A LITTLE ROMANCE – Georges Delerue
Original Review by Craig Lysy
Director George Roy Hill enjoyed success with the romance film The World of Henry Orient in 1964, and when he came across the novel “E=MC2 Mon Amour” by Patrick Cauvan he decided it was time to revisit the genre. He and screenwriter Alan Burns crafted the script and set about finding their cast. Renowned thespian Laurence Olivier was hired to play Julius Edmund Santorin, and provide gravitas to the film, along with the two teenage lovers, Lauren King, played by Diane Lane making her acting debut, and Daniel Michon, played by Thelonius Bernard. The story offers a coming of age romance between Lauren, a 13-year-old American with an astounding IQ of 167, and her French beau Daniel, a street wise 13 year old who loves Hollywood film and betting on the horses. They meet one day at the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte and fall in love. Their romantic adventure begins when the meet septuagenarian Julius who tells them that if they board a gondola in Venice and kiss under the Bridge of Sighs at sunset as the bells of Saint Mark’s toll, they will be in love forever. Well, since they cannot cross the border as minors without an adult, they join together on this romantic quest. With Julius’ assistance, and after much intrigue and side steps, Lauren and Daniel finally achieve their supreme romantic moment! Although Lauren’s outraged parents take her back to America, the film closes with our lovers locked in a parting gaze, knowing that Venice ensures they will again be together. The film had modest commercial success and received mixed critical reaction. Never the less it secured two Academy Award nominations for Best Screenplay and best Film Score, winning one, Best Film Score.
French composer Georges Delerue was hired for the project given the French setting and European ambiance. Delerue understood that this was a coming of age romance and sought to create a soundscape that spoke to the innocence, youth and carefree wonderment of the aspiring teenage lovers. He provided four primary themes for the film. The first, his flute carried Main Theme was a masterstroke, which captured the film’s emotional core. Its articulation in the Main Title where it is rendered in all its carefree wonderment is joyous. For the Love Theme, Delerue chose to interpolate Vivaldi’s Concerto for Lute, Violins and Basso Continuo in D Major (1730), which perfectly aligns with his own music. For me the theme is perfect for our lovers and is intrinsically linked with scenes in which they are together. Notable is Delerue’s alchemy in the finale where he joins Vivaldi with his own music to achieve a wondrous confluence. The third theme is Julius’ Theme, which flows with the grace and elegance of a waltz. Lastly we have the Traveling Theme, which is emoted with the sensibility of classic French Renaissance style. Travel music can at times be quite cliché, but not here however as Delerue finds a way to carry us with both energy and elegance. Filling out his very diverse soundscape are passages of light jazz and solo piano. It is worth noting that it was the winning of the Academy Award, which elicited Delerue to relocate from France to Hollywood in 1983. Regretfully it suffices to say that Hollywood culture was unable to consistently offer the quality films that would provide the requisite tapestry to fully utilize his singular gift.
The album cues are not correctly ordered, so I will review them in film sequence. The film opens with a montage of scenes where we see Daniel in a cinema watching a number of classic Hollywood films. As he leaves the theatre he steals a picture of Robert Redford from the display and flees with the theatre owner in pursuit. He escapes and as he races through the streets of Paris, Delerue introduces his sparkling Main Theme in “Main Title”, which carries his progress home with delightful solo statements by oboe and clarinet. The cue is one of the finest in his canon, and a wonderful score highlight, which perfectly sets the mood. Bravo! In “Love’s Not Like That” Daniel charms Lauren as they are eating lunch at the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte. She is clearly taken by his confident boyish bravado and a s they part, she agrees to join him later at the train station. Delerue informs us of their nascent love with a brief statement of the Love Theme. Delerue understood that this was not an ardent, passionate adult love, but rather an innocent and youthful love; as such the interpolation of the Largo of Vivaldi’s Concerto is just a perfect fit!
With “Julius Edmond Santorin” Delerue offers another wonderful score highlight. Daniel and Lauren are on a date in the park by the Louvre. By chance Daniel accidently knocks Julius down in a soccer ball mishap. Julius is gracious and takes the two to a café for coffee and pastries. While there he tells them of his life, and when the subject turns to love, he spellbinds them with the legendary lover’s tale of Venice. Delerue supports the gentile ambiance and wonderment with a full rendering of Julius’ Theme. This graceful and elegant waltz perfectly captures Julius’ old world charm. Bravo! “The Young Lovers” reveals Daniel and Lauren out at night on a date and as they walk the streets of Paris Delerue again graces us with a tender rendering of the Love Theme. At 0:59 the melody takes flight and closes with a wonderful joie de vivre. In “Birthday Party” Delerue carries Lauren’s birthday party simply with a piano bar vibe offered by solo piano. The free flowing melody supports the scene well without being intrusive. “Paris Montage” offers a light jazz vibe that carries our lovers explore Paris.
