Home > Reviews > Under-the-Radar Round Up 2022, Part 1

Under-the-Radar Round Up 2022, Part 1

The new year has hopefully brought a new lease of life to world cinema, and at the end of the first quarter of 2022 I’m absolutely delighted to present the latest instalment in my on-going series of articles looking at the best under-the-radar scores from around the world. This article covers nine scores for projects from all over the globe, and includes dramatic TV series from Kuwait and Japan, an exploration of childhood nostalgia and a contemporary action-thriller from France, a giallo thriller from Italy, a fantasy epic from Russia, a religious drama from Spain, and an intimate drama from Denmark, among others!



The 13 Lords of the Shogun (Kamakura-Dono No Jūsan-Nin) is the 2022 Japanese Taiga drama – the most prestigious annual event in Japanese television, usually a massive and sweeping historical epic based on the life story of an esteemed noble figure from the past – previous Taiga dramas have included Gunshi Kanbei scored by Yugo Kanno in 2014, Hana Moyu scored by Kenji Kawai in 2015, Sanada Maru scored by Takayuki Hattori in 2016, and Onna Jōshu Naotora scored by Yoko Kanno in 2017. This year’s drama looks at the life of Hōjō Yoshitoki, a fierce and noble warrior who led the Kamakura shogunate and the Hōjō clan for many years until his death in the year 1224.

The score for The 13 Lords of the Shogun is by the Tokyo-based American composer Evan Call, who is probably best known for his anime scores, notably those in the Violet Evergarden series. Call is one of the only westerners ever to be asked to score a Taiga drama, but despite his ethnicity his music is steeped in Japanese culture, and the stylistics familiar to those who follow such things. As one would expect given the subject matter the score is an enormous theme-filled epic for the full orchestra and chorus (the NHK Symphony), as well as a range of specialist ethnic Japanese instruments.

The main theme is memorable, rousing and powerful, and has that ‘Japanese choir’ sound that you often find in Anime soundtracks and films made in Japan. Several cues reach real emotional heights, and are often anchored around cello solos. It overflows with gorgeous romantic passages and moments of soaring grandeur and regal opulence (“For Kamekura” and “The Man Who Would Be Regent” are especially impressive), but also contains a fair share of tender intimacy (“Well-Earned Peace,” “A Warrior’s Pride”), and quirky light comedy (“Sukedono,” “Strange Neighbors”).

However, for me, the most impressive parts of the score are those where Call engages in stirring, full-throated battle music. Cues like “A Clash of Dragons and Tigers,” “March of the Brave,” “Blood of the Bando,” and “Hill of Despair,” are especially impressive, while “Heaven’s Decree” has arich, rousing, intense choral sound that reminded me very much of Howard Shore and Lord of the Rings. In addition the final cue, “As the Heavens and Earth Tremble,” intentionally adapts two different melodies from Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, the ‘New World’ symphony – the famous brassy main theme, and the mellow and intimate theme from the Largo.

This release is ‘Volume One’ of a planned 3-volume set of music from the show, and is available as a download from all the usual sites, as well as an CD import from Japan, and it’s really outstanding. If anyone had been hesitant to explore Call’s work, especially those not familiar with the world of anime, then The 13 Lords of the Shogun might be a great place to start.

Track Listing: 1. Main Theme (2:13), 2. For Kamakura! (4:32), 3. The Man Who Would Become Regent (3:10), 4. A Dream to Make True (2:42), 5. Sunshine Through the Trees (2:05), 6. Sukedono! (2:06), 7. Flash of Light (2:12), 8. A Clash of Dragons and Tigers (2:07), 9. The Phoenix Rises (2:18), 10. March of the Brave (2:43), 11. Indomitable Heike (2:13), 12. The Vicissitudes of Fortune (3:12), 13. Well-Earned Peace (2:03), 14. Blood of the Bando (3:24), 15. A Warrior’s Pride (2:08), 16. On Winds of Sorrow (2:11), 17. Yae (2:28), 18. Moment of Respite (2:01), 19. Conspirator’s Rhapsody (1:48), 20. Strange Neighbors (1:49), 21. Very, Very Majestic (2:02), 22. Plots of the Powerful (2:01), 23. Assassins (2:24), 24. Hill of Despair (2:07), 25. Justice for Who? (2:14), 26. Under the Open Sky (2:06), 27. Hidden in My Heart (1:58), 28. Izu…My Dear Homeland (3:06), 29. For Those Who Have Fallen (2:13), 30. Heaven’s Decree (2:12), 31. As the Heavens and Earth Tremble (3:25), 32. Taiga Kikou 1 (2:33). Sony Music Japan, 77 minutes 46 seconds.



