Home > Reviews > Best Scores of 2017 – France, Part II

Best Scores of 2017 – France, Part II

The fourth installment in my annual series of articles looking at the best “under the radar” scores from around the world sees us back in France, with a look at a wonderful octet of scores from films made in one of the world’s great cinematic nations. This set of scores ranges across every genre imaginable, and includes one by a controversial double Oscar-winner, two by beloved staples of classic French cinema, and two by one of the most impressive newcomers to emerge in 2017.

LES FANTÔMES D’ISMAËL – Grégoire Hetzel

Les Fantômes d’Ismaël [Ismael’s Ghosts] is a French drama film written and directed by Arnaud Desplechin, starring Mathieu Amalric, Marion Cotillard, and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Amalric plays the titular Ismaël, an acclaimed filmmaker about to start making a new film, whose life is thrown into chaos and turmoil when his ex-wife – who disappeared 20 years previously and who he thought was dead – suddenly re-appears in his life. A critically acclaimed work, the film was the opening night gala film at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.

The score for Les Fantômes d’Ismaël is by French composer Grégoire Hetzel, whose international profile has been enhanced in recent years following his acclaimed scores for films such as Incendies, The Innocents, and L’Ami, Le Secret de la Chambre Noire. The score is quite dark in tone, highly rhythmic, and full of movement, but with richly classical orchestrations that reminds me in places of the type of music Alexandre Desplat might write for a film like this. The opening cue, “Les Disparus,” is a forceful bed of thrusting cellos over which expressive solos for classical violins and fluttering woodwinds are laid. It’s an excellent beginning to an excellent score, which sets the tone perfectly to show Ismaël’s life unraveling. The main theme’s stylistics are repeated in several cues during the course of the score proper, most notably in the exciting “Pursuite,” “Légende d’Ivan,” and the fulsome “Zwy Ashomer,” which takes the aggressive string writing, expressive solo violin harmonics, and hooting woodwinds into the territory of a classical rhapsody.

Several other cues also stand out. “La Fuite” is a mass of impressionistic textures, shrill woodwinds and sonorous clarinets over a bed of searching, elegant, sad strings; “Les Pendus” increases the sense of tension and suspense even more with dark, brooding textures for overlapping strings; the growling, menacing “Tel Aviv” which includes unusual tinkling metallic percussion and shrill ethnic whistles above its string lines; “Fièvre” is lush and emotional. Perhaps the one peculiarity is “Les Morts,” which re-purposes the strings of a prepared piano like a harp, and offers a dour <I>marche funebre</I> that is quite bizarre.

This one small moment aside, Les Fantômes d’Ismaël is nevertheless an impressive score from a composer with an increasingly positive international profile. Hetzel’s skilled orchestral techniques, exciting string ostinatos, and capacity for making dark suspense cues compelling and interesting, means it should not be overlooked.

Track Listing: 1. Les Disparus (4:15), 2. La Fuite (1:45), 3. Khojent (0:27), 4. Les Pendus (2:12), 5. Le Grenier (1:31), 6. Poursuite (1:36), 7. Rituel (1:43), 8. Tel Aviv (4:34), 9. Légende d’Ivan (2:36), 10. Fièvre (1:29), 11. Zwy Ashomer (5:27), 12. Les Morts (4:31), 13. Faunia (1:52), 14. L’Absente (4:16), 15. Épilogue (1:50), 16. Ismael’s Ghosts – Can’t Get Away (performed by Charles X feat. Sev’ K) (3:53). Why Not Productions, 44 minutes 04 seconds.

 

MADAME – Matthieu Gonet

Madame is a French comedy written and directed by Amanda Sthers, starring (somewhat bizarrely) Toni Collette and Harvey Keitel as Anne and Bob, a rich American couple living in Paris. Anne organizes a lavish dinner party for their sophisticated friends, but the superstitious Anne is aghast at the unexpected arrival of Bob’s son, which makes the total number of guests 13, and triggers her triskaidekaphobia. Anne asks her meek maid Maria (Rossy de Palma) to pretend to be a rich Spanish noblewoman and join the table as it’s fourteenth guest, but then during the evening Maria meets David, a British aristocrat, and the two strike up a romantic spark; afraid of losing their best servant, Anne and Bob then attempt to derail the relationship before it even begins. The score for Madame is by the 45-year-old French composer and pianist Matthieu Gonet, who worked for many years as a theatre composer and an arranger for pop and rock artists, before making his film music composing debut in 2012. Madame is the first score of his I’ve heard and, on the whole, I’m very impressed.