In “Off to Italy” Lauren has convinced Daniel and Julius to journey to Venice. At a train stop Julius does not return in time and they are stranded. They hitch hike and as they travel through the Alpine countryside Delerue graces us with the Travel Theme, a delightful Baroque piece as beautiful as the Alpine vistas. “Outdoor Cafe / Moving On” offers a classic free-flowing Italian dance carried by accordion, violin, and mandolin, which supports the outdoor café. The melody is infectious and you wish that the cue would never end. While in Verona, our trio discovers that they are featured in a newspaper article, which speaks of a kidnapping scandal! They resolve to continue on to Venice with less conspicuous transportation, and so join a local bicycle race! In “The Bicycle Race” Delerue supports their progress with a delightful interpolation of the Allegro of Vivaldi’s concerto. Given the Italian setting, this is a perfect marriage of music and scene. Lauren and Daniel learn of Julius’ criminal past in “No Turning Back”, which offers a plaintive rendering of the Love Theme on guitar as Lauren and Daniel question the validity of their romantic quest in light of Julius’ fraud.
“The Lovers’ Decision” Lauren despairs that everything has been for naught. Julius exhorts them to hold on to their dream and continue on to Venice. When Daniel realizes that they have the power to make their dream come true, he takes him up on his advice. A thankful Lauren runs to Daniel and as they join hands the Lover’s Theme supports the tender moment. This scene is nicely done! “Venice” reveals our trio at last in Venice hiding in the Cathedral San Marco. Delerue uses the Travel Theme and its French renaissance sensibility, which provides both wonder, and incredible lightness of being. “A Little Romance” offers the Love Theme as Julius tells the kids to hide out in the theater until sunset. The theme is bittersweet as Julius sees the police, and offers himself up for arrest to buy time for Lauren and Daniel. “Hiding in the Movies” offers a tension cue; the only time the score inhabits the realm of unease. It supports Lauren and Daniel hiding out in a theater to pass the time before their planned gondola ride at sunset.
In “The Gondola” it is almost sunset and the kids are trying desperately to hire a gondola. The spirited Travel Theme supports their efforts, providing the needed energy. The marriage of music against the backdrop of the canals and walkways of Venice is perfect. “Farewell … For Now” offers the score’s emotional apogee, and for me the score’s finest moment. The scene reveals Lauren saying farewell to Daniel as her family is moving to Houston. She tells him that it will be many years before she sees him again, but knows, thanks to the Bridge of Sighs kiss, that the treasured day will surely come. Delerue offers an extended and tender rendering of the Love Theme, which he embellishes with a B Phrase of his own creation. In “End Title” Delerue concludes in fine style as the credits roll with a delightful and spirited rendering of the Travel Theme in all its effusive glory! This is an exceptional cue and score highlight.
Once again Robert Townson and Varèse Sarabande have brought to film score lovers yet another exceptional film score. Delerue had a truly unique and singular voice the likes of which I believe will never again be heard. The interpolation of Vivaldi’s Concerto throughout the film was an insightful masterstroke, which achieved a sublime confluence with his own original writing. Indeed in the evocative finale, Delerue and Vivaldi became one. In scene after scene Delerue’s score provided excellent synergy, elevating the film’s imagery, characters, ambiance, and narrative. I believe this score to be one of the finest in Delerue’s canon and testimony to how a film score can elevate a film. The score won the Oscar over Goldsmith’s masterwork Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which I find surprising given the extensive pastiche of Vivaldi. Never the less, I still believe this score to be essential to both Delerue lovers, and lovers of film score art. Copies are becoming rare, so I encourage you to obtain one sooner, rather than later.
I have embedded a YouTube link for the delightful “Main Title” with its amazing woodwind solos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnUGhbdJubk
Buy the A Little Romance soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store
- Main Title (3:10)
- Love’s Not Like That (1:00)
- Paris Montage (2:32)
- Julius Edmond Santorin (3:45)
- The Young Lovers (1:49)
- Off to Italy (2:15)
- Birthday Party (2:40)
- Outdoor Café/Moving On (3:10)
- A Little Romance (1:25)
- The Bicycle Race (4:30)
- The Lovers’ Decision (1:00)
- Venice (1:25)
- Hiding in the Movies (2:21)
- No Turning Back (1:07)
- The Gondola (2:00)
- Farewell… For Now/End Title (5:29)
Running Time: 39 minutes 38 seconds
Varese Sarabande VSD-5367 (1979/1992)
Music composed and conducted by Georges Delerue. Score produced by Georges Delerue. Album produced by Robert Towson and Tom Null.