Bi Tawqeet Mecca (also spelled Betawqet Makkah, translated roughly as ‘Mecca Time’) is an Arabic language TV drama series from Kuwait directed by Manaf Abdel which debuted on the ‘Arabic Netflix’ service Shahid over the January 2022 New Year weekend. It’s a story of faith and redemption and follows the story of a woman named Nauda, whose brother is diagnosed with alzheirmer’s disease. Believing that the disease will be cured if she repents for the sins committed by him over his life, Nauda embarks on a journey to find all those people who he has wronged over the years

The score for Bi Tawqeet Mecca is by a composer with whom most people will be unfamiliar – Egyptian composer Ameer Gado, and it’s really quite superb. The music is rich, thematic, but somewhat melancholy, commenting on the difficult journey that Nauda is forced to make to atone for her brother’s sins. The score is based around a series of lovely themes for strings augmented an array of traditional Middle Eastern textures – oud, ney flute, qanun – plus a bank of vibrant percussion.

It’s all very authentic, but also really approachable, with identifiable recurring melodies and warm harmonic ideas. Both the “Intro” and the extended “Outro” offer outstanding performances of the main theme, while cues like “Grief” and “Nostalgia” really lean into the story’s strong emotional content with some outstanding writing for cello.

I don’t like using the word ‘exotic’ anymore because it promotes western ethnocentrism, but you know what I mean when I say it sounds that way. Some of the writing reminds me of the more lyrical parts of Jerry Goldsmith’s The Mummy, which will clearly be a recommendation for anyone who knows me and my taste. Unfortunately there’s no commercial soundtrack album (yet) for Bi Tawqeet Mecca, but the curious can stream the majority it from Gado’s personal Soundcloud page at https://soundcloud.com/ameer-gado/sets/betawqet_makkah_soundtrack.

Track Listing: 1. Intro (1:35), 2. The Story (2:57), 3. Grief (2:43), 4. Who I Am (3:36), 5. Struggle (2:31), 6. Nostalgia (3:18), 7. The Escape (2:32), 8. Telling (1:17), 9. Obsequise (2:43), 10. The Accident (1:16), 11. Outro (4:23). Promo; 29 minutes 03 seconds.



Emissary of Darkness is the third and final instalment in the Russian ‘Posledniy Bogatyr’ Last Warrior series of fantasy adventure comedy films, directed by Dmitriy Dyachenko, and based on tales and characters from Russian folklore. Press for the film describes the plot thusly: “Peace and tranquility have set in Belogorie. The evil was defeated and Ivan is now enjoying his well-deserved fame. He is surrounded by his family, friends and small wonders from the modern world that help him lead a comfortable life. Luckily, he has his Magic Sword to cut a gap between the worlds to get some supplies quite regularly. But when an ancient evil rises and the existence of the magic world is put to danger, Ivan has to team up with his old friends and his new rivals. They will set out on a long journey beyond the known world to find a way to defeat the enemies and to return peace to Belogorie.”

Returning to score the film is Cypriot composer George Kallis, who scored the first two films in the series, and goes out here with a bang, offering a thrilling conclusion to the trilogy. Kallis weaves an elaborate thematic tapestry with his music, bringing back several of the familiar themes from the first two films, and introducing several new ones, most notably one a brooding motif for the new villain The Black Warrior introduced in “The Messenger of Darkness,” complete with menacing chorus and clanking chains, and a more uplifting and noble-sounding one for the Firebird in “Meet the Firebird” and which re-appears later in a terrific action variation in “Kikimoras Lair”.