The score is elegant and classical, a perfect representation of the Parisian upper-class, but it also has a slight undercurrent of farce, which makes it appealing instead of elitist. The lead instrument is the piano, as introduced in the gorgeous opening piece “Madame,” which allows the instrument to play a theme full of great sensitivity, prettiness, but a touch of bittersweet, especially when it is accompanied by complementary solo cellos and solo oboes. This thematic idea continues through several subsequent cues, notably the lovely “Sur Les Quais,” “Devant le Mirroir,” “Au Mac-Mahon,” and the conclusive “Madame Reprise” often swelling to romantic crescendos to depict Maria’s blossoming romance.

The farce comes via cues such as “Des Boucles d’Oreilles,” which have a touch of flamboyance through their livelier tempos and prominent use of guitars. Similarly, cues like “So Smart,” the feisty “Arrivee de Maria,” the slightly more surreptitious “Les Existences,” feature dancing woodwind and piano lines peppered with guest appearances by accordions, rattles, and harps, creating a sense of mischief. “Introducing” is an original piece of piano-led jazz, while “Enre Soi” is a superb, rich, passionate piano solo with a more aggressive edge, which carried through into a duet for cello and violin in “Fortune Cookie”.

The album pads out the score’s fairly brief 24-minute running time with a handful of songs, including an original one by Gonet performed by Eric Zorgniotti. However, Gonet’s score is by far the standout element – it’s music which captures both the inherent classicism of the setting, the romance of Maria’s story, and the darkly humorous shenanigans of Anne and Bob, and which does it with an intelligent, thematic, attractive orchestral sensibility. Highly recommended.

Track Listing: 1. Madame (2:38), 2. Des Boucles d’Oreilles (1:16), 3. Sur Les Quais (1:39), 4. So Smart (1:06), 5. Devant le Mirroir (0:59), 6. Arrivee de Maria (1:17), 7. La Tempete (1:43), 8. Apres l’Amour (0:38), 9. Introducing (0:41), 10. Les Existences (1:35), 11. Au Mac-Mahon (2:22), 12. Quatorze Couverts (0:42), 13. Decoupage (0:40), 14. Make a Wish (1:09), 15. Entre Soi (1:53), 16. Tableau (0:26), 17. Fortune Cookie (1:25), 18. Devant l’Oeuvre (0:41), 19. Madame (Reprise) (0:56), 20. Songs My Mother Taught Me (performed by Eric Zorgniotti) (3:40), 21. Ca Vaut la Peine l’Amour (performed by Briag Maruani) (2:33), 22. Rock ‘n Dollars (performed by William Sheller) (2:30). PMSA Records, 32 minutes 29 seconds.

 

RODIN – Philippe Sarde

Rodin is an artistically minded French biopic written and directed by Jacques Doillon, looking at the life of the famous and influential sculptor Auguste Rodin, whose most well-known work – the Thinker – may be the most beloved piece of sculpted art since Michelangelo’s David. Specifically, it looks in detail at Rodin’s tempestuous relationship with fellow artist Camille Claudel, which lasted from 1883 until his death in 1917. The film stars Vincent Lindon as Rodin and Izïa Higelin as Claudel, and has an original score by French composer Philippe Sarde.

Sarde is a composer with an old-fashioned, classical sensibility, and that sensibility is prevalent throughout much of Rodin; Sarde uses a string quartet and solo piano throughout most of the score, presenting a series of lush, lyrical, but slightly spoiled-sounding contemporary classical pieces which capture both Rodin’s artistic genius and his abrasive temperament. Most of the pieces adopt a similar tone and style, and are quite lovely in their own right, and will undoubtedly appeal to those for whom a more strongly traditional style is a bonus. The opening theme, “Auguste Rodin,” as well as subsequent cues such as “Victor Hugo et Balzac,” are especially noteworthy examples of Sarde’s beautiful neo-classical style, while “L’Atelier” is a prissy Renaissance string quartet piece that sounds highly period appropriate.

