Home > Reviews > ALEXANDRE DESPLAT: EN FRANÇAIS – PART TWO

ALEXANDRE DESPLAT: EN FRANÇAIS – PART TWO

Over the past decade or so, Alexandre Desplat has cemented his status amongst the world’s most respected film composers with a series of scores for major studio films in the United States. He has been nominated for eleven Academy Awards – for The Queen (2006), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), The King’s Speech (2010), Argo (2012), Philomena (2013), The Imitation Game (2014), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), The Shape of Water (2017), Isle of Dogs (2018), and Little Women (2019) – winning twice. However, much of his early work in his native France remains relatively unknown to wider audiences – something this article intends to rectify!

In this second installment of Alexandre Desplat: En Français, we take a look at seven scores Desplat wrote during the second half of the 1990s, immediately prior to his international breakthrough – The Luzhin Defence, from September 2000.

SOUS LES PIEDS DES FEMMES (1997)

Sous les Pieds des Femmes – which translates roughly as ‘Under Women’s Feet’ – is a drama film written and directed by Rachida Krim, starring Claudia Cardinale, Fejria Deliba, and Nadia Fares. It’s set in a small town in the south of France and examines the life of an Algerian couple – Aya and Moncef – who have lived there for many years. Their world is turned upside down when Amin, an old friend of Aya’s from when they were teenagers, turns up on their doorstep: in their youth, Amin and Aya were both members of a separatist paramilitary group during the Algerian War of Independence, and before long old wounds and long-dormant passions come bubbling to the surface.

Desplat’s music is steeped in the culture of North Africa, and often makes use of the spectacular vocals of soloists Houria Aichi, as well as solo instrumental performances from Alla on lute, Vincent Ségal on cello, Nathalie Vandebeulque on viola, Julien Jalaleddin Weiss on zither, and Philippe Noharet on double bass. Cues like the opening “La Voix de la Liberté” resound to these wide open, devastatingly authentic vocals, truly placing the score in a specific location, and playing to its musical traditions, while ethnic woodwinds combine with one of more of the aforementioned soloists to create an exotic atmosphere in cues like “Au Delà du Miroir,” “Les Vieux Combattants,” “L’Exécution”

The longest cue in the score is “La Guerre Secrète,” a 10-minute piece of dramatic world music, blending North African percussion, woodwinds, and guitars, with western strings in a lush, rhythmic, hypnotic dance that creates a wonderful atmosphere of spicy, sultry intoxication. These ideas continue in through subsequent cues like “Aya Prend Les Armes” and “Tueurs de Chat,” giving the score a constant feeling of being enveloped in this unique musical world.

The more romantic element of the film comes out in cues like the gorgeous and haunting trio “La Jeunesse d’Aya,” “Quand l’Algérie Sera Un Grand Pays,” and “Le Départ d’Amin,” which are soft and beguiling and are built around the same recurring, fluttering motif, as well as the high-pitched string textures that often feature in Desplat’s romantic writing. Later the two “Aya & Amin” cues offer two explorations of the same relationship – the first one hesitant, but passionate, the second one more mature, but underpinned with a touch of regret, and performed on a virtually unadorned solo lute.

Anyone with an aversion to scores which are strongly steeped in North African and Arabic musical traditional may have difficulty connecting with Sous les Pieds des Femmes, because those stylistic are all over the work, but personally I found them to be an enticing and enchanting diversion from Desplat’s usual fare. This, combined with the especially lovely romantic writing for the relationship between Aya and Amin, allows me to give it a hesitant recommendation.