I especially appreciated the statement of the series’s heroic overall main theme in “Zmei Gorynich Attacks,” the beautiful love theme for Ivan and Vasilissa in “Lullaby” and “Ivan Finds Vasilisa,” and the always enjoyable ‘Hut on Chicken Legs’ theme buried deep in the action of the brilliant “Chasing the Flying Wolf”. There’s so much depth and energy in the action music, whics is dense and complicated and makes use of the full scope of the orchestra. Interestingly there are also some surprising parts where the music adopts a rock/jazz/funk sound, which is new for this series, but showcases Kallis’s versatility.

The last few cues – from “Fighting the Darkness” through “The Black Warrior” and “The Right Choice at the Right Moment” to end of the conclusive “Belogorye” – build up to a really rousing finale, and include several powerful orchestral and choral statements of the series main theme that are immensely satisfying. The score is available as a digital download from most good online retailers, and now that the Last Warrior series has concluded, can someone now hire George Kallis to write this kind of music for a film in English that mainstream audiences can hear and appreciate? Please and thank you!

Track Listing: 1. The Messenger of Darkness (1:09), 2. Zmei Gorynich Attacks (2:28), 3. The Darkness is Near (0:51), 4. Lullaby (1:08), 5. The Black Lake (1:28), 6. A Good Night’s Sleep (0:47), 7. Vasilisa’s Abduction (3:08), 8. Welcome to Moscow (2:24), 9. Koschei Loses His Head (2:46), 10. The Feather (0:54), 11. New Koschei’s Master (3:00), 12. Meet The Firebird (4:08), 13. Theft (1:11), 14. Vasilisa vs. Galina (2:21), 15. Ivan vs. The Black Warrior (1:54), 16. Koschei, where are you? (1:37), 17. Kikimoras (3:09), 18. Kikimoras Lair (4:12), 19. The Riddle is Cracked (2:02), 20. Chasing The Flying Wolf (3:53), 21. Ivan Finds Vasilisa (3:25), 22. The Shattered Mirror (3:12), 23. Galina’s Dungeon (1:14), 24. Fighting the Darkness (4:16), 25. The Black Warrior (5:01), 26. The Right Choice at the Right Moment (2:47), 27. The Warriors (1:04), 28. Belogorie (0:46), 29. Golden Ray of Sunshine (performed by Niletto) (3:09). Walt Disney Records, 66 minutes 29 seconds.


LEONORA ADDIO – Nicola Piovani

Leonora Addio is the latest film by acclaimed Italian director Paolo Taviani, and is his first film since the loss of his late brother and lifelong collaborator, Vittorio. It’s a sort of offbeat comedy drama about funerals, and is split into two halves – the first half of the film is shot in black and white and gives a poignant account of the great dramatist Luigi Pirandello’s ashes being put to rest in postwar Sicily, while the second half is shot in color and is a dramatization of Pirandello’s final short story, The Nail. It’s an odd, but highly personal film which lovers of Italian cinema will clearly appreciate.

The score for Leonora Addio is by Italian composer Nicola Piovani, the Best Score Oscar winner back in 1998 for Life is Beautiful, who sort of disappeared from mainstream American cinema shortly afterwards, and has been working almost entirely in Italian and pan-European cinema for the last twenty years. Considering the film’s emotional subject matter, Piovani’s music is similarly pitched. The first half of the score, which deals with Pirandello’s funeral, is mostly serious and dramatic and actually quite intense, if a little on the downbeat side, and at times one could be forgiven for mistaking this as a classical horror score.

The opening cue “Voce Celesta Sicula” has a haunting operatic soprano vocal by Maria Rita Combattelli, but then the rest of the score is mostly a series of variations on the familiar Saint-Saëns-style ‘danse macabre’ classicism. Cues like “Eco di Viaggio” and “Le Ceneri sul Mare” and “Il Chiodo” are filled with those familiar scratchy violins, and elsewhere there are long periods filled with serious-sounding low-key string harmonics.