However, as is often the case, a large percentage of Sarde’s ‘new’ music is little more than a re-working of a theme from a previous score, and in Rodin we get two for the price of one: the main violin theme in “Auguste Rodin” is a thinly-disguised variant of the one from the 1998 film Alice et Martin, while the slightly jazzy piano writing in cues like “Rose et Auguste,” “La Robe de Chambre,” and “Chez Camille” is clearly based on his 1987 score Ennemis Intimes, re-orchestrated from the original woodwinds. It’s difficult to criticize Sarde for doing this having defended James Horner for doing exactly the same thing, and virtually no-one except die hard Sarde aficionados will even notice, but it may harm some people’s enjoyment.

Track Listing: 1. Auguste Rodin (4:27), 2. L’Atelier (1:36), 3. Rose et Auguste (2:23), 4. La Robe de Chambre (2:03), 5. Victor Hugo et Balzac (5:28), 6. Chez Camille (2:05), 7. Dialogue Avec le Visage de Camille (1:47), 8. La Cathédrale (7:47), 9. La Porte de l’Enfer (4:12). Cristal Records 88985435462, 31 minutes 54 seconds.

 

SANTA & CIE – Matthieu Gonet

Santa & Cie is a French seasonal family comedy written and directed by Alain Chabat, starring Chabat himself as Santa Claus. In this caper, Santa finds himself with an enormous problem when all his elves fall ill in the period leading up to Christmas. With no-one to make all the toys for the children of the world, Santa has to venture into the ‘real world’ to find a cure – with hilarious results! The film co-stars Audrey ‘Ameile’ Tautou and Golshifteh Farahani, and was an enormous hit in Francophone countries, bringing in an estimated €3.5 million in the first five days after it opened.

The score for Santa & Cie is by French composer Matthieu Gonet, and is the second of his standout works of 20107, following on from the excellent summer comedy Madame. Santa & Cie is full of Christmas cheer and whimsy, and is very much in the same ball park as scores like John Debney’s Elf, Alan Silvestri’s A Christmas Carol, and Bruce Broughton’s Miracle on 34th Street. It’s fully orchestral, and has that inherent sense of ‘festive magic’ running through it, with chimes, sleigh bells, and prominent performances for piano, high strings, chugging cellos, and delicate woodwinds.

The score is anchored by a rousing, heartwarming central theme for the full orchestra and choir which first introduced in the fulsome second cue “Santa & Cie,” and continues on through later tracks such as the soaring “Au Début du Voyage,” the effervescent “Le Renne des Neiges” with its John Williams strings, the sweeping and action-packed “En Volant sur Paris,” and the magnificent finale comprising “Le Sapin Magique,” the lullaby-like “Nuit de Noël,“ and “Santa et Wanda.”

Much of the rest of the score is charming and delicate; cues like the opening “Quelque Part Sous a Neige,” the lightheartedly pretty “Dans la Factory,” and the intimate and tender “Confession de Thomas” are especially appealing. A few moments of outright comedy appear in cues like “Tic-Tac-Toy March” and “Barbara,” the elves’ illness is conveyed with darker tones in “Les Lutins Malades,” “La Cauchemar de Santa” is an unexpected blast of horror filled with low brass and off-key strings, and both “Poursuite de Paris” and “Les Champs-Elysées“ play like light action cues from a western, but for the most part the whole thing remains tuneful, optimistic, and approachable throughout.

Although it’s a short score at just a hair over half an hour, Santa & Cie leaves a lasting positive impression, and will especially appeal to anyone who has a soft sport for festive scores similar to the once I mentioned above. It also further cements by new found appreciation for Matthieu Gonet’s music, and I will definitely be seeking out all his new releases in the future.

