Home > Reviews > FATAL ATTRACTION – Maurice Jarre


September 28, 2017 Leave a comment Go to comments


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the smash hit movies of 1987 was the thriller Fatal Attraction, the film which made a multitude of men think twice abut cheating on their wives, and which gave rise to the term ‘bunny boiler’. Directed by Adrian Lyne, and based on the 1980 British film ‘Diversion’ written by James Dearden, the film starred Michael Douglas as Dan Gallagher, a successful lawyer, happily married to his wife Beth (Anne Archer). One weekend, while his family is away, Dan has an unplanned one-night stand with Alex Forrest (Glenn Close), a publishing company executive. Immediately regretful of his infidelity, Dan insists that the night was a one-off and a mistake, and vows never to see Alex again, but she refuses to accept it, and continues to pressure Dan into a relationship. In the months that follow Alex becomes gradually more and more deranged, her obsession with Dan gradually turning to violence and murder. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Director, and Best Actress, but failed to win any, although the legacy of the film is arguably greater than those to which it lost (notably The Last Emperor and Moonstruck).

The score for Fatal Attraction was by French composer Maurice Jarre who, as has been well-documented, was deep within his ‘synthesizer period’ at the time. I have always felt that Jarre’s continued use of electronic music in the 1980s was one of the worst decisions any composer made regarding their own career. This is the man who commanded an orchestra with astonishing skill – you don’t write scores like Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, and a dozen more otherwise – but who abandoned this style of writing almost entirely for more than a decade. Some have claimed that he was inspired by his son Jean-Michel Jarre’s success in the electronica field, while others think he was trying to capitalize on the zeitgeist of what would ultimately turn out to be a passing fad; whatever the case may be, the bottom line is that he just wasn’t very good at it. His samples and electronic sounds dated quickly, and the music he wrote just didn’t lend itself to that sound palette at all. Fatal Attraction, like many others before and after it, was a victim of this infatuation.

The score actually starts out promisingly. The first cue on GNP Crescendo’s album, “Fatal Attraction,” opens with a beautiful, classical melody for a real piano, an elegant tribute to the relationship between Dan and Beth. Pretty woodwinds, both real and synthesized, combine with a mysterious-sounding trumpet and a synth wash in performing a long-lined melody; the theme itself is slightly reminiscent of the themes for both Witness and Dead Poets Society, with a sort of intangible, dream-like quality, and by the end of the cue it has adopted a grand, if slightly dated, sound. However, it goes downhill very quickly from here.

The subsequent three cues – “Following Dan,” “Madness,” and “Where Is Ellen” – take this established sound palette but make it much darker, more ominous, with increased dissonance and a more droney and less well-defined style. I suppose in one way the music does paint a vivid portrait of Alex’s borderline psychosis, the inner demons and mental struggles which drive her to such extremes of obsession and violence. But, musically, it all just seems to haphazard and lacking clarity; Jarre introduces throbbing dissonances, grinding synth tones, aggressive pulses, and periods where the wandering synth trumpet takes the lead, but it just feels amateurish in its execution, a bizarre jumble of ideas which never really come together to form a cohesive musical statement.

The penultimate cue, “Beth,” marks a brief return to the pretty pianos from the opening few moments, which are underpinned by moody synths that have an appropriately forlorn, regretful tone. However, this respite lasts for just 28 seconds, and then the conclusive “Confrontation” kicks in, underscoring the final bloody showdown between the three protagonists. As before, Jarre’s synths are intense, brutal, and aggressive, but again sound slightly shrill, while the rhythmic constructs seem oddly incompetent. Not only that, some of the textural choices Jarre makes are intensely peculiar, with space age whooshing, and the unexpected addition of a wailing, moaning synth choir towards the end.

The soundtrack for Fatal Attraction was released on vinyl LP and CD by GNP Crescendo Records in 1987. Oddly, the LP featured six cues, all of which are much longer than their CD counterparts (“Following Dan” is 7 minutes on LP, 2 minutes on CD, for example); the CD features the ‘short versions’ of the same six cues, plus eight un-named ‘bonus cues’ tagged onto the end. These bonus cues, for the most part, offer a series of variations on the same music as the rest of the score, although “Untitled 1” does veer off into some twisted calliope circus music, and “Untitled 3” offers a warm and pleasant statement of the main theme, while “Untitled 6” uses what sounds like a sampled didgeridoo! The soundtrack is probably ripe for expansion, and would benefit from a more logical and competent presentation of the cues in film order, but honestly I’m not entirely sure that even that could save it.

I’m really not sure what the problem was with Maurice Jarre during the 1980s. Jarre himself was clearly a composer of tremendous skill, and the ensemble of electronic musicians he chose to work with on Fatal Attraction were all pioneers of their art: Michael Boddicker, Rick Marvin, Alan Pasqua, and John Van Tongeren all went on to be film composers in their own right, while Ralph Grierson was one of James Horner’s go-to synth guys for many years. Whatever the case may be, Fatal Attraction was yet another example of Maurice Jarre’s misguided and ultimately failed attempts at capturing the sound of 1980s electronica – it’s a confusing, chaotic, amateurish, and badly dated mess.

Buy the Fatal Attraction soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Fatal Attraction (3:43)
  • Following Dan (1:55)
  • Madness (2:08)
  • Where Is Ellen (4:24)
  • Beth (0:27)
  • Confrontation (3:33)
  • Untitled #1 (2:42) BONUS
  • Untitled #2 (1:36) BONUS
  • Untitled #3 (1:17) BONUS
  • Untitled #4 (0:56) BONUS
  • Untitled #5 (1:06) BONUS
  • Untitled #6 (2:29) BONUS
  • Untitled #7 (2:16) BONUS
  • Untitled #8 (3:55) BONUS

Running Time: 32 minutes 35 seconds

GNP Crescendo GNPD-8011 (1987)

Music composed and conducted by Maurice Jarre. Performed by Michael Boddicker, Ralph Grierson, Rick Marvin, Judd Miller, Alan Pasqua, Emil Richards, Nyle Steinerand John Van Tongeren. Recorded and mixed by Joel Moss. Album produced by Maurice Jarre.

  1. Steve
    December 8, 2020 at 8:17 am

    The CD contains exactly the same music as the LP… but for some strange reason the CD album is split across 14 tracks instead of 6.

    01. Fatal Attraction (5:38) [CD tracks 1+2]
    02. Following Dan (7:01) [CD tracks 3+4+5]
    03. Madness (3:33) [CD track 6]
    04. Where Is Ellen? (4:19) [CD tracks 7+8]
    05. Beth (2:15) [CD tracks 9+10]
    06. Confrontation (9:50) [CD tracks 11+12+13+14]

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