When the tone of the film switches, the music switches to match it. “Banda Funebre Paesana” sounds like a cross between a funeral march and circus music performed by an amateur orchestra, and it actually rather peculiar. Then the final four tracks towards the end of the score are upbeat and playful jazz and piano pieces which come across more as source music, and have a very different vibe from everything else on the album.

The first half of Leonora Addio is good, but perhaps a little too dour for mainstream tastes, while the second half of the score is idiosyncratic and rather than being too dour might lean too heavily into traditional Italianate folk music for non-Italians to truly connect with it. I liked it, but approach with caution.

Track Listing: 1. Voce Celeste Sicula (2:36), 2. Eco di Viaggio (3:38), 3. Il Colpo Finale (2:25), 4. Le Ceneri Sul Mare (4:27), 5. L’Urna di Pirandello (2:46), 6. Il Chiodo (4:27), 7. Campane Mimetiche (1:23), 8. Banda Funebre Paesana (5:50), 9. Canzone Sul Treno (2:16), 10. Boogie Sghembo (1:18), 11. Dancing in Trattoria (1:16), 12. Il Pianino Delle Meraviglie (2:16). Ala Bianca Records, 34 minutes 38 seconds.


NOTRE-DAME BRÛLE – Simon Franglen

In April 2019 one of the world’s most famous and celebrated buildings, the cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris, accidentally caught fire while undergoing renovation and restoration, and suffered significant structural damage while the world watched in horror and dismay. This new film, Notre-Dame Brûle (Notre Dame on Fire), is an action-drama directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, which takes a detailed look at the events leading up to and during the fire, and celebrates the heroic efforts of the men and women who helped put it out and saved the cathedral from total devastation.

From a film music fan’s perspective, Jean-Jacques Annaud is most famous for working on several films with the late great James Horner – The Name of the Rose, Enemy at the Gates, and most recently Wolf Totem, among others – and so it’s both fitting and lovely that Notre-Dame Brûle is scored by Horner’s long-time collaborator Simon Franglen. Franglen worked with Horner on many films, including Avatar, The Karate Kid, and The Amazing Spider-Man, and essentially completed Horner’s last score, The Magnificent Seven, after his tragic death in 2016.

For all intents and purposes, Notre-Dame Brûle is a new James Horner score, with all the positive connotations that statement implies. The score has strong melodic content, an intense sense of drama and emotion, and some vivid and exciting action. The main theme, first heard in “The Workmen Arrive,” is pretty and elegant and recurs through much of the score, and quite a lot of the underscore uses choral ideas to play up the religious aspect of the story as it relates to the actual church. There’s also a surprising amount of electronic writing, but it’s done tastefully and as an enhancement to the orchestra, so it all sounds really good.

However, best of all is the fact that it the score is absolutely overflowing with touches and echoes of Horner’s writing, in much the same way as Franglen’s score for The Curse of Turandot was last year too. The bucolic strings and chord progressions in the opening “A Paris Morning”. The forceful action in “The Drone Squad” and “The Architect” and the brilliant “Hanging On for Dear Life”. The choral abstraction of “The Fire Grows”. The enormous tolling bells in “The Steeple Falls”. The crashing pianos in “Entering the Belfry”. The sense of relief and release of emotion in the “End Titles”. All of these little touches are straight out of James Horner’s playbook, and will make every Horner fan’s heart sing with joy.

The score is available as a digital download from most good retails, and comes with an unhesitating recommendation from me. Anyone who has ever loved James Horner’s music will want to experience this loving homage to his style, and as a bonus you get to experience Simon Franglen’s own increasingly impressive dramatic and emotional style alongside it.