Track Listing: 1. Quelque Part Sous a Neige (1:50), 2. Santa & Cie (1:21), 3. Dans la Factory (1:25), 4. Magnus Ne Comprend Pas (0:37), 5. Tic-Tac-Toy March (0:56), 6. Les Lutins Malades (1:50), 7. Préparation du Traineau (0:37), 8. Au Début du Voyage (2:41), 9. C’Est le Vrai Père Noël (0:28), 10. Le Renne des Neiges (0:54), 11. Le Père Noël est Sur te Toit (0:35), 12. Le Temps Qui Passe (0:42), 13. Jay et Thomas (0:35), 14. Les Enfants (0:36), 15. Barbara (0:29), 16. Le Cauchemar de Santa (1:09), 17. Retour Case Prison (0:24), 18. S’Échapper (0:34), 19. Poursuite Dans Paris (0:58), 20. Confession de Thomas (0:47), 21. Des Jouets à Livrer (1:25), 22. Apparition du Traineau (0:51), 23. En Volant Sur Paris (1:00), 24. Les Champs-Elysées (0:45), 25. Home (0:54), 26. Le Sapin Magique (3:47), 27. Nuit de Noël (1:47), 28. Santa et Wanda (0:55). Gaumont, 31 minutes 10 seconds.

 

TOUT NOUS SÉPARE – Gustavo Santaolalla

Tout Nous Sépare [All That Divides Us] is a French drama-thriller directed by Thierry Klifa, starring Catherine Deneuve and Diane Kruger. Kruger plays Julia, a damaged young woman who is in love with a violent drug dealer and petty criminal named Rodolphe, despite the fact that he abuses her. One night, after an especially rough sexual encounter, Julia accidentally kills Rodolphe while high; desperate for help, she turns to her long-estranged mother Louise (Deneuve), a bourgeois socialite, who uses her connections to conceal the murder. However, before long, Rodolphe’s friends in the Parisian criminal underworld start to wonder what happened to him, and soon the fingers of suspicion turn on Julia’s direction.

The score for Tout Nous Sépare is by the Argentine double Oscar-winner Gustavo Santaolalla, who seems to have embraced European and art-house cinema over the last few years, after his last few mainstream Hollywood efforts – notably August: Osage County (2013) and The Book of Life (2014) – went largely unheralded. Interestingly, as much as I have disparaged his work in American cinema, it appears that Europe may be bringing out the best in him, because Tout Nous Sépare is one of the best scores I have yet heard him write.

The score is anchored by the main theme – “Thème Principal” – a fascinating exercise in tension and texture in which electric guitar, piano, and a string quartet pass around a 5-note motif between them, creating a quite hypnotic echoing effect. It’s very evocative, and certainly has an appropriate tone of darkness underpinned with desperation, but there’s alsoa hint of romanticism to it too, reflecting Julia’s unhealthy attraction to a terrible man. It’s one of the most interesting and complex pieces Santaolalla has ever written.

The rest of the score is less interesting, comprising mostly a series of atmospheric pieces that are more ambiences and moods than they are identifiable thematic entities. However, even here, Santaolalla offers some moments of interest: the Gabriel Yared-esque North African woodwinds and tinkling dulcimers in “La Colère de Louise” and “J’ai Froid,” the icily distant and abstract synth drones of “Julia Fuit,” the oddly disturbing breathing effects in “Premier Rendez-Vous,” the reworking of the main theme for a more stripped-down guitar in the conclusive “La Lettre de Ben.”

Santaolalla’s score is sparse and short, running for a touch under 20 minutes, and as such the album is padded with a song, “Larme Blanche,” written and performed by Marvin Jouno. Tout Nous Sépare is a score worth taking a chance on, even for those who have found Santaolalla’s music lacking in the past; there are some interesting ideas to be found here in terms of instrumental choice, and the main theme is one of the most compelling things the Argentinean has ever written for the cinema.

Track Listing: 1. Tout Nous Sépare (Thème Principal) (3:30), 2. La Colère de Louise (0:53), 3. J’ai Froid (1:06), 4. À l’Amitié (0:39), 5. Julia Fuit (2:46), 6. Mère et Fille (0:34), 7. Au Petit Matin (1:03), 8. Premier Rendez-Vous (0:50), 9. Louise et Ben (0:50), 10. Fuite En Avant (0:51), 11. L’Horizon (1:12), 12. Derniers Regards (1:33), 13. La Lettre de Ben (2:01), 14. Larme Blanche (written and performed by Marvin Jouno) (5:04). Visual Music, 22 minutes 59 seconds.

