  • Le Cochon Qui Fume (1:08)
  • Long Life FIFA (1:15)
  • A World Championship (1:20)
  • Let’s Go!, Part 1 (2:09)
  • Let’s Go!, Part 2 (2:08)
  • Let’s Go!, Part 2 Bis (1:42)
  • Your Dream (3:00)
  • Depression (1:08)
  • Farewell Hirschman (1:15)
  • Berlin (0:57)
  • The Death Match (3:51)
  • Maracanã/Elegy (4:59)
  • Brazil Champion/Havelange President (1:52)
  • Looking for Money (0:57)
  • Some Interest (0:53)
  • Africa (1:44)
  • Africa Bis (0:51)
  • Rio (0:36)
  • Papelitos (1:34)
  • Next Secretary General (0:59)
  • A Great Honor (1:10)
  • Illusions (2:54)
  • Madrid (0:49)
  • The President (1:59)
  • New Year’s Eve (0:54)
  • Who Knows? (3:36)
  • The Trophy (1:43)
  • The Election (3:21)
  • Kids Game (1:26)
  • United Clip (4:13)

Running Time: 59 minutes 59 seconds

Music Box Records MBD-004 (2015)

Music composed by Jean-Pascal Beintus. Conducted by Sylvain Morizet. Orchestrations by Jean-Pascal Beintus and Nicolas Charron. Recorded and mixed by Xavier Forcoli. Edited by Roland Duboué. Album produced by Jean-Pascal Beintus.

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