Track Listing: 1. A Paris Morning (2:18), 2. The Workmen Arrive (1:46), 3. 850 Years (1:32), 4. Through the Roof (2:07), 5. False Alarm (1:23), 6. The Fire Starts (0:53), 7. The Drone Squad (2:29), 8. Les Pompiers (4:31), 9. The Fire Grows (0:49), 10. Water Pressure (3:41), 11. The Architect (3:34), 12. Rain of Fire (3:41), 13. Crown of Thorns (2:31), 14. The Steeple Falls (2:03), 15. Above and Below (3:41), 16. The President Arrives (0:59), 17. Finding the Keys (2:25), 18. I Forgot the Code (3:54), 19. Opening the Safe (3:16), 20. I Need Volunteers (4:14), 21. Entering the Belfry (3:44), 22. Hanging on for Dear Life (1:11), 23. Amazing Grace (2:53), 24. Back into Hell (2:51), 25. The Fire Is Out (4:09), 26. End Titles (3:59). Milan Records/Sony Music, 70 minutes 34 seconds.


OCCHIALI NERI – Arnaud Rebotini

Occhiali Neri – translated as Dark Glasses – is a new Italian giallo horror-thriller from legendary director Dario Argento, who essentially invented the genre in the 1970s with his groundbreaking trio of films consisting of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, The Cat o’ Nine Tails, and Four Flies on Grey Velvet. This new film stars Ilenia Pastorelli as a prostitute named Diana who is attacked and blinded by a serial killer in an attempted murder. While escaping from the attack she meets and befriends a young Chinese boy, who eventually becomes her eyes as she attempts to find her attacker and bring him to justice.

The score for Occhiali Neri is by the French electronic composer and musician Arnaud Rebotini, whose previous work includes titles such as 120 Battements Par Minute (2017) and Curiosa (2019) . Rebotini’s bio says that he works in a style that “fuses 1980s electro, new wave and synth-pop with 1990s techno, retro-style electropop and electronic dance music” and that’s a perfect way to describe the score. It’s a wonderful throwback to the scores that people like Fabio Frizzi and John Carpenter, and bands like Goblin and Tangerine Dream, and others, were writing for those types of movies in the 1970s and 80s.

A lot of the score is full of groovy rhythms and post-disco beats, and quite a lot of it is melodic and tuneful, but it’s also intentionally pitched to sound a bit off-kilter and unsettling, as befits the genre and the overall style of the film. The main theme is a real ear-worm, “Inseguimento Notturno” is driving and intense with a hypnotic percussive style, and “Serpenti e Cacciatori” has a cool urban groove, but there is also a fair bit of creative dissonance that makes your skin crawl in a good way – I really like the haunted, distorted sound in cues like “Il Corpi di Rita,” which have a child-like and innocent quality, but are also subtly disturbing.

Listeners more attuned to traditional orchestral sounds may find a great deal of Occhiali Neri decidedly weird, but I actually appreciated the fact that it was another great example of a synth composer really playing around and being creative in the electronic world, coming up with something memorable, exploring what synths and keyboards can do on their own terms instead of asking them to mimic an orchestra. This is a surprising hit for anyone whose tastes extend into this soundscape.

Track Listing: 1. Occhiali Neri (5:58), 2. L’Ospedale (2:55), 3. Occhiali Neri Varazione I (5:06), 4. Inseguimento Notturno (6:08), 5. L’Orfanotrofio (3:16), 6. La Morte di Rita (0:57), 7. Il Corpo di Rita (2:40), 8. Matteo Ridipinge Il Furgone (0:22), 9. La Confessione (1:35), 10. Serpenti e Cacciatori (5:39), 11. Il Canile (2:04), 12. La Scomparsa (0:28), 13. Un’Eclissi su Roma (2:45), 14. Diana da Sola Nel Bosco (3:35), 15. La Solitudine di Daina (5:31), 16. Il Cane e Il Poliziotto (0:48), 17. Una Serata Buia (4:55), 18. Occhiali Neri Varazione II (0:26). Zend Avesta, 55 minutes 07 seconds.


PETRA DE SAN JOSÉ – Oscar Martín Leanizbarrutia

Having impressed mightily and taken the film music world by storm in 2021 with his score for Claret, Spanish composer Oscar Martín Leanizbarrutia is back with a score for another film about the life of a historical person from Spanish catholic history: Petra de San José. The film tells the life story of Ana Petra Pérez Florido, a nun who founded a missionary for homeless people in Barcelona in the late 1800s. The film has the director as Claret, Pablo Moreno, and again sees Leanizbarrutia using his talents to bring an emotional, thematic, religioso sound to bear on a historical figure’s life.