Track Listing: 1. La Voix de la Liberté (2:23), 2. Au Delà du Miroir (1:21), 3. La Guerre Secrète (10:10), 4. Les Vieux Combattants (0:58), 5. La Jeunesse d’Aya (0:45), 6. Quand l’Algérie Sera Un Grand Pays (3:06), 7. Aya Prend Les Armes (3:35), 8. La Prière (0:38), 9. Aya & Amin 1958 (2:02), 10. Le Procès (1:22), 11. L’Exécution (1:05), 12. Le Départ d’Amin (1:13), 13. Tueurs de Chat (0:41), 14. Deux Étrangers Dans la Garrique (1:09), 15. Aya & Amin 1996 (3:40), 16. La Route de la Paix (1:05), 17. Algéria (performed by Amazigh Kateb) (6:54). BMG France/RCA Victor RCA 545082, 42 minutes 07 seconds.

 

UNE CHANCE SUR DEUX (1998)

Une Chance Sur Deux is an action-adventure-comedy starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, Alain Delon, and Vanessa Paradis, directed by Patrice Leconte. Paradis plays Alice, a 20-year-old thief, who has grown up never knowing her father. On her death bed her mother reveals that she loved two men before Alice was born – Léo (Belmondo) and Julien (Delon) – but she does not know which one is her father. Alice tracks them down, and both men agree to take a paternity test but, before they do, they become involved in an adventure, and must help their ‘daughter’ escape from members of the Russian mafia in Paris.

Unusual main title theme, “Une Chance Sur Deux (Générique),” is full of elegantly moody shifting strings and contemporary electronic percussion, but quickly emerges into quirky scherzo-esque piece that shifts around the orchestra in a variety of percussive styles. Later, cues like the damaged-sounding “Deux Pères et Une Fille,” or the quirky piano-led “Une Famille Unie” revisit the theme and adapt it into different emotional styles, but this is actually not a score which relies on the strength of its thematic core, and instead tends to concentrate more on specific set pieces that adopt a certain stylistic as the scene demands.

Dark action and suspense music full of throbbing, churning, clattering strings underpinned by synth percussion ideas and unusual instrumental touches: jazzy pianos and woodwinds in “Le Spécialiste” and “L’Imper Contre-Attaque” and the breezy “C’Est La Dernière Fois,” insistent brass in “L’Évasion,” comedy-inflected muted brass in “Le Bruit de l’Avocat Bien Mûr” and “L’Assaut,” and vivid echoes of Bernard Herrmann in the rampaging “Pris Au Piège” and its standout follow up, “Peur Sous La Pluie,” which Horner fans will love for its ‘crashing pianos’. This music is actually very prevalent in a lot of the score, especially as the Russian mafia thriller plotline becomes more and more important.

The budding relationships between Alice and her potential fathers are musically accompanied by warmer, almost magical string writing in cues such as the gorgeous “Un Petit Tour de Manège,” “Alice Rencontre Mr. Vignal,” and the lovely “Carella Est Là (New York Trio)” a great deal of which is underpinned by the dancing flutes and lithe, dainty pianos that have typified much of his career. Another standout piece in this regard is “Alice s’Endort,” an intimate piano solo.

Une Chance Sur Deux is a superbly entertaining score which treads the fine line between action-thriller and relationship-comedy well. Some of the tonal shifts had the potential to be somewhat jarring, considering the schizophrenic tone of the film, but Desplat handles them very well. You can hear the genesis of quite a lot of his more modernistic Hollywood style in this score, which will please fans of his work.

Track Listing: 1. Une Chance Sur Deux (Générique) (3:57), 2. Le Spécialiste (1:31), 3. Un Petit Tour de Manège (2:36), 4. L’Évasion (1:51), 5. Il Faut Réaliser Ses Rêves (1:24), 6. Le Bruit de l’Avocat Bien Mûr (1:03), 7. Le Battant et le Professionnel (1:58), 8. Pris Au Piège (3:56), 9. Peur Sous La Pluie (3:59), 10. Alice Rencontre Mr. Vignal (1:03), 11. Recherche Père Désespérément (2:45), 12. L’Imper Contre-Attaque (1:47), 13. Deux Pères et Une Fille (2:07), 14. Alice s’Endort (1:27), 15. Une Famille Unie (1:51), 16. Alice Rencontre Mr. Brassac (1:35), 17. C’Est La Dernière Fois (2:54), 18. Vignal se Rebiffe (2:24), 19. Félonie en Sous-Sol (3:38), 20. L’Assaut (6:24), 21. Carella Est Là (New York Trio) (1:54), 22. La Mallette Russe (2:35), 23. Les Deux Font Le Père (0:42), 24. Runaway Love (written by Carole Fredericks and Gildas Arzel, performed by Carole Fredericks) (4:52). RCA Records 570422, 60 minutes 13 seconds.

