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8.225136 - AURIC: Symphonie Pastorale (La) / Macao, L'Enfer du jeu
Georges Auric: Symphonie Pastorale (La) / Macao, L'Enfer du jeu
Georges Auric studied at the Conservatoires of Montpellier and Paris and finally at the Schola Cantorum with Vincent d'Indy. In his early twenties he joined the composers Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc, Louis Durey and Germaine Tailleferre to form the famous Groupe des Six, of which Cocteau was a patron. Auric's talents are to be found predominantly in his music for the theatre and the screen. In addition to his ballets Les Matelots, Pastorale, Les Enchantements de la Fée Alcine, La Concurrence, Les Imaginaires, Le Peintre et son Modèle, Phèdre (on a libretto by Cocteau), Chemin de Lumière, La Chambre and Euridice written for the ballet companies of Sergey Dyagilev, Ida Rubinstein and David Lichine, his incidental scores and his opera Sous le masque, Auric's credits as a composer can be found on some forty French, forty American and fifteen British films. As a writer of both complete scores and of songs, Auric collaborated during almost half a century with such directors as Marc Allégret, Jean Delannoy, Henri-Georges Clouzot, Max Ophüls, William Wyler, John Houston, Otto Preminger, Charles Crichton, Thorold Dickinson, Terence Young and Henry Cornelius. Among his best known scores for British and American films are Passport to Pimlico (1949), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), Moulin Rouge (1952), Roman Holiday (1953), Bonjour Tristesse (1957), Notre-Dame de Paris (1957) and The Innocents (1961). Above all, however, Auric is to be remembered for his unique collaboration with Jean Cocteau, including six films that were directed by Cocteau himself (Le Sang d'un Poète, La Belle et la Bête, Les Parents Terribles, L 'Aigle à deux Têtes, Orphée and Le Testament d'Orphée) and three directed by others, but with Cocteau as a script-writer (L'Eternel Retour, Ruy BIas and Thomas l'Imposteur).
La Symphonie Pastorale
André Gide's short novel La Symphonie Pastorale was first published in 1919. It had been written in the mountain region of Switzerland, where the tragic action takes place. Marcel Delannoy's film was shot in 1946 and released in the same year at the Cannes Festival, where it was awarded the Grand Prix for the best French film. First prizes went also to Michèle Morgan, the female protagonist, and to Georges Auric, the composer. La Symphonie Pastorale belongs to the earlier career of Michele Morgan and among the sixty films she had made between 1935 and 1987 may be considered one of her best.
The script tells the story of Gertrude, a blind orphan girl, brought to live with the family of Pastor Jean Martin (Pierre Blanchar). In spite of the opposition of his wife Amélie (Line Noro), Jean decides that Gertrude should become a part of the family. He sees to her education himself, as she grows up, but, in her beauty and innocence, she becomes the cause of crisis and ruin in the family. Not only is Amélie increasingly jealous of Gertrude's beauty and Jean's affection for her, but Jacques, the Pastor's eldest son (Jean Desailly), falls in love with her, causing Jean's jealousy. Jacques is sent away by his father and the relationship between Jean and Gertrude becomes increasingly passionate, although still platonic. After an operation that restores Gertrude's sight, Jacques secretly visits her at the hospital and she falls in love with him, the man she has seen first and who has first kissed her. From now on she rejects Jean's love for her. The conflict between father and son reaches its climax, but so does Amélie's jealousy. After Amélie has violently declared her hatred for Gertrude, the cause of ruin in the family, the girl runs away and drowns herself in an icy river.
The score of La Symphonie Pastorale was written in 1946, the year of Auric's masterly score for Cocteau's La Belle et la Bête (Marco Polo 8.223765). Both can be considered landmarks in the history of French film music. The jury of the Société des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Editeurs de Musique, of which Auric was years later to become president, paid a highly deserved tribute to this work, a most unusual event at the time, since film music was not yet the object of specialist attention, especially as this was a case of a score of symphonic dimensions. Both scores were far above the traditionally illustrative or leitmotif-bound style of most film scores of the time, in Europe and in Hollywood, of which many revealed their commercial intentions by basing themselves on or including popular songs or jazz elements. Anyone who sees La Symphonie Pastorale today can consider himself lucky, since the recording and editing of the sound track was carried out professionally, with excellent results, compared with many other films of the time, including La Belle et la Bête.. In other words, a comparative and analytical study of Auric's score can be made much more easily and in detail.