 

UN PROFIL POUR DEUX – Vladimir Cosma

Un Profil Pour Deux is a French romantic comedy written and directed by Stéphane Robelin, starring Pierre Richard, Yaniss Lespert, and Fanny Valette. It’s a sort of Cyrano de Bergerac story in reverse, with a modern twist, and tells the story of 75-year-old widower Pierre, who discovers an online dating website. Using his grand daughter’s boyfriend Alex’s profile picture, Pierre meets Flora, a twenty-something woman who is charmed by Pierre’s elegant conversations and intimate confessions, but does not know his real age. When Flora asks Pierre on a date, he is excited by the prospect, but then suddenly becomes nervous at the prospect – and asks Alex to go in his place and pretend to be him.

The score for Un Profil Pour Deux is by the legendary French-Romanian composer Vladimir Cosma, who is still regularly scoring films despite being in his late 70s. He’s a legend in France, with literally dozens of themes that are part of the national musical lexicon, but he has rarely worked on any American films, which means his music is virtually unknown outside his native country. This needs to change – he has as many outstanding scores as Georges Delerue and Maurice Jarre, and is as prolific as Ennio Morricone, having written music across dozens of genres.

The main theme for Un Profil Pour Deux is an infectious piece of Gallic fluff, a light-hearted and lively theme for harmonica and dulcimer backed by a modern percussion section; the theme is prevalent in several other cues as the score develops, notably “Dans l’Ombre,” “Une Cigarette Pour Deux,” and “Flora 63”. Despite it being a very modern film set in contemporary France, the sound and rhythms give the score a feel of the 1960s – you can imagine this sort of music accompanying Alain Delon or Brigitte Bardot sitting outside a café dragging on Gauloises before jumping on their moped to go and have sex under the Eiffel Tower, or something. You know what I mean; it’s a throwback, a musical depiction of Pierre’s worldview and seduction technique.

Other moments of note include the more delicate and intimate theme for dulcimer and harp which appears at the beginning “La Moto Ivre” and later in “Le Rendez-Vous Rêvé,”, the interesting synth elements in “Le Vieux Grigou” and “La Valse de Pierrot” which give it a contemporary edge, the cool beats underpinning the classical tango melody in the superb “Techno-Tango Sur Seine,” and especially the smooth vocally-enhanced “Ma Chère Christine” which couldn’t be more French if it was wearing a beret.

Additional music for Un Profil Pour Deux is credited to composers Greg Zlap, Marius Préda, Claude Salmiéri, and Slim Pézin, but there’s no clear delineation in terms of identifying who wrote what. Furthermore, in addition to the score for Un Profil Pour Deux, the soundtrack album on Larghetto Records also features a selection of cues from four Vladimir Cosma scores from the 1970s, Le Jouet (1976), Je Suis Timide… Mais Je Me Soigne (1978), La Moutarde Me Monte Au Nez (1974), and La Course à l’Échalote (1975).

Track Listing: 1. Un Profil Pour Deux (4:23), 2. La Moto Ivre (2:03), 3. Le Vieux Grigou (0:41), 4. Dans l’Ombre (2:11), 5. Ma Chère Christine (Vocal) (4:05), 6. Super 8 (0:43), 7. Vieni Qui (performed by Mariano Marini) (2:51), 8. Le Rendez-Vous Rêvé (0:35), 9. La Valse de Pierrot (1:53), 10. Une Cigarette Pour Deux (1:32), 11. Pierre Mène l’Enquête (1:26), 12. Techno-Tango Sur Seine (3:47), 13. Flora 63 (1:33), 14. Alex et Flora (4:23), 15. Générique – from Le Jouet (2:06), 16. Les Jouets du Président – from Le Jouet (1:33), 17. Je Suis Timide… Mais Je Me Soigne – from Je Suis Timide… Mais Je Me Soigne (2:43), 18. Thème d’Agnès – from Je Suis Timide… Mais Je Me Soigne (2:03), 19. Générique – from La Moutarde Me Monte Au Nez (2:43), 20. Les Apaches En Folie, Part 1 – from La Moutarde Me Monte Au Nez (1:53), 21. La Course à l’Échalote – from La Course à l’Échalote (2:48), 22. S.E.N.X. – from La Course à l’Échalote (1:55), 23. Chou-Fleur – from La Course à l’Échalote (3:03). Larghetto LARGH-3341348161006, 53 minutes 03 seconds.

