Thanks to the internet and also because of digital platforms such as Spotify etc, these days we are able to discover more in the way of film music, anyway that’s what I think, the other week I had a bit of time and decided to scroll through Spotify (other digital platforms are of course available). Anyway, I discovered a few names that I thought sounded interesting, so I explored them and their music, in 70 percent of cases I was pleasantly surprised, we will not discuss the other 30 percent as they are irrelevant as we will not be talking of them (ever again).
There were a few composers who I explored and thought ok, yes, pretty good then I happened upon Gregoire Hetzel, and I have to really truthful and tell you I was just blown away by his style and also the varied sounds and moods he created on his film scores, I found myself searching further and further back because I was worried I had missed out on so many musical delights, and guess what? I was right, his musical canon is just outstanding and filled with various works for film and TV that are not only superb in every way but are also so varied and wonderfully written and orchestrated. It is rare these days that we as film music collectors get excited about discovering new music or in this case older music that I was not aware of. If you like me have in recent years become slightly disenchanted with the Hollywood film score, or the scores for so called blockbusters, then taking a listen to this composer will be like a breath of fresh sea air, that will metaphorically blow away the cobwebs of so called titanic film composers or giants in the world of film music. So, I thought maybe a review of one of his scores, then I thought why stop at one, let’s see what is there and tell the world about them. (well the MMI readers anyway). Ready, ok let’s start with a score from 2018, L’AMORE EST UNE FETE, which I will not disguise is a work that I just love. The films alternative title was PARIS PIGALLE and was a comedy made in France helmed by filmmaker Cedric Anger.
What I was so drawn to about this score was that at points within the soundtrack there are certain references and sounds that refer to the Italian produced Giallo scores from the 1960;s and 1970;s as penned by Gianni Ferrio, Bruno Nicolai, Gianni Marchetti and of course Morricone and Cipriani. Plus there are certainly more than just acknowledging nods in the direction of French Maestro,s Pierre Bachelet, Francis Lai, Michel Magne and even Francois De Roubauix, it has that kind of vibe that essence and that persona. With Hetzel purveying a musical homage to it seems all of the aforementioned, but at the same time infusing and adding his own unique musical fingerprint and identity to the proceedings. I am not saying that this is not an original work, because when you hear it you will yourself hear that that is clear.
All I am saying is that the composer seems to have taken the sound as realised by composers of the 1960’s and 1970’s and given it new life, fresh vibrancy and also added his own original twist. There is harpsichord, lilting woods, smooth strings and also exquisite light and delicate guitar that is enticing and emotive. Piano too features and that is when I thought of Stelvio Cipriani with his haunting themes for films such as THE ANONYMOUS VENETIAN, plus there are a handful of performances that feature a wordless female voice, again akin to the world of the Italian film score as in Morricone’s LOVE CIRCLE or even Fidenco’ EMMANUELLE movie scores, sultry, steamy but always thematic and haunting. What I adore about this score, is that there are so many themes, motifs, nuances and musical passages it is just very hard to take it all in on one listen, in fact I guarantee that once listened you will return to it again and again. This is tantalising and highly entertaining work, which for me personally evokes the glory days of discovering the brilliance of Italian and French film scores, so many years ago. I dare you to listen to track number sixteen, FIN DE TOURNAGE and not think of CINEMA PARADISO or ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA. This is a perfect score a beautiful one and also an affecting one as well. There are a handful of pop songs mingled throughout the original score but even these I was not that bothered by because I knew that another score track was up next, and I knew that it would be superb. I urge you to check this out, you will be in raptures.
We go from this absorbing work to yet another accomplished and alluring soundtrack that the composer has fashioned and woven, CONVOI EXCEPTIONNEL, is a more recent work and was released in 2019, this is a edgy and maybe a little more contemporary sounding in certain areas, but, definitely posses a sound that is influenced by Ennio Morricone for one, is this a bad thing, is it a negative, no I don’t think so, I think its ok for a composer to be influenced by another composers work, after all unless you are a complete genius or a teller of untruths you cannot say that you have never been influenced or inspired by someone else’s work, whether it be music, writing, painting, sculpture or acting. I love the way in which the composer moulds a smooth yet at times quite raw sound for this project, and I know I did say it does have moments that are more of a contemporary sound, there are also passages of percussion which act as a backdrop for electric guitar and breathy sounding woodwind, the composer too employs a bass guitar which lays down a rhythmic backing to which is added strings and punctuated by percussive elements, the sound realised being in the same school as soundtracks such as THE SICILIAN CLAN and THE UNTOUCHABLES by Morricone and WILD EYE by composer Gianni Marchetti, with little nuances and flourishes that although brief or even just fleeting add to the work an atmosphere and mood that shouts 1970’s. It is a score that is at times dark and driving, but also contains tender and melodic interludes. Another great score from this gifted and uber talented Maestro.
The next score is totally different from both of the previous works, released in 2016, AGNUS DEI or THE INNOCENTS as it was entitled outside of France where it was produced, set in Poland in 1945, the movie is a hard hitting drama set in the last days of WWll, where a doctor from the red cross is asked to help Nuns at a convent, where it soon becomes evident that several of the Sisters are pregnant, raped by Russian soldiers. The composer contributed a handful of cues for the soundtrack, the remainder and lion’s share of the score being made up of various classical pieces by Handel etc, and also choral performances. But, the few cues that the composer did contribute stand out and add greater depth and create a more pronounced atmosphere. They are quite subtle in their make-up, mainly a small string section that is enhanced and supported via woods and piano, that at times are punctuated by fragile use of chiming effect. I hope that this brief look at three of the scores penned by Hetzel, and I am of the opinion that once you discover one of his scores you will want to explore everything that he has written, Hetzel is a composer who is HEAR to stay.