 

LA FEMME DU COSMONAUTE (1998)

In director Jacque Monnet’s comedy La Femme du Cosmonaute, Victoria Abril plays Anna Gardène, who is married to Jean-Paul (Gérard Lanvin), a famous astronaut and scientist. Despite being happily married in public, Anna and Jean-Paul can’t stand the sight of each other in private, and only stay together for the kids – which means that Anna is delighted when Jean-Paul rockets off on an 8-month mission in space working with the Russian Space Agency. However, advances in technology mean that Jean-Paul can still be there – 24-hours-a-day, via an enormous video screen in their home – forcing Anna to keep up the charade of their supposed domestic bliss. Hilarity ensues!

The score is built around two recurring main themes – one for Anna, and one for Jean-Paul – but also contains an unexpected amount of tropical rumba and bossa nova rhythms, which give the whole thing a light, evocative, but wholly enjoyable vibe. Anna’s Theme first appears in the second cue, “Anna Rêve” in which the aforementioned tropical rhythms and a classical guitar accompany the lush strings performing the theme. “Séparation Réussie” revisits the Anna’s theme with a longing, heavily string-based sound, before engaging in some busy-sounding space-exploration music enlivened by electronic pings to give it an other-worldly ambiance. Later, both “Le Cap Noir” and the subsequent “Space Captain” offer beautiful guitar lullaby versions the theme, and again adopt the tropical vibe to maintain tonal consistency and capture Anna’s dreams of escaping her terrible marriage.

The theme for Jean-Paul, on the other hand, is a little more masculine, and has a touch of arrogant swagger about it. It first appears with real prominence in “Jean-Paul Rêve” as a sultry bass guitar groove underpinned with strings, and then returns with a more subdued attitude in “Des Souris Dans l’Espace”. Other cues of note include “La Mission,” which is a heroic brass fanfare; “Une Nouvelle Vie,” which builds even further on the latin style with very prominent marimbas; “Le Vaisseau Ne Répond Plus,” which is much more intense in the way it underpine the Latino percussion with a more insistent string ostinato; “Les Enfants s’Endorment” lovely, if a little melancholy, piece for flute and strings; and “Satellite Perdu. Point” is a half-comedic action/caper cue that pairs marimbas and muted brass with urgent string pulses and militaristic percussion.

The conclusive “Retour de Mission” is warm and cheerful, and contains some lovely writing for strings and brass, as well as a final statement of Anna’s Theme with warmth and optimism. Desplat himself plays a piano solo version of the main theme in the delicate and elegant “Bistro Latino,” and I should also mention the song “Amor es Eso,” which is an unexpectedly sultry and features Latin-flavored pianos, trumpets, woodwinds, percussion, and a female vocalist crooning moodily in Spanish.

La Femme du Cosmonaute is a light, breezy, enjoyable score which shows a lighter and more playful side to Desplat’s writing, but has the potential to get a little lost amid the more serious, profound, and emotionally resonant scores that were released around the same time. I like it a lot, however, and anyone who had a little bit of affection for tropical sounds may get an extra kick out of it too.