 

UN SAC DE BILLES – Armand Amar

Un Sac de Billes [A Bag of Marbles] is a French drama film directed by Christian Duguay, based on the novel by Joseph Joffo. Set during World War II, it follows the fortunes of two young brothers, Joseph and Maurice – both Jewish – who are encouraged by their parents to flee on foot from Nazi-occupied Paris to the unoccupied Zone Libre in the south, where some of their extended family lives. So begins an epic adventure as the naïve and trusting young boys try to avoid the German troops and try to hide their Jewish identify until they have reached safety. This is the second adaptation of Joffo’s book, after the 1975 film of the same name directed by Jacques Doillon, which was scored by Vladimir Cosma.

The score for Un Sac de Billes is by composer Armand Amar, who has impressed me greatly over the past few years with his scores for a number of documentaries, such as Le Premier Cri, Human and Home, as well as narrative efforts such as Ao, Le Dernier Néandertal (2010), Belle & Sebastien – L’Aventure Continue (2015), and The History of Love (2016). This score has an old fashioned, nostalgic feel to it through its style, classical orchestrations, and overall sense of warmth and emotion. Then opening cue, “Un Sac de Billes,” is a pretty and elegant piano theme enhanced by plucked pizzicato strings, flight woodwind accents.

The naïvely innocent sense of adventure the boys feel during their epic journey is captured through recapitulations of the theme and orchestrations from the first cue, in subsequent efforts such as “Premier Voyage,” the hopeful “Arrivée à Nice,” the sweeping second half of “La Traversée,” the resolute “Je Suis Juif,” and the outstanding finale cue “Retour à Paris”. Elsewhere, Amar uses softly downbeat piano lines, haunting solo violins, and low strings to capture the dramatically sensitive and difficult emotional journey the boys make, in leaving their parents, having to essentially live on the road and grow up en-route. Cues like “Le Départ,” the beautiful “Retrouvailles,” the haunting “Arrivée à Moissons Nouvelles,” and the tender guitar-led “Sortie de l’Excelsior” showcase deep moving writing that highlights this aspect of the story.

Meanwhile, the sense of danger presented by the Nazi German Army comes across in cues such as “Fouille du Train,” “Passage en Zone Libre,” “L’Excelsior,” and “Fouille de la Milice,” which are more urgent and dramatic, with persistent percussion ticks, tremolo strings, throbbing muscular brass, and a bolder rhythmic core. Interestingly, beyond a few Schindler’s List-esque inflections in the violin solos, there is little to no traditionally Jewish-sounding music related to the boys, which was likely a dramatic choice considering that Joseph and Maurice go to great lengths to hide their Jewish identity and protect themselves.

Un Sac de Billes is another impressive and accomplished score by Armand Amar, who is yet another member of the increasingly strong French contingent making waves on the world film music stage. The strong sense of time and place inherent in the score, as well as the classically rich orchestrations and truthful emotional content, makes it one of the best of the year of it’s type.

Track Listing: 1. Un Sac de Billes (2:31), 2. Le Départ (2:33), 3. Premier Voyage (0:57), 4. Fouille du Train (3:39), 5. Arrivée à Nice (2:28), 6. Retrouvailles (1:59), 7. Passage en Zone Libre (2:46), 8. La Traversée (2:46), 9. Arrivée à Moissons Nouvelles (1:23), 10. L’Excelsior (2:43), 11. Juif et Résistant (4:25), 12. Nicht Religiös (1:10), 13. Le Certificat de Baptême (3:54), 14. Sortie de l’Excelsior (2:13), 15. Confidences du Médecin (1:31), 16. Il Faut Repartir (1:20), 17. Un Début d’Aveu (2:57), 18. Fouille de la Milice (1:37), 19. Paris Est Libéré (1:11), 20. Je Suis Juif (2:39), 21. Retour à Paris (4:21). Milan Records 3998942, 51 minutes 03 seconds.

 

ZOMBILLÉNIUM – Éric Neveux

Zombillénium is a 2017 French-Belgian animated film directed by Arthur de Pins and Alexis Ducord, based on the comic series of the same name. The film is set in a horror-themed amusement park where all the staff are real monsters – vampires, witches, zombies, and the like. Keeping their true nature hidden while trying to run a real, financially sound business venture is tough for the monsters – a task made even more difficult when a human safety inspector comes to audit the place, and ends up become one of the park’s undead! It’s all very French, involving romantic sub-plots, social and political commentary about a monster-based class system, and exploitation of unionized workers by unscrupulous businessmen, but it’s been very popular in its home country, and looks likely to be the first in a franchise of movies.