The score for Petra de San José has a similar tone and style to Claret, although this time there is perhaps a little bit more of a chamber sound, as well as a few more electronic ideas here and there. It opens with a huge main theme, slowly emerging from a solo guitar into a piece for the full sweeping orchestra; the swell of emotion and the rise in volume and intensity of the orchestra half way through the cue is quite outstanding.

The rest of the score essentially develops from out of this initial style. It has lots of gorgeous textures, including some exquisite writing for solo violin, solo cello, and piano, and several cues also work the sound of a Spanish classical guitar in the score to add local color and flavor – “Barcelona Finales del Siglo XIX” and “Primeros Pasos” are especially lovely examples of this.

Several other cues make extensive use of a choir to play up the religious aspect of the story; sometimes it’s very dramatic and emotional, sometimes quiet and intimate, and sometimes peppered with darkness. Meanwhile, cues like “Los Bravo” and “El Anciano del Callejón” and “Prisioneros” have a different sound, sometimes including the aforementioned electronics, but when they opens up and present their themes in full glory they really shine.

The score is available as a digital download from all the usual places, and if you liked Claret, this will be right in your sweet spot too. Petra de San José doesn’t quite have the same highs as its cousin, but there are still plenty of moments of outstanding music to be enjoyed, and it further maintains Oscar Martín Leanizbarrutia’s status as one film music’s most outstanding young international composers.

Track Listing: 1. Petra de San Jose (4:23), 2. Barcelona Finales del Siglo XIX (3:18), 3. Domingo en el Pueblo (0:54), 4. La Llamada (0:51), 5. Tan Pronto? (1:27), 6. Reflexionando (0:57), 7. Oracion y Penitencia (1:19), 8. Quiero Ser Religiosa (0:55), 9. La Verdad de Manuel/Los Desamparados (2:22), 10. Los Bravo (4:23), 11. Primeros Pasos (1:43), 12. El Anciano del Callejón (2:05), 13. Padre (0:49), 14. Prisioneros (2:14), 15. San José (1:16), 16. Hermanos (0:59), 17. Primeros Votos (1:15), 18. Enfermos (0:49), 19. Madres de Desamparados (2:01), 20. Fundación de la Congregación (1:10), 21. Es un Cuervo (1:25), 22. Madre Visitación Expulsada/Problemas en Vélez (3:01), 23. Que Vergüenza (1:53), 24. Terremoto/Redimidas (1:43), 25. Papelitos (0:39), 26. Oración Nocturna (0:41), 27. A Cavar/Viaje a Roma (2:53), 28. Encuentro Con Su Santidad (1:46), 29. Ramon Enfermo (1:08), 30. Primeros Votos (Versión Alternativa) (1:11). Oscar Martín Leanizbarrutia, 52 minutes 56 seconds.


ROSE – Henrik Skram

Rose is a new Danish-language drama film written and directed by Niels Arden Oplev, starring Sofie Gråbøl and Lene Maria Christensen. It follows the lives of two sisters, Inger and Ellen, over the course of a week as their relationship is challenged during the build-up to coach trip to Paris.

The score for Rose is by the outstanding Norwegian composer Henrik Skram, of whom I am a fan – his scores for Crestfallen, Snøfall, Clue: The Maltese Mystery, and Ballet Boys are all excellent, with the latter being nominated for an IFMCA Award for Best Documentary Score in 2014. In press material for the album, Skram says that “composing for Rose was a real balancing act; trying to not overstate the moods and emotions on the screen while creating a musical surrounding that could represent the frail personality of the main character Inger; she embodies both the romantic waltz and the more unnerving drone-based underscores.”

As such, whereas many of those earlier works were often quite flamboyant and orchestrally dynamic works, Rose offers a different side to Skram’s musical personality. It was recorded in Hungary with the strings of the Budapest Arts Orchestra, augmented by solos by Norwegian violinist Catharina Chen in recorded in Oslo, and it’s an intimate and gentle score, full of gorgeous fluid piano textures, subtle shimmering electronics, soft and enigmatic strings, plucked harps. It all has a similar texture throughout – a sort of poignant sadness – but it weaves a captivating spell that I appreciated.

