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Music for French cinema for me is as exciting and original as the music that was penned for many Italian productions during the 1960,s and 1970,s, in fact music from French productions was in a way more sophisticated and certainly more romantic sounding. Numerous composers come to mind when talking of French film scores, but one composer that I have always been drawn to is Michel Polnareef, I think I first encountered his music in the form of a disco track entitled LIPSTICK which was a soundtrack but probably enjoyed more success in the discothèques of the 1970,s rather than as a piece of film music. Little did I know at the time that Polnareef was not only a respected musician but also a successful film music composer in his native France. One of the first scores that I purchased from the excellent Universal Jazz France series of soundtracks was by Polnareef, LA FOLIE DES GRANDEURS(1970) which contained a theme that for me at the time of hearing for the first time was pure SPAGHETTI WESTERN, of course the movie was not a western but a period drama/comedy set in sixteenth century Spain.

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It starred Yves Montand and Louis de Funes and I have to say contained one of the composers most lyrical and diverse works for cinema. This is a work that is filled with exciting and exhilarating themes, lavish and lush romantic tone poems and intimate and subdued pieces with some jazz orientated material finding its way into the proceedings at certain stages, the score is a work that is just as entertaining away from the images that they were intended to enhance, so Polnareef’s music works well within the context of the storyline supporting all the various scenarios that occur within the movie,(which are many) but it also stands on its own as an entertaining and infectious collection of musical themes. The composer utilises electric guitar, racing percussion, proud sounding brass and flyaway sounding strings to create an urgency within the opening cue, but although it is rather a busy and fast paced composition Polnareef establishes a lively and haunting theme from the off and maintains this throughout the cue, building upon it and all the time adding various instrumentation. The theme which is utilised as the love theme is heard throughout the score in various guises and arrangements, but it is always welcome as it is hauntingly beautiful, in some ways it is somewhat reminiscent of Roy Budd’s CRESTA’S SONG from SOLDIER BLUE, the composer introducing it via various instruments, harpsichord for example and strings and at one point a delightfully charming music box effect and also there is a choral version with the voices being supported by heavenly sounding strings. There are also a couple of cues where Polnareef brings electronics into the equation, adding a somewhat unworldly effect to the score.

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LA FOLIE DES GRANDEURS is one of those rare scores that will I think appeal to many and it is also a work that once listened to will be returned to many times and even placed on repeat. Released as part of the excellent Universal France soundtrack series that has been brought to us by Stephane Lerogue, as always presented marvellously with notes that are informative in both French and English, this is a must have soundtrack a veritable gem of a release, another score that Polnareef wrote for director Gerard Oury was THE VENGEANCE OF THE WINGED SERPENT, obviously the composer was inspired by this film maker as this too is an essential purchase, in many way similar to LA FOLIE DES GRANDEURS with a definite spaghetti western influence within its opening theme. Seek them both out NOW………

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