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                  THE GEORGES DELERUE MUSEUM
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THE MUSICIAN

HE LEFT HIS MARK ON A WHOLE GENERATION OF COMPOSERS.
HIS UNIQUE, UNFORGETTABLE WORKS HAVE TRAVELLED 
TO THE FOUR CORNERS OF THE WORLD…

Because it results from combining many diverse talents, cinema is one of the grand expressions of emotions in contemporary society. Like music, it crosses all geographical and cultural barriers.

Although he was an avid movie-goer, Georges Delerue never imagined, at the beginning of his career, that he would see his name on credits rolling over film screens throughout the world. He preferred to imagine that he would be a kind of Richard Strauss, blossoming in orchestral compositions for large symphonies. It was as a well-trained musician and theatrical composer that he began doing film scores, finding his way there in composing for short films and advertising spots, in which he mastered the precise timing necessary in marrying music and sound.

 

In 1959, Pierre Kast was making "Le Bel Age" and Delerue, who would compose several short musical scores for Kast, worked with him, along with the composer Alain Goraguer, on that film, his first long film score.

But his work in the same year on Philippe de Broca's "Les Jeux de l'Amour" (1959), produced what Delerue considered his first true musical score. Also working on the film was a young man by the name of Philippe de Broca, an assistant to Chabrol. De Broca was eager to meet Delerue, whose lively music for a publicity spot had caught the ear of the young assistant. They were each taken by the wit of the other and began a fruitful collaboration in the making of seventeen films during which they became close friends.

 

Also in 1959, another young director, François Truffaut, had made his first film,"The Four Hundred Blows" which sent a kind of electrical shock through cinematic conventions, helping to establish what became known as the New Wave.

 

Other directors associated with this historical moment in cinema were Alain Resnais, Eric Rohmer, and Jean-Luc Godard.

The ideas of these young directors departed radically from many of those currently in vogue, and had a special effect on film scoring. Composers were usually paid for the quantity of music they wrote and in most cases they were employed simply to dress up the film musically, providing what Stravinsky called musical "wallpaper".

One of the new ideas championed by Delerue was to use music in a film with serious restraint: "where words are not enough or the image or the sound effects are not sufficient by themselves, only then should music be heard." In this way, the music of a film score acquires special strength and purpose. Music should not simply be illustrative accompaniment but should enter dynamically into cinematic rhythm, counter-pointing an interruption of sound, a sudden appearance, or a movement in time or space.        

One thinks for example of the completely original use of the famous theme of Camille in Godard's "Contempt" (1963). Godard wanted this thematic repetition to give to his film a universal and bewitching quality.

The composer's collaboration with the film director is, of course, essential, but that with the film editor is just as important. Dialogue between the composer and the editor often results in shortening or lengthening a sequence in order to find its best musical and cinematic impact with the best balance, fluidity, or contrast between music and image.

If the particular adagio in that film would forever be associated with Delerue, another film which he scored, François Truffaut's Jules and Jim (1961), would also have a wide resonance in the music of cinema and major consequences for Delerue's career.

The English director Ken Russell, a warm admirer of the score for "Jules and Jim", invited Delerue to do the score for "French Dressing" (1964) and later for Women in Love (1970). Charmed by Georges Delerue, Russell decided to do a documentary film about him, called Don't Shoot the Composer (1966).

This was a satirical comedy produced by the BBC in which Delerue played himself, resulting in a Chinese box structure or mise en abyme, the composer composing a score for a film about a musician composing a score. Following the appearance of this film, Delerue came to the attention of producer Fred Zinnemann, who recognized the creative potential of such a composer and asked him to do the music for "A Man for All Seasons" (1966). The film would be a huge success, crowned by an Oscar for Best Film of the Year. It would spread the fame of Delerue to the United States.

Thereupon followed several collaborations with Jack Clayton, and, in America, with such directors as John Huston "A Walk with Love and Death'' (1969), Mike Nichols (Day of the Dolphin, 1973), Ulu Grosbard "True Confession",1981 , Georges Cuckor (Rich and Famous, 1981).

In 1979 he won an Oscar for Best Film Score for Georges Roy Hill's Little Romance. In France, Delerue's career was at its height and success followed upon success : La Passante du Sans-Souci (Jacques Rouffio, 1982), L'incorrigible (Philippe de Broca, 1975), L'important c'est d'Aimer (Andrzej Zulawski, 1974), Police Python 357 (Alain Corneau, 1976). 

His work was crowned with three César in 1979, 1980 and 1981 for "Préparez vos Mouchoirs",Bertrand Blier, L'amour en Fuite, François Truffaut and Le Dernier Métro, François Truffaut.

Nevertheless, working conditions remained difficult in France, where music continued to be essentially the poor cousin of cinema. In 1983 Delerue would leave for Los Angeles like Maurice Jarre, Michel Colombier, and Michel Legrand before him.There he discovered that he was well known for the score for Phillip de Broca's "The King of Hearts" (Le Roi de Cœur, 1966), which was mostly ignored in France. From that point on, most of Delerue's compositions would be for American films.

He would of course also work on those French projects that truly interested him, such as "Chouans!" (1988), his last collaboration with Philippe de Broca or "Dien Biên Phu" (1991), directed by Pierre Schœndoerffer, along with his own memorable Concerto de l'adieu.

His intended return to the northern regions of France to do the music for Claude Berry's Germinal would, alas, never take place, for Georges Delerue would die on March 20, 1992.


That would have been one more French film for which he surely would have written another masterful score.

 

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