The “Versailles” cue is a little more classically rich, and has a sparkling violin solo, while the eponymous final cue, “Rose,” runs for almost six minutes and is just sublime. It might be a little too static and understated for some, but I liked the overall mood it presents. It’s short and sweet, calm, meditative, and introspective, with a couple of florid highlights that add a little panache to the proceedings and make it a worthwhile purchase.

The score is available as a digital download from Moviescore Media here: https://moviescoremedia.com/newsite/catalogue/rose-henrik-skram/

Track Listing: 1. Inger (2:33), 2. Happy Days (2:46), 3. Garden Variations (2:11), 4. Hedgehog Funeral (2:02), 5. Versailles (1:47), 6. The Visit (3:13), 7. Collateral (2:07), 8. Goodbye (1:39), 9. Nadir (0:54), 10. Night Call (2:07), 11. Retrieve (1:36), 12. Rose (5:39). Moviescore Media, 28 minutes 41 seconds.



Le Temps des Secrets (The Time of Secrets), is a new French film from director Christophe Barratier, adapted from Marcel Pagnol’s semi-autobiographical book, starring Guillaume de Tonquédec, Mélanie Doutey, François-Xavier Demaison, Anne Charrier, and Léo Campion. The film is set in France in 1905 and follows a teenage boy named Marcel who spends one last summer vacation in his beloved Provence before going to high school, and embarks on a series of life-changing adventures and romances.

The score for Le Temps des Secrets is by Philippe Rombi, and is the fourth collaboration between him and director Barratier after La Nouvelle Guerre des Boutons, L’Outsider, and Envole-Moi. It’s been a quiet few years for Rombi, who hasn’t really had a truly standout score in several years, but thankfully Le Temps des Secrets is a knockout, a real return to form. It was recorded with the prestigious Orchestre National d’Île-de-France, and the whole thing is redolent of a sweet, rose-tinted nostalgic childhood. There are moments of joy and ebullience, but these are tempered with moments of whimsy and melancholy and even a little more serious drama.

The main theme, introduced in “Ouverture – Valse des Secrets,” is a total ear-worm – gorgeous, elegant, lyrical writing for the full orchestra, led by piano and strings, and with some choir – but really the whole thing shines. Cues like the playful and sunny “Marcel et Lili,” “Le Temps des Punitions,” and “La Rentrée” are especially beautiful, and in the “Finale” the music rises to some sensational emotional heights. I noticed that some of the textures and chord progressions Rombi uses in some of the cues give me a John Williams vibe, especially his evocations of childhood in scores like E.T., which is something I did not expect but which I enjoyed immensely.

Anyone who enjoyed any of Philippe Rombi’s earlier scores like Angel, Jeux d’Enfants, Ricky, or Un Homme et son Chien, will absolutely adore Le Temps des Secrets as well. I certainly do. The score is available as an import CD from French record label Music Box.

Track Listing: 1. Ouverture – Valse des Secrets (2:47), 2. Les Retrouvailles (2:17), 3. Marcel et Lili (1:49), 4. La Rencontre (1:11), 5. Le Château des Bellons (1:27), 6. Le Cœur Battant (1:54), 7. Dilemme (1:58), 8. Le Piano d’Isabelle (1:12), 9. En Route Vers la Fronde (1:11), 10. Le Chevalier et la Princesse (3:12), 11. Enchantement (1:34), 12. Les Secrets (1:19), 13. Le Temps des Punitions (3:29), 14. La Rentrée (1:04), 15. À la Recherche d’Isabelle (1:57), 16. Augustine et Joseph (0:39), 17. Retour dans les Collines/Course au Lièvre (2:45), 18. La Grotte du Taoumé (3:47), 19. Le Serpent de Pétugue (1:27), 20. Désenchantement (2:39), 21. Final (3:25). Music Box Records, 43 minutes 13 seconds.

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  1. January 28, 2023 at 10:00 am

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