The score for Zombillénium is by the talented French composer Éric Neveux, who has impressed me greatly over the past few years with his scores for films such as La Dernière Leçon (2015) and Cézanne Et Moi (2016). Zombillénium is a very different work than those earlier classical scores, as it embraces a much more anarchic and inclusive style, including influences from pop and rock, as well as classic monster movie scores from the past. It starts with a bang, though, in the “Zombillénium Ouverture,” a wonderfully strident piece of lively orchestral action music full of swooping strings and choral outbursts, but accompanied by a rock electric guitar and drum kit.

As the score develops it leaps from style to style with a complete disregard for thematic or tonal continuity, but some of the set pieces are fun in and of themselves. Some of the writing has a definite Danny Elfman quality to it, sort of like what would happen if you crossed Beetlejuice with Mars Attacks and a classic Oingo Boingo rock song: my favorites include the theremin wails and spooky crescendos in the first half of “Descente Aux Enfers,” which have a classic horror sound; the terribly brilliant “Tournez Manèges”, which sounds like one of the bad sampled waltzes one might hear in a run-down funfair haunted house, before turning into something akin to the Monster Mash.

Some of the more straightforward action music is unexpectedly bold and dramatic. Cues like “Hector Furax” and “Hector Relève le Défi,” come complete with pipe organ; “En Ligne Directe Avec le Diable,” features some superb rampaging string writing towards the end; the tumultuous “La Marche des Zombies” clearly had Clint Mansell’s Lord of the Rings: Two Towers ‘Lux Aeterna’ trailer music as its temp track; and the big conclusion in “Lutte Finale” oddly reminds of Bartosz Chajdecki’s Czas Honoru with its slapped string sounds underpinning the bold, thrusting rhythms.

The soundtrack also includes four original songs written by Mathieu Monnaert and performed by his alter-ego Mat Bastard (“Rosemary” is surprisingly good). While its true that the score for Zombillénium as a whole doesn’t have a real flow to it, with each piece performing as a standalone vignette, and so some may feel it comes across as a little disjointed; however, it also highlights Neveux’s versatility at composing interesting music across multiple genres.

Track Listing: 1. Zombillénium Ouverture (1:52), 2. Rosemary (performed by Mat Bastard) (2:54), 3. Contrôle des Normes (2:11), 4. Descente Aux Enfers (2:11), 5. Tournez Manèges (2:08), 6. Les Couloirs de la Mort (1:18), 7. Hector Furax (2:51), 8. Le Chasseur Français (1:38), 9. Flying Board (1:06), 10. Stand As One (performed by Mat Bastard) (3:18), 11. Lucie & Gretchen (2:47), 12. Diggin’ in the Crates (performed by Mister Modo & Ugly Mac Beer) (2:51), 13. En Ligne Directe Avec le Diable (1:40), 14. Les Vampires de la Finance (0:55), 15. Hector Relève le Défi (1:28), 16. Get Up And Dance (performed by Kameron “Grae” Alexander) (2:54), 17. Vampi Dandy (performed by Jean Pierre Ensuque) (1:50), 18. Vampirama (performed by Mat Bastard) (0:47), 19. Bad Man, Bat Men (2:28), 20. Les Corons (performed by Jean Pierre Lang) (1:58), 21. Retour Vers l’Enfer (1:22), 22. La Marche des Zombies (1:45), 23. La Révolte des Damnés (2:11), 24. Lutte Finale (2:04), 25. Hector et Lucie (2:35), 26. We Are Losing All Together (performed by LZR) (2:42). Quartet Records QR-288, 53 minutes 56 seconds.

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  1. January 12, 2018 at 1:46 am

    Great listing that always will omid some gems that you probably didn’t know about.
    Most of them were included in the updates on Screensoundradio so if people wanna hear more of them (and other ‘under the radar’ scores) that’s the place to go to.
    A demo is to be found on: http://www.screensoundradio.com

  1. February 1, 2018 at 10:00 am

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