Home > Reviews > A SHOW OF FORCE – Georges Delerue

A SHOW OF FORCE – Georges Delerue


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A Show of Force is a thriller directed by Bruno Barreto, based on true events which occurred in Puerto Rico in 1978. Amy Irving stars as television reporter Kate Ryan, who is investigating the circumstances surrounding the brutal deaths of two Puerto Rican teenagers, Carlos Enrique Soto-Arriví and Arnaldo Darío Rosado-Torres. The government claimed the victims were radical terrorists, while their families said they were pro-independence student activists, and as Ryan gets deeper and deeper into the mystery, she finds herself embroiled in a much larger political scandal and cover-up involving the local police, and which may eventually lead to the corridors of power at the CIA. The film is adapted from Anne Nelson’s book ‘Murder Under Two Flags’, and co-stars Andy Garcia, Lou Diamond Phillips, Robert Duvall, and Kevin Spacey. The film marked the English-language debut of Brazilian director Barreto, who would later go on to make the films Carried Away and One Tough Cop (both scored by Bruce Broughton).

The score for A Show of Force, however, was by the late great Georges Delerue, and came hot on the heels of one of his career best works, Joe Versus the Volcano. A Show of Force couldn’t be more different from that score, and actually has a lot more in common with his more sophisticated Latin-flavored thriller scores like Salvador and Descente Aux Enfers. A Show of Force was the only collaboration between Delerue and Barreto, and it’s an excellent one, containing a great deal of interesting and intelligent thriller music, a sweeping final theme, and an exotic wash of Latin flavor to illustrate the film’s Caribbean setting. The score was recorded in Munich, Germany, with the Graunke Symphony Orchestra, and contains several passages of ‘vintage’ Delerue music that fans of his style are sure to appreciate.

Several themes run through the score, two of which intertwine through multiple cues and appear to complement each other. If my reading of the movie is correct, they appear to relate to two specific elements of the story – the tragedy of the deaths of the students, and the reaction of the journalist Kate as she slowly uncovers the terrible truth about the situation. Both themes are heard in the opening “Prologue,” which begins with a bed of slow, solemn, elegant strings, but slowly emerges into a melancholy, but stunningly beautiful melody arranged for Spanish guitar. Many of the subsequent cues take their lead from this opening cue, and utilize one or both of the themes to great effect.

“Flashback,” for example, adds the sound of a harmonica to the strings to give the piece a slightly moody air of sinister tension, while the strings themselves have a touch of John Barry about them; the languid pacing and precise use of plucked bass notes reminds me very much of Barry’s score for The Specialist, another thriller set in a tropical climate. Later, in “Testimony,” a gorgeous yet haunting violin solo emerges from a bed of elegant, mysterious strings, surrounded by typical Delerue chord progressions and harmonic phrasing. Other cues follow similar patterns – “Final Flashback” combines tension filled writing for high strings with a pretty harp, “Kate Argues With Dad” features a gorgeous duet for guitar and strings, “Courtroom Photographs” contains moments of revelation and drama, and so on. They are all quite superb.

The other significant element in the score is the music that represents the island of Puerto Rico itself, its culture and heritage and musical identity. To capture this, Delerue makes excellent use of a sultry bossa nova-style theme for guitars and accordion backed with tropical percussion rhythms, notably light bongos, maracas, and guiro scrapers. The style is first introduced, after a brief interlude for dramatic strings and punchy brass, in the “Main Title,” and continues into subsequent cues like “Kate to Cerro Marravilla” and “The Hearings Begin,” the latter of which is a deconstructed version of the style using just the rhythmic elements of the percussion.

Perhaps the best example of this writing comes in the title track, “Show of Force,” in which Delerue combines his Caribbean style with the John Barry-esque string ideas heard in Kate’s Theme and the Tragedy Theme. Hearing Delerue’s lush, elegant string writing juxtaposed against the tropical rhythms is quite outstanding, and when the composer brings in a set of lyrical, almost passionate woodwinds during the second half of the cue, the effect is marvelous. This cue especially has hints of Joe Versus the Volcano’s Hawaiian/Pacific ideas in some of the stylistics, indicating that the composer may have been writing the two scores simultaneously and allowed a little musical cross-pollination.

Other cues of note include “The Hearings,” a busy scherzo for upbeat strings and a lively dulcimer which is full of movement and purpose, and “Dance Macabre,” an unusual cue that features accordions, chimes, and Latin percussion blended together in a sort of abstract, dream-like manner. In the “End Title” Delerue allows the orchestra to rise to its fullest and present a big, sweeping, conclusive reprise of all the score’s main themes. Delerue adorns his writing with wonderful string flourishes and brass embellishments through the orchestra; the rich oboe theme accompanied by gentle harp glissandi is classic Delerue, and it all ends up in a bombastic, grandioso finale. Interestingly, director Barreto was initially not a fan of the finale cue – in an interview with journalist Matthias Büdinger for Soundtrack Magazine in 1990, Delerue related that the director “thought it was too lyrical and the orchestra was too big,” so he wrote music with reduced elements for guitar, flute and oboe. After listening to the mixing, Barreto finally agreed that what Delerue did in the beginning was right, because “in the film there are many dramatic and sad things happening, and if we had done less dynamic music in the end there would have been the risk of boredom” – and so the original finale was reinstated!

The score for A Show of Force was originally released on the Varèse Sarabande sub-label Colossal at the time the film was released, but quickly went out of print, and was a rare collectable for almost 30 years. It was eventually re-released, re-mastered but with identical content, as part of the Varèse Encore series in 2018, in a limited edition run of 1,000 copies, and it is also available to stream on most major music platforms. Fans of Delerue will certainly appreciate the tender intimacy and emotional content of the score, and will undoubtedly enjoy the combination of the composer’s traditionally beautiful (albeit mysterious) string and woodwind writing with the more vivacious Latin elements. For others… well, A Show of Force is not one of Delerue’s true landmark scores, and is by no means an essential purchase, but it does show a different side to him than one might be used to hearing, and that is always a good thing.

Buy the Show of Force soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Prologue (2:39)
  • Main Title (2:34)
  • The Hearings (1:06)
  • Flashback (2:42)
  • Kate to Cerro Marravilla (1:15)
  • Testimony (2:08)
  • Show of Force (3:41)
  • Final Flashback (2:17)
  • Kate Argues With Dad (1:35)
  • Dance Macabre (1:57)
  • Courtroom Photographs (1:39)
  • Remembrance (2:40)
  • The Hearings Begin (1:26)
  • Kate Watches Fireworks (1:22)
  • Forensic Science (1:22)
  • End Title (3:39)

Running Time: 34 minutes 02 seconds

Colossal Records XCD-1005 (1990)
Varese Sarabande Masters VCL-1018-1190 (1990/2018)

Music composed and conducted by Georges Delerue. Performed by the Graunke Symphony Orchestra. Orchestrations by Georges Delerue. Recorded and mixed by Alan Snelling and Peter Fuchs. Edited by Dan Carlin. Score produced by Georges Delerue. Album produced by Robert Townson.

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