By editing the present four-movement concert suite, I decided not only to use the most important and longest musical sequences, but also those which are associated with moments of crisis in the story. These occur in the second half of the film, starting at the moment at which Gertrude has regained her sight and is being kissed by Jacques, realizing that her love is tragically divided between two objects of desire and that she no longer wants the man who had formed her and actually initiated her into spiritual love, Jean, but desires the one to whom she feels sexually attracted by instinct.
Auric's score, avoiding constantly recurrent leitmotifs associated with the principal characters, provides a perfect emphasis and counterpoint to this psychological drama, all set in a peaceful but icy winter landscape. Tragedy can be emphasized if it takes place in silent and tranquil surroundings. This may not necessarily be felt in reading Gide's novel, but is strongly present in the film. In this music passionate moments are short and more lyrical moments often suddenly become mysterious and uncanny or anticipate disaster. The element of nature is stressed by an orchestra that at times suggests moments of cold and iciness, and the psychological world of the leading characters ranges from moments of innocence (Gertrude) or jealousy and hate (Amélie) to passion and despair (Jean and Jacques). The short, sweeping triple rhythm melody, reaching a climax already at the beginning of the Générique, or at the end of Entre deux amours and Le refus et la haine with tutti strings, or with a solo violin in the central section of Gertrude, could be identified as a love theme, since on the screen Gertrude is kissed at those moments, but love itself, in its various forms, and especially as long as it is still unexpressed or suppressed, or when its urge becomes almost tragic, can be illustrated by a sensitive composer like Auric by more sympathetic means, and this more through short themes or music cells which occur openly or in hidden or varied forms throughout the score, even though the action does not show this clearly on the screen. The landscape itself lets us feel through music from time to time those different aspects of love, becoming in this way an observer or commentator on the psychological action. A path in the snow, if it has to receive the footprints of a desperate woman, ready to commit suicide, is illustrated by Auric with hollow C and G major chords over ambiguously dissonant, icy arpeggios from the harp and piano, leading to a chromatic and increasingly more dissonant outburst from the whole orchestra (Désespoir). As in La Belle et la Bête, vibraphone, piano, celesta and harp often provide effects of mystery and symbolic colour and Auric's tremoli and his impressionistic scales in thirds never become cheap. It is also interesting to discover that the music associated with the relationship between Jean and Gertrude is mostly in quadruple time and that of Jacques and Gertrude in triple, while clashes between the two loves offer an alternation between quadruple and triple. Gertrude's decision to leave the family to which she has brought ruin and her suicide is in a definite 4/4 rhythm, not only for the obvious reason that a desperate woman running away should be depicted in an even rhythm, but also because Gertrude realises that she fatally belongs to Jean and not to Jacques, and we indeed hear in these moments reminiscences of the love music of the Pastor, the man who will find her dead and embrace her for ever at the end of the film.
Valse et Tango are two source music pieces by Auric that are heard in the film as coming from a gramophone during a party scene. The first of these accompanies the moment when Jacques invites Gertrude, still blind, to her first dance, after he has danced a Tango with his fiancée Piette. While these short, charming and witty pieces are conceived for a typical dance music ensemble with saxophone, some percussion, reduced strings and piano, the remaining music of La Symphonie Pastorale is scored for a full symphony orchestra, with double woodwind and triple brass, together with cor anglais and tuba, and extended percussion, including timpani and some additional instruments such as vibraphone, piano, harp and celesta. The soundtrack was conducted by Roger Désormière (1898-1963), a friend and collaborator of Auric for many years, who was himself a skilful composer and arranger of film scores.
Macao, I'enfer du jeu
There seems to be no film involving Erich von Stroheim (1885-1957) either as a director or as an actor that was free from difficulties. Macao, l' enter du jeu, or simply Macao, a French production of 1939 directed by Jean Delannoy and with dialogue by Roger Vitrac, could only be released in 1942, after various unpleasant circumstances that had arisen with the outbreak of World War II. The film, in which the exterior scenes were shot not in the South China Sea but on the French Riviera, was prohibited by the German invaders in 1940 because von Stroheim was a notorious anti-Nazi, and Delannoy had to reshoot all his scenes with the actor Pierre Renoir. The original version was, of course, still shown secretly during the Occupation and was the one to be distributed after the War, but apparently not without some further changes.