Track Listing: 1. Amame (performed by Miosotis) (4:40), 2. Amor es Eso (5:35), 3. La Mission (0:32), 4. Anna Rêve (1:37), 5. Séparation Réussie (1:54), 6. Le Cap Noir (1:23), 7. Une Nouvelle Vie (1:46), 8. Le Vaisseau Ne Répond Plus (2:14), 9. Jean-Paul Rêve (0:56), 10. Les Enfants s’Endorment (0:42), 11. Dans les Étoiles (1:48), 12. Satellite Perdu. Point (0:57), 13. L’Amour en Apesanteur (1:11), 14. Des Souris Dans l’Espace (1:13), 15. Space Captain (1:11), 16. Le Signal (0:42), 17. Retour de Mission (1:43), 18. Bistro Latino (Piano Solo) (2:28), 19. Di Mea (performed by David Calzado and Charanga Habanera) (4:03). Milan/BMG 53964-2, 36 minutes 36 seconds.

 

RESTONS GROUPÉS (1998)

Restons Groupés is a comedy written and directed by Jean-Paul Salomé, starring Emma de Caunes, Samuel Le Bihan, Bruno Solo, Bernard Le Coq, and Estelle Larrivaz. It follows a group of French tourists on a guided vacation through the classic ‘wild west’ of the United States, who are forced to fend for themselves when their tour company goes bankrupt, and abandons them in the middle of the desert with no means of getting home. In desperation, they hire an out-of-work slacker from a nearby dust-bowl town to be their new guide – with hilarious results!

The score is something of a departure from a lot of other Desplat scores, as it adopts the tone and approach of a spaghetti western. Desplat uses electric and acoustic guitars, a plucked bass, an accordion, and a jaw harp to conjure up the evocative sound of the American west – at least in terms of how it would sound to a bunch of French tourists exploring the desert for the first time. As such cues like “La Route des Indiens” feel very clued into this sound.

A more orchestral string-based approach emerges later to convey the bizarre situation the tourists find themselves in, and there are hints of jazz and country music in cues like “John Ford Point,” when the strings combine with a prominent bass electric guitar. There is also some more poignant writing for solo guitar (“Les Confessions”), warm string chords and soft pianos underpinned with pizzicato textures which seek to illustrate the developing relationships between the travelers (“Mathias & Claire”), and finally a joyful, cheerful piece of head-bobbing jazz as their dreams of “Hollywood” finally come true.

Restons Groupés is not a score which really develops much of a head of steam – it’s all quite low key and understated – but the textures Desplat uses are lovely, and it’s quite fascinating to see what sort of musical decisions are made when non-Americans write ‘American’ music for non-American cinema audiences; the disparities are often quite striking, and not at all what one is used to hearing. The soundtrack album features a generous selection of score tracks, plus a number of original songs, including two by the wonderfully-named Joe Tex.

Track Listing: 1. L’Amérique (performed by Joe Dassin) (2:15), 2. La Californie (performed by Julien Clerc) (2:55), 3. Un Mexicain (performed by Marcel Amont) (3:10), 4. I Had A Lovely Time (performed by The Kendalls) (2:12), 5. Hold What You Got (performed by Joe Tex) (3:07), 6. Show Me (performed by Joe Tex) (2:54), 7. Cool Me Down (performed by Kieran Kane) (4:00), 8. La Route des Indiens (4:23), 9. Chicken à la Désossé (1:56), 10. Paris Ne Répond Plus (4:07), 11. Le Bivouac (3:50), 12. John Ford Point (1:02), 13. Les Confessions (2:02), 14. La Manche (1:09), 15. L’Accident (0:59), 16. Le Motel (0:43), 17. Bad Waters (1:14), 18. Mathias & Claire (1:14), 19. D’Une Nuit à l’Autre (1:00), 20. Les Pizzas (1:11), 21. Tourcoing’s Memory (0:55), 22. Le Pain (0:55), 23. Mon Camescope! (1:28), 24. Hollywood (1:03), 25. Générique de Fin – Restons Groupés (3:26). M10/Sergent Major Company SMC-188052, 53 minutes 10 seconds.

