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In the spring of 2001, the “Ecoutez le cinéma!” collection published its first anthology devoted to Georges Delerue, built around the legendary score for Le Mépris (“Contempt”). In many respects the present album can be seen as its extension, its next step. The principle is identical, but adapted to another timescale: an instant portrait of the composer, this time between 1970 and 1975. Some listeners will also (correctly) see it as counterpoint to the double album “Le Cinéma de Philippe de Broca”, which is a gleeful synthesis of a collaboration in HiFi: the light melancholy (or melancholic lightness) of Les Caprices de Marie (“Give her the Moon”) or Tendre poulet (“Dear Inspector”) here give way to a more aggressive writing style, composing that has a more cutting edge and which is in some way more contemporary. Leaving behind the javas and waltzes of the suburbs, Delerue’s universe widens out into swathes of anxiety.


This new volume more or less consciously pulverizes a tenacious image: “Delerue, the prince of neo-classicism”, the image of a blotting-paper musician who’d been particularly influenced by the Renaissance. It’s true the composer played into the hands of music in costume without a second thought, resuscitating the pomp of the Court with many preludes and minuets. In this respect, even if the brilliant Grand choral for La Nuit américaine (“Day for Night”) remains one of his most famous pieces, it’s not his most personal work for all that.

Without ever disowning his baroque decals, Georges Delerue ventured into other territories, especially during the 1972-75 period. This is precisely the period concerned by our programme, which hinges on three decisive productions: Police Python 357 (“The Case against Ferro”), L’Important, c’est d’aimer (“That Most Important Thing, Love”) and Quelque part, quelqu’un (“Somewhere, Someone”). With these three films (and thanks to them, too), Delerue left Versailles and its great Water Music behind to establish himself brilliantly as a composer of his own time. Yet it was a position he was determined to qualify:


I wrote a very difficult main title for Police Python 357, but it’s no reason to stay with that kind of research. A film has many facets, and there are things with more gaiety and tenderness. A musician should still serve the cinematographer’s language, not any pre-established aestheticism.”


In 1975 Georges Delerue was fifty, and he’d come half way in his career as a composer: he had twenty years in films behind him, and almost as many still to come. The splendours of the Nouvelle Vague seemed far away already: what remained were his souvenirs, principally, and the loyalty of François Truffaut, even if it was plugged into an alternating current. Fifty years of age, a time for taking stock and a time for having doubts, too.

Would Delerue be a great composer, known and recognized, whose claims to fame already belonged to the past? A delightful turnaround in his career would prove the contrary: in the space of a few months he was reactivated by a new generation of filmmakers who were all movie buffs raised on his scores. More than fifteen years after the Nouvelle Vague, Delerue was suddenly solicited as a kind of reference, a landmark composer who was even a sort of guarantee. The new directors he worked with were Andrzej Zulawski and Alain Corneau, and they were thirty-four and thirty-two. 


For L’Important, c’est d’aimer and Police Python 357, Georges Delerue preserved the power of his lyricism, it was modern and disturbing; marked by the Vienna School, it had its eye on Kurt Weill (Ballade dérisoire) or Wagner (Largo from L’Important). This Delerue wielding a scalpel also haunted the images of Yannick Bellon in Quelque part, quelqu’un: an abstract score for a parable on urban dehumanization. In the same spirit, the composer deployed the colour chart of the fantastic, from terror to enchantment, for Malpertuis (“The Legend of Doom House”) by Belgian director Harry Kümel, a UFO of a movie with a staggering cast: Orson Welles and Sylvie Vartan! In principle, we were now a long way from Le Diable par la queue (“The Devil by the Tail”). But even so… This comedy of virtuosic velocity brought together Yves Montand, Daniel Boulanger for the scenario and Delerue for the music.

It was the same combination as Police Python. But on the one hand there was Philippe de Broca, on the other, Alain Corneau. It was as if each of these three collaborators in creation had revealed a different part of himself depending on the identity of the director. Commediante, tragediante.


So this is the concept behind this anthology. It was conceived, with Colette Delerue, in the hope that it would throw more light on another, more tormented side of the composer, perhaps an aspect that was more inward-looking. But we might add that, to avoid an overdose of darkness, a few splashes of light flash out here and there, notably in the romanticism of Les Aveux les plus doux (“The Most Gentle Confessions”), an Edouard Molinaro thriller, or in the inspired generosity of two films for television set in exotic latitudes, Paul Gauguin and Paul et Virginie. These were two broad, poetic scores that reflected an age when the small screen could still give rise to music in Cinemascope. In a word, if the portrait of Georges Delerue was a jigsaw puzzle, this new anthology would be the key piece.



STÉPHANE LEROUGE  - Juillet 2003



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