The story, inspired by a novel by Maurice Dekobra, begins in Canton during the Japanese-Chinese war. Hubert Krall (Stroheim), a shady adventurer and lady-killer, helps to rescue a pretty music-hall singer, Mireille (Mireille Balin), from her troubles by taking her onto his yacht sailing to Macao, where a shipment of arms has to be collected for smuggling. Ying-Tchai (Sessue Hayakawa), an apparently honest bank-manager, in reality the chief of the Macao mafia, is Krall's business partner. Krall has no cash and Mireille offers to persuade Ying-Tchai to give him credit by seducing him, but this manuvre fails when Ying-Tchai learns that she is Krall's protégée. Meanwhile Ying-Tchai's daughter Jasmine, having discovered the true identity of her father, escapes to Krall's yacht to meet Pierre, a French reporter with whom she has fallen in love and who will take her away shortly before Ying-Tchai's agents blow up the cargo and crew. Hearing that Jasmine was Krall's hostage, Ying-Tchai at last delivers the arms to him, but through the intervention of a spy orders to destroy Kralls' ship have already been given. Believing that his daughter has been killed, Ying- Tchai sets fire to his gambling-house, Eldorado, and shoots himself.
The 1952 feature film Macao, directed by Josef von Stemberg, starring Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell, with a score by Constantin Bakaleinifoff, is one of almost a dozen films that follow the first French version, involving China's answer to Marseilles and its criminal underworld.
It may be disappointing to learn that a suite has been edited from Auric's score, of which only the second movement can be identified in the film, with the rest coming from a stack of music certainly bearing the title Macao but with no subtitles for single cues, having no connection with the finally edited print of the film. Since we know that the film had to undergo more than two alterations, we may guess that the present music belonged to the first version. The final print, in fact, also contains some musical cues with different, more or less 'historical' sounding quality, and the witty Chinoiserie belongs to the group that has a more primitive quality of recording. Nevertheless, it is more important to speculate as to why other pieces of music had to be written and why the autograph manuscripts have been lost. The first question may easily be answered by comparing the final version with the earlier scores: Auric's original pieces are not particularly dramatic or too abstract, which means that they may not have satisfied Delannoy's requirements. This is one further reason for me, since I find the earlier pieces superior, in any case, to promote a soundtrack which remained unrealised, like those two classic examples of rejected original scores for Hitchcock's Torn Curtain and Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Chinoiserie is still included in the present suite, resembling an exotic intermezzo by the side of the remaining pieces in somewhat neo-classical style, and I hope purists will forgive this. Georges Auric's music is constantly cross-boarding, in any case, and before his work is subjected to detailed analysis it should be enjoyed in all its freshness, as long as it is clearly good and interesting. By 1939 Auric had already written some sixteen film scores for French directors such as Jean Cocteau, René Clair, Pierre Chenal and Marc Allégret, and Macao was already the second score for Marcel Delannoy, for whom he was to write a dozen altogether, works that on analysis would prove astounding enough.
In style Macao sounds, as already mentioned, more neo-classical and transparent in instrumentation and structure, in a way close to the Neue Sachlichkeit favoured by composers like Maurice Jaubert and Arthur Honegger in their earlier film scores. These were conceived for a Berliner ensemble of chamber dimensions, also to fit the rather primitive sound recording techniques of the time, in that some instruments or instrumental combinations could not be used without problems of acoustics or balance, in addition to the need for a smaller string section in which a piano was essential to emphasize tutti sections. Nevertheless, Auric's incredible feeling for atmosphere and colour reveals some exciting music which I am convinced is superior to that heard in the final version of the film, even though this last may better attain its dramatic and atmospheric effects. It can even be said that all the pieces in the present suite, except Chinoiserie, sound as if they could have been conceived for random use, while the score as released is definitely more tied to the image on the screen. I have tried several times to place these pieces in the film print, consulted while working on these scores and sketches, but without success: Auric may also have written some pieces for scenes that were later cut. In other words some mystery remains over the music for Macao. On the matter of Chinoiserie it might be mentioned that this underscores a scene in which Pierre's hurried sight-seeing in Macao in a shaky cab is interrupted by a gunfight between gangsters, and that in a later cue a variation of it is used in a flight scene.