 

C’EST PAS MA FAUTE! (1999)

C’Est Pas Ma Faute! – It’s Not My Fault! – is an adventure-comedy film for children, directed by Jacques Monnet, with whom Desplat previously collaborated on La Femme du Cosmonaute. Eleven-year-old Gaultier Kusnierek stars as Martin, who is invited to spend a vacation at the Hotel Nautilus by the parents of his friend Vincent (Jérôme Hardelay). Martin and Vincent explore the grounds of the hotel and discover a massive baobab tree with a cabin hidden among its branches. They intend to make the ‘baobab’ their base for the summer – but, unfortunately, the children of some holidaymakers from a nearby camp site have the same idea, and a war between them erupts – which spells disaster for the adults!

The score is bookended by a peculiar children’s hip-hop song called “Je Rêve d’Un Pays,” which Desplat co-wrote with director Jacques Monnet and which is performed by lead actor Gaultier Kusnierek and members of the pint-sized cast. I’m not a fan of rap, even when it’s in English, so French rap performed by pre-teens is certainly not in my wheelhouse, even when Desplat has a hand in it. Thankfully the rest of the music is quite superb; there’s only just about 8 minutes of it on this brief album, but it’s a fun, exciting, knockabout children’s adventure score of the highest order.

“L’Attaque des Enfants” begins with some unusual electronic beats and samples, but quickly gets overtaken by some rousing orchestral action-adventure scoring with a fair amount of Gallic flair, full of rambunctious rhythms, gallivanting pennywhistles, and dancing fiddles. Some of it reminds me of traditional Irish dance music, while other parts of it comes across like lighter version of How to Train our Dragon; its very unexpected, but so much fun. “Le Supermarché” pits incredibly fluid, rapid string lines and horn blasts against a bubbling electronic undercurrent. The “Thème de Martin” is more traditional and introspective, with emotional-sounding string writing and a warm, sunny central melody arranged for acoustic guitars. The conclusive “Bataille de Mercurochrome” is as dramatic and intense as children’s action music, and is again full of flashing strings and pennywhistles, warm brasses, and lively rhythmic ideas, pitted against a more fulsome percussion bed.

I would love for there to be more comprehensive release of the music for C’Est Pas Ma Faute because I’m sure that Desplat’s score is full of many more surprises and moments of boisterous orchestral excellence – 8 minutes is not enough – but unfortunately this is all we have at the moment, and it’s still worth exploring despite its brevity.

Track Listing: 1. Je Rêve d’Un Pays – Version Longue (written by Alexandre Desplat and Jacques Monnet) (3:30), 2. L’Attaque des Enfants (2:26), 3. Le Supermarché (1:39), 4. Thème de Martin (1:48), 5. Bataille de Mercurochrome (1:51), 6. Je Rêve d’un Pays – Version Courte (written by Alexandre Desplat and Jacques Monnet) (1:11). Milan/BMG 67749-2, 12 minutes 25 seconds.

 

LE CHÂTEAU DES SINGES [A MONKEY’S TALE] (1999)

Le Château des Singes is a feature-length animated film directed by Jean-François Laguionie. It tells the story of two clans of monkeys – the tree-dwelling Woonkos and the ground-dwelling Laankos – who were separated from each other following an earthquake, and now consider the other tribe to be ‘savage’. When Kom, an inquisitive teenage monkey from the Woonko tribe, falls from the canopy to the floor, he is saved by the King of the Laankos, who have evolved into a medieval-like culture with advanced scientific knowledge. Kom falls in love with Gina, a servant in the king’s palace, and becomes determined to reunite the two tribes by introducing them to each other and proving the ancient superstitions wrong. However, Kom makes an enemy in the shape of the evil chancellor Sebastian, who has personal reasons to keep the tribe apart. The film has an excellent English-language voice cast including John Hurt, Michael York, Michael Gambon, Michael Lonsdale, and newcomer Matt Hill as Kom.

