Thursday, July 19, 2007

Soundtrack #3: Tess (Phillipe Sarde)

Upon hearing Phillipe Sarde's final score for TESS, Roman Polanski was said to have broken down in tears. Sarde's score for TESS is as lovely and wondrous as the film itself and remains a high point in one of the most prolific of all modern film composers.
Born in France in 1945, Sarde scored his first film in 1970, the Claude Sautet film THE THINGS OF LIFE. Sarde quickly became one of the most in demand composers in the world and is known for his stirring and quite majestic themes. He would work with the talented Sautet several times and would supply the lovely Romy Schneider with some of her most memorable themes.
1973 would find Sarde scoring Marco Ferreri's LA GRANDE BOUFFE and this would start a collaboration between the two cinema mavericks that would result in Sarde scoring several of Ferreri's most intense works. It is also rumored that Ferreri based some of his most extreme characters on the lively Sarde.
In 1976 Sarde was hired by Polanski to score his masterful film, THE TENANT. Fans of Polanski know that scoring one of his films is a big task as the scores of Komeda for his most famous films in the sixties are pretty untoppable. Sarde quickly proved himself as one of Polanski's greatest composers as his work with THE TENANT was as unnerving and brilliant as the film itself.
After the success of Sarde's work on THE TENANT, Polanski asked him to score his upcoming TESS and Sarde delivered a score that still is possibly his finest. Sarde's Oscar nominated score is a moving and at times sweeping work that stands very much apart from a typical period piece movie. There is something remarkably fresh and modern sounding about Sarde's work but it never feels out of place with Polanski's images from the past.
The undoubtedly highlight of the score and the accompanying soundtrack album is the stunning main theme. The moving theme replays throughout the entire film and sections of it play well into other tracks on the album. The lp is a resounding success with each short piece playing off the other very nicely. Other highlights of the album include the lovely just over a minute long TESS AT GRAVESIDE and the lengthiest piece on the album, FINALE.
Sarde's TESS has had a slightly frustrating history on vinyl as well as cd. Originally available as a just under thirty minute lp with a number of musical cues from the film left off, the soundtrack finally appeared on an import French cd in a further abbreviated version matched up with THE TENANT. That cd is now out of print and the score is getting harder and harder to track down which is unfortunate and very frustrating.
Sarde would work with Polanski one more time on the doomed PIRATES in 1985. He continues to be one of the busiest and most in demand composers in the world with his most recent score being for the great Andre Techine's latest film.
TESS is my favorite work by Sarde and one of the best soundtracks to any of Nastassja's films. One hopes that one day it will get re-released with the complete score as it is a very valuable work that should be easily available.


Cinebeats said...

Interesting piece Jeremy! I haven't heard that many of Philippe Sarde's scores and I didn't realize he had worked so much with Polanski.

Rogue Spy 007 said...

This was a great article. I've never heard much of Sarde's scores either. He sounds fantastic though. If Polanski is a fan of his work, then he must be doing something right.

Jeremy Richey said...

I think his best score are the three with Polanski and his work with Ferreri. There is a great cd that Dusty Grooves carries with the Ferreri stuff...thanks to you both for commenting.