The third and fourth movements contain sections which can be easily identified as neo-Bachian and the opening Marche of the fifth sounds like a tribute to the neo-realist Prokofiev. Some elements of the eerie Auric of his Cocteau period already appear in the beginning of the fourth movement and after the Marche, but they seem to be constructed as studies, while the Ouverture itself is perhaps Auric's most obvious homage to Neue Sachlichkeit. This suite requires, besides the usual strings, an ensemble of two flutes, clarinets, trumpets and trombones, and only one oboe and bassoon, with modest percussion, glockenspiel, xylophone, harp and piano. Louis Wins appears to be the conductor of the sound track of this obviously ill-fated picture, of which Delannoy himself related in an interview that the shooting of von Stroheim' s scene was becoming expensive not only because of his enormous fees, but also since he demanded that the white trousers of his uniform should be ironed over and over again.
Do rififi chez les hommes
The American-bom Jules Dassin, one of the great outsiders among film-makers, who has produced films in the USA and in Europe, is the author of some classics, including Topkapi, Never on Sunday, Phaedra, The Naked City and Rififi.
Rififi or Du rififi chez les hommes (1954) has become the epitome of French film noir, with the moral that crime does not pay. This message, however, eluded the censors, who, in some towns in Europe, banned a film that seemed to incite crime, shown there in detail from its very inception. Other reasons were that the film featured a burglary scene presented as comedy and that the intellectual and scientific way in which the crime had been prepared would make audiences forget its dangerous reality. Curiously enough, censors seemed not to have been shocked by the cold-blooded portrayal of the showdown after the burglary, in which all the participants would be gunned down, one by one. What certainly remains on this film is a twenty-minute scene without dialogue or music, showing four experts breaking into a jeweller's shop from a room above, using, besides various ingenious devices, a simple umbrella to collect the falling rubble. This scene makes us really forget about the reality and when I first saw it I recognised in it the parody of a surgical operation. In Topkapi Dassin would re-create, ten years later, another burglary 'coming from above', a dramatic device that still fascinates directors today, if we think, for example, of a famous sequence in Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible. In addition to his own performance in the rôle of the lady-killing Italian safe-cracker Cesare, Dassin added to the underworld cast of Rififi actors like Jean Servais, Carl Mohner and Robert Manuel. Magali Noël appeared in the rôle of the music-hall singer.
In the Main Title of his score Auric uses the theme of a blues written by Philippe-Gérard and Willy Dehmer, occurring later in a singing sequence of the film. In this an attempt is made to explain the word rififi, which, as the lyrics explain, will not be found in any dictionary. It seems that it was just after the success of this film that the underworld slang term rififi (meaning something like 'punch-up' or 'brawl') found its way into the dictionary. Auric quotes the blues literally in the Générique, but before this he builds up a nervously rising opening section, the musical cell of which is already this same theme. This will occasionally be taken up in the following musical cues, in different hidden and varied forms, either as a short theme or as an accompanying cell. In the second movement, Préparatifs, this eight-note cell is already transformed into a pointed, scherzo-like fugato, excellently underlining the skill of the four gangsters, as they meticulously prepare their crime. It is an excellent example of music constructed with an almost obsessive precision, like the work of a clockmaker, gradually reaching a tense impact and a sudden relieving sensual climax. As for the third movement, Cambriolage - Le magot, Dassin had decided at the editing desk that the whole burglary scene would gain in tension by the elimination of dialogue and music. Auric had to withdraw his certainly interesting cue, which I have here restored, while totally agreeing with Dassin's decision. It is a march-Iike piece of music, rather pessimistic in mood, leading us to guess that even after the success in breaking into the safe with the diamonds, events will take an unpleasant turn. A relatively rare occasion in Auric's career is the inclusion of a cue reference on his manuscript (Le coffre est percé - The safe has been cracked): after the march music has become solemn and almost funerary, it becomes nervous again and reaches a climax in a distorted, yearning version of the blues theme, answered by fragments of an eerie fanfare, far from suggesting triumph. The last movement, Règlement de comptes, is the most dramatic and musically complex and here an atmosphere of bitterness and resignation prevails. The way the betrayed gangsters will have to defend their own lives by hopeless efforts to eliminate their enemies appears in a meticulousness similar to the way in which the burglary had been prepared. This showdown is seen in a merciless atmosphere, in which the rescue of the kidnapped son of one of the leading characters has become a new dramatic element. Gloomy march sections with dissonant interventions, nervous chromatic cross-overs and chorale-like themes, becoming at times ironically heroic, are heard. The return of the hectic blues-cell sequence from the Générique is gradually prepared, before ending in a short, reflective coda, leading to dramatic final chords.
