The Artist/Ludovic Bource
February 3, 2012
If ever a film of recent vintage deserves the Oscar for best original music The Artist has my vote. If Michel Hazanavicious was looking for something unique to do he certainly achieved it with this black and white silent film. There is no dialog only the wonderful soundtrack which becomes the voice of the film. The story begins in 1927 as George Valentin played by Jean Dujardin is nearing the end of a long and successful career as a silent star. He meets Peppy Miller, an extra, who is going to become a star in the ‘talkies’ which are right around the corner. In his refusal to adapt to the inevitable they fall in love as the story is told. It costars James Cromwell, John Goodman, Ed Lauter, Penelope Ann Miller, and Malcolm McDowell.
As the music was the voice of the film Ludovic Bource was able to take full advantage of the opportunity to craft a soundtrack that is a standalone experience away from the film. Featuring the Flanders Philharmonic the soundtrack offers symphonic, modern, big band, 20’s sound, and classical as well as making use of early Duke Ellington recordings. This is my first experience with a Bource soundtrack and overall I was very impressed with what he brought to the film.
Highlights from the 78 minute soundtrack include a big band arrangement “Peppy and George” mimicking the same style as the famous Benny Goodman “Sing Sing Sing with a Swing” with a rhythm that makes you want to get up and dance. This is the final scene of the picture where George and Peppy are doing an Astaire/Rogers dance. “The Artist Ouverture,” begins the film with a strong reference to Waxman’s Sunset Boulevard, a similar plot to the film. It is a very brief cue that offers crisp staccato brass and a strong major key melody from the strings. “1927 A Russian Affair” offers an obvious reference to Waxman’s The Bride of Frankenstein complete with the monster motif in a scene where George is being tortured with electricity. It also offers references to Herrmann’s On Dangerous Ground, with that haunting brass fanfare. The brass section gets a workout with some very quick well played double tonguing passages. “George Valentin” is the perfect theme for our silent star actor. Happy go lucky, somewhat comical it will be used in other tracks. “Pretty Peppy” is the theme for our heroine and has a similar sound to George’s theme but has an air of gaiety and style about it. “At the Kinograph Studios” continues in the same style although one is lulled into thinking more of something that Gershwin might have done. “Waltz for Peppy” is an elegant track that offers the Peppy theme in a traditional waltz. “Silent Rumble” is certainly a fun track filled with more references to Waxman, Korngold, and John Williams. “Estancia” is from the ballet composed by Alberto Ginastera and is a lush romantic interlude. “My Suicide” makes one think of a Bernard Herrmann idyll such as “For The Fallen.” In fact the temp track was from Vertigo and is used in the film as the track wasn’t ready in time for the Cannes Film Festival premiere. Included in the mix of material are a piano sonata “Comme Une Rosee De Larmes,” a minor themed very sad “The Sound of Tears,” and the quite comical “Jungle Bar,” which makes effective use of the bass clarinet and percussion, and a Dies Irae reference in “L’Ombre Des Flammes.” Rounding out the material is “Pennies from Heaven,” “Imagination,” and “Jubilee Stomp,” all source material well used in the score.
This is a fun easy on the ears experience that is easy to recommend if you’re looking to recapture some of the Golden Age. Nicely performed by the Flanders Philharmonic and well recorded with clear crisp treble and deep resonant bass I’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t win the Oscar. I’ve included a couple of audio clips. 01 – The Artist Ouverture Peppy and George
Total Duration: 01:17:58