A Jarre-ing Train Trip
With just four film collaborations with director David Lean, Lyon-born Maurice Jarre (1924-2009), born 92 years ago today, would command a secure place among the greatest film composers. Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), A Passage to India (1984), all of which won Best Original Score Academy Awards®, and Ryan’s Daughter (1970) featured instantly memorable musical passages of majestic sweep and dramatic intensity that propelled the visually epic nature of the storytelling and proved indispensible to the overwhelming impact of each. Add the instrumentally adventurous, rhythmically propulsive and environmentally evocative scores of such other great movies as The Longest Day and Sundays and Cybele (both 1962), Is Paris Burning?, The Professionals and Grand Prix (all 1966), The Damned (1969), Fatal Attraction (1987), Gorillas in the Mist (1988), Ghost (1990), plus his Peter Weir quintet – The Year of Living Dangerously (1983), Witness (1985), The Mosquito Coast (1986), Dead Poets Society (1989) and Fearless (1993) – and a couple dozen more romance, thriller and comedy titles in between and beyond and you’ll have a complex mosaic of the musical DNA of late 20th-century cinemagoing unmatched by few composers. While he could ably and gracefully support the soulful and moody romantic coupling of lost souls in The Only Game in Town (1970) or the psychologically charged climate of the lurid World War II all-star thriller The Night of the Generals (1967), both currently available on Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray with Isolated Score Tracks, he also excelled at driving suspense and portraying dogged heroism, exemplified by his propulsive, screw-tightening score for director John Frankenheimer’s brilliantly executed wartime adventure The Train (1964), starring Burt Lancaster as an initially reluctant but ultimately undaunted resistance fighter who battles to derail the removal of priceless art treasures from occupied France by a calculating Nazi general (Paul Scofield). As Film Score Monthly observed in a website essay: “Maurice Jarre's pulsating music for The Train drives the gritty physical action. Whereas Bernard Herrmann's "black-and-white" score for Psycho features solely strings, Jarre turns the "black and white" concept on its head to provide nothing but color. He omits strings from his orchestra, leaving woodwinds, percussion, brass and accordion, turning the train into a living, breathing creature that is equated with Lancaster in unstoppable power. Jarre's percussive, snarling textures provide action and tension, while his distinctive melodies put a uniquely French heart into the patriotic effort to preserve the art.” The shimmering orchestral art that Jarre injects into The Train, also starring Jeanne Moreau, Michel Simon, Suzanne Flon and Wolfgang Priess, is preserved and will again become available (complete with Isolated Score Track) when the film returns to the TT Blu-ray library next month after an initial sell-out run. Be sure to catch The Train on October 11. Preorders open September 28.