In creating the world of Woonkos, Desplat provides a number of gorgeous exotic textures, especially focused on woodwinds, but with a playfulness in the pizzicato ideas, harp glissando, and elegant strings. Cues like the first half of “La Canopee“ creates a lovely atmosphere and peacefulness, and is very much rooted in a lot of the warm, appealing tones he would contribute from many of his more famous works. One the other hand the music for the Laankos initially seems threatening and more aggressively tribal, notably via cues such as the quirky “Le Roi de la Jungle” which blends regal fanfares and gorgeously rich cello chords with peculiar percussion patterns and guttural, chittering woodwinds.

Throughout the entire score Desplat’s music is very expressive and emotionally direct, as one would expect for a children’s film, but it also gives him a lot of leeway to be expressive, combining world music influences and highly unusual orchestrations with extended performance techniques which make standard orchestral instruments sound alien and exotic.

There is a great deal of bouncy, energetic ‘busy’ music for a more prominent cimbalom and a more vivacious orchestra (second half of “La Canopee,” the inquisitive “Kom et Margad,”, and the warmly inviting “La Machine Volante,” among others), as well as mystery and hints of danger in “La Chute de Kom,” the latter by way of some unusual ideas for woodwinds that sound breathy and foreign. The budding romance between Kom and Gina is depicted with a series of gorgeous, elegant textures that blend the string section with harps and cimbalom, resulting in superb cues such as “La Princesse Empoisonnee,” the vibrant “Kom et Gina au Chateau,” and the excellent “Gina et Kom Se Retrouvent,” which veers from being heartbreaking tenderness to intense ligh caper music. There is also a romantic vocal version of theme in “La Chanson de Kom,” and stunningly realized solo piano version in the conclusive “Le Chateau des Singes”.

And several one off cues also impress – the opulent but curious waltz “Le Labyrynthe et le Premier Baiser” and its slightly more traditional cousin “La Danse du Roi et de la Princesse,” the more intense and action-flavored “Le Dragon Est En Feu” which becomes quite sweeping in its finale, the beautiful but determined-sounding “Le Lac Gele,” the rambunctious “Gina est Poursuivie,” the flamboyant “Le Combat Final,” and the powerfully emotional “La Princesse est Guerie” among them.

Desplat has since gone on to score several animated films in North America, including titles such as Rise of the Guardians and The Secret Life of Pets, as well as Fantastic Mr Fox and Isle of Dogs for director Wes Anderson. However, a case could be made for Le Château des Singes being the best animated score of his career to date – the creativity and emotional heart on display is second to none.

Track Listing: 1. La Canopee (3;13), 2. Kom et Margad (0:54), 3. La Chute de Kom (1:33), 4. Le Roi de la Jungle (4:37), 5. La Princesse Empoisonnee (1:38), 6. Kom et Gina au Chateau (2:40), 7. Le Labyrynthe et le Premier Baiser (2:44), 8. Le Complot de Gorine et Serignole (1:31), 9. La Danse du Roi et de la Princesse (1:35), 10. La Machine Volante (1:11), 11. La Fete au Chateau (2:40), 12. Le Dragon Est En Feu (2:07), 13. La Chanson de Kom (2:47), 14. Le Lac Gele (1:41), 15. La Chanson de Serignole (1:31), 16. Gina est Poursuivie (1:00), 17. Le Desastre Sur la Glace (2:53), 18. Gina et Kom Se Retrouvent (3:06), 19. A la Recherche des Fleurs Bleues (3:16), 20. Le Combat Final (1:24), 21. La Princesse est Guerie (1:58), 22. Le Chateau des Singes (1:53), 23. Assimiler (La Chanson des Livres) (3:44). Milan/BMG 67283-2, 51 minutes 48 seconds.

 

TONI (1999)

Toni is crime drama written and directed by Philomène Esposito, starring Alessandro Gassmann, Béatrice Dalle, and Raf Vallone. Gassmann plays the title role, an Italian mafia hitman who arrives in Paris to carry out a contract killing. His contact is an unnamed ‘old man,’ an exiled Mafioso who still works for the family despite his age; however, Toni becomes frustrated at the old man’s reticence to give him information about the hit, and starts exploring the city in his own. Before long he meets a beautiful young woman named Marie, a journalist with a troubled past, and as their relationship develops, Toni starts to question his life and career, angering his bosses back home.

