The Unpublished Film Music of Georges Delerue - Vol. 2Disques Cinemusique
Formats: CD, Digital (47 min)
Review: Escape Artist, The
4.5 / 5 Stars
There is an ongoing discussion among those interested in film scores over scores that are better than the films they accompany. I\'m sure if you think long enough about it, you can come up with your own list, music that you love in spite of the film that inspired it. I certainly have my own share of these scores, often guilty little pleasures that sit at the back of my shelf until I furtively pull them down for a clandestine listen.
One score that I rarely hear mentioned in those lists is Georges Delerue\'s The Escape Artist, but after listening to Percepto Records\'s outstanding release, I am firmly convinced that it deserves an exalted position. The Escape Artist is a little known film from Francis Ford Coppola\'s Zoetrope experiment. Most of the films from Coppola\'s studio were artful and interesting alternatives to traditional studio fare, but they rarely achieved much popular currency. The Escape Artist is no exception to the trend. From early on, however, many recognized that Delerue\'s score was both largely responsible for giving the fractured story a sense of continuity and one of the storied composer\'s best efforts.
A result of the acclaim is this limited edition (which has unfortunately sold out as of this writing) that boasts a completely remastered score, demo cues and out-takes, and extensive liner notes. From a production standpoint, this release is truly exceptional.
Fortunately from a musical standpoint it is a marvelous release as well. Delerue\'s style is not for everyone. He studied under Darius Milhaud in Paris and his music is full of French Neo-Classical trademarks, from his careful use of polytonality to his incorporation of early 20th century jazz harmonies and rhythms. The resulting sound can be a bit disorienting for anyone expecting a thematically and texturally cohesive score and remains the single biggest drawback to The Escape Artist. The score opens with a beautiful lilting melody on glockenspiel above strings. In style it is strange prescient of Danny Elfman\'s work in the 1990s. It then moves into "Getting Ready for the Big Time," a cue that begins with bitonal strings endlessly resolving and going nowhere until a mournful piano melody erupts, leading to the unexpected entrance of a harpsichord and oboe as the music picks up speed and changes character completely. This cue is quickly followed by the short "Danny\'s Arrival," a pulsating, jazz-influenced cue for saxophone, piano, and drum set. In three cues, whose combined length is less than five minutes, Delerue runs the gamut of styles.
You might be surprised for me to follow that description with the statement that the whole album works, but it does. It works because Delerue was careful to connect emotionally with his films and always search for a core experience that the audience would understand and relate to. Some of my favorite moments in the score are when Delerue takes one emotion and forcefully drills it home to his audience. In "Drowning," for instance, he constructs the entire cue on one procedure, slowly building a dissonant chord from the bottom up in the strings, building to an unbearable climax where he pulses the chord just to add emphasis. It is an intense sound, effectively communicating the terror on screen .
Most enjoyable are the outtakes included at the end. The original piano demo, the source tape faded through the years, adds an element of mystery to the ethereal "Main Title." The jazz band and high school band play jaunty themes and there are even two tracks of source music. These cues are an absolute treasure, allowing us to hear every note Delerue wrote for the movie.
Is The Escape Artist for everyone? I actually do not think so. Delerue is a acquired taste, much like the French New Wave films on which he cut his teeth. But is his music worth the effort to get to know? Absolutely. And The Escape Artist is a worthy place to begin your exploration.