With Rififi Auric enriched European film music by his highly original underscoring of a film noir of the great period of black-and-white cinema. In its anti-traditionalistic musical language, avoiding the usual 'long, sweeping melody' way of scoring films, it even surpasses those excellent early film noir scores by Miklós Rózsa for The Killers and The Naked City (the latter, as already mentioned, a film by Jules Dassin). Rózsa, bound to his usual (long sweeping) language, influenced too by Bartók and KodáIy, had also felt the need for a more demanding musical style that would add further dimensions to crime movies. In the 1950s in Hollywood this tendency would be further developed by the inclusion of jazz, exemplified outstandingly in famous scores like that for Crime in the Streets by Franz Waxman and The Man with the Golden Arm by Elmer Bernstein.
Rififi calls for large symphonic forces with the addition of three saxophones, an enlarged percussion section, harp, piano and celesta.
Le salaire de la peur
Henri-Georges Clouzot (1907-1977) directed seventeen films between 1931 and 1968, amongst which Le salaire de la peur, Les Diaboliques, Le Corbeau and Quai des Orfevres were masterpieces, not only in the history of French cinema. It is unfortunate, that this did not prevent Hollywood cinemascope remakes of the first two of these, as was the case with some of Hitchcock's great films, reminding us that Clouzot was in many ways a French Hitchcock.
Le salaire de la peur (Wages of Fear, 1953), a prize-winner at the 1953 Cannes Festival, became a cult film also, thanks to its magnificent actors Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Folco Lulli and Peter Van Eyck. Based on a novel by Georges Amaud, the script deals with the adventurous journey of four men on two trucks loaded with nitro-glycerine through the mountains of South America, from which only one man and one truck will reach their destination. The survivor, paid his wages of two thousand dollars, is eventually killed by accident during his euphoric journey home in the same truck. At the end there is nobody left to be proud of success in this battle against nitro-glycerine. The picture became a great financial success, even though the American press suspected Clouzot of being a communist, since in his script he had shown SOC, a fictitious American oil company, in an unfavourable light. Incidentally it was the same Yves Montand that William Friedkin approached in 1976, while assembling the cast of his remake. Montand, of course, refused.
Here there is no need for a long discussion of the music. Auric was delighted to furnish two short cues, a Générique and a Final, the second of which was an arrangement and at the same time a 'Reader's Digest' version of Johann Strauss's The Blue Danube, which in the final scene montage of the film is heard coming from a radio in a café-dansant and from the radio of Montand's truck. The waltz, of course, remains incomplete, since the truck careers down a precipice with tremendous crashing noises. Since this is a scene that has become part of European film history, I have included it in the present recording in Auric's arrangement for a large orchestra that even includes two guitars, but left it incomplete in order to give an authentic impression of the reason for the interruption of the waltz, adding the noise of the crash, re-created, and ending the release with a dissonance that I hope will not discourage listeners from further music by Auric.
The short Générique of Le salaire de la peur is a curious percussion piece for an ensemble of xylophone, vibraphone, maracas, claves, temple blocks, timpani, gong and drums, supported by electric and acoustic guitars, two cellos and harp. This might be seen as a modest tribute to Edgar Varèse. The Spanish theme in the central episode should lead audiences to the Peruvian oil town of Las Piedras, where Clouzot's thriller starts.
In this fourth volume of film scores by Georges Auric, featuring music from four black-and-white masterworks of the French post-war period, the usual procedure of editing film scores for recordings has been applied, including the assignation of titles to all cues which were missing on the manuscripts and in the absence of surviving cue sheets. Some shorter cues had to be slightly arranged if they were combined, and in some other cases, there had to be instrumental retouching. As already mentioned, the fact that many cues are heard here for the fIrst time in complete form gives authentic indication of the composer's original intentions, before his music had to suffer the more or less brutal interventions of the cutting-room. Auric's contribution to the domain of film music can be considered as of absolute value and still remains largely unexplored today. He had almost withdrawn from composition for the concert hall by making his living as a composer for the theatre and the cinema and that is further proof of the high opinion he had for these areas of creativity, of which many musicologists and critics today still hold ridiculously derogatory opinions.
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