The cornerstones of Alexandre Desplat’s score for Toni are the numerous pieces of Corsican folk music performed by musician and vocalist Ghjuvan-Petru Lanfranchi, which is often set against Desplat’s original music, and are intended to capture the culture clash between the old ‘clan’ mentality of the mafia, and the encroachment upon this of the modern world. Cues like “Toni,” “Toni & Pipo,” “Toni Dans Paris,” and “T’es Pas Encore Mort Petit” are excellent examples of this; in them Lanfranchi sounds like he’s singing in Arabic, but he isn’t – he’s singing in the old Corsican language. Nevertheless, the combination of his vocals, evocative ethnic woodwinds, strings, and contemporary electronic beats and rhythms is hugely impressive, a collision of the very ancient and the very modern.

The more traditional orchestral parts of the score are no less enjoyable. The “Thème de Marie” is a pretty, engaging piece for a string quartet, the ideas from which return in subsequent cues such “La Solitude du Tueur,” the florid “Les Minelli ” which attenuates the writing with prominent pizzicato, and “Rêves de Marie” which briefly transfers the melody from strings to piano. “La Pyramide de Sucre” is a wonderful bit of string dissonance, aggressive and challenging. “Le Piège Se Ferme” is a bizarre, moody dance-like piece which pits a clarinet against raunchy electronic rhythms. The conclusive “Thème du Vieux” offers a final statement of Marie’s theme a mournful string dirge, an emotionally resonant exploration of the themes of the film – death and destiny.

Less successful are the dirtier, more aggressive electronic parts of cues such as “Chez le Vieux,” the aforementioned “La Pyramide de Sucre,” the second half of “T’es Pas Encore Mort Petit,” which have never been Desplat’s forte and unfortunately highlight his awkwardness when he is asked to move into this genre. In addition, the album contains are a number of short tracks of dialogue from the film which are incredibly annoying – some can easily be edited out, but others are overlaid and embedded within the score tracks, which means you have to sit to whole minutes of urgent praying to get to the music. This trend was one of the worst things they did to soundtracks in the 1990s, and renders parts of the score almost unlistenable.

If you can ignore the occasionally quite appalling album presentation, there is a lot of music to enjoy in Toni, especially the parts which make excellent use of Lanfranchi’s powerfully exotic vocal stylings. It’s one of Desplat’s lesser-known scores, even amongst his European efforts, but the parts that work succeed admirable as an introspective exploration of a haunted hitman questioning his place in the world, grappling with both his culture and his identity.

Track Listing: 1. Toni (performed by Ghjuvan-Petru Lanfranchi) (4:56), 2. La Rencontre [dialogue] (1:18), 3. Thème de Marie (3:29), 4. Chez le Vieux (1:28), 5. La Pyramide de Sucre (2:15), 6. La Solitude du Tueur (4:01), 7. Toni & Pipo (performed by Ghjuvan-Petru Lanfranchi) (1:25), 8. La Loi du Silence [dialogue] (1:30), 9. Les Minelli (2:26), 10. Toni Dans Paris (performed by Ghjuvan-Petru Lanfranchi) (1:04), 11. Toni Est Repéré (1:02), 12. Je Suis Calabrais [dialogue] (1:18), 13. Marie est Perdue (1:15), 14. Le Piège Se Ferme (2:05), 15. La Vieille Dame (2:18), 16. Rêves de Marie (2:20), 17. T’es Pas Encore Mort Petit? (performed by Ghjuvan-Petru Lanfranchi) (1:47), 18. Le Rendez-Vous (performed by Ghjuvan-Petru Lanfranchi) (2:24), 19. La Mort du Vieux [dialogue] (2:14), 20. Toni (performed by Ghjuvan-Petru Lanfranchi) (3:48), 21. Thème du Vieux (3:27). Milan/BMG 63979-2, 47 minutes 50 seconds.

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