Composer PhilipPe Rombi is one of my own favourites ever since I heard his score for THE SWIMMING POOL I was hooked as they say. His latest score is somewhat different from the Rombi we have all come to be used to. L’AMANT DOUBLE, is a thriller with a few twists, it deals with a woman who falls in love with her psychoanalyst, and after thinking she knows him moves in with him, but things are not as she expects and she begins to uncover a side of his identity that she does not know about. The score is very dark, very atonal for Rombi, it also has a fair number of electronic instrumentation, and for me it is more like sound design as opposed to being a music score, by this I mean there are very few themes or thematic properties, this is a jumpy and unpredictable work, which serves the movie but unfortunately will probably not be one that graces the CD player that often, some of the cues being frantic and somewhat grating. I suppose it’s back to the well it is movie music so if it serves the movie it is good, and its doing what it is supposed to. Rombi does keep up the pressure with this score, it is a highly atonal work, with maybe the exception of two actual themes, which appear at the end of the recording, MATERNITE and LA JUMELLE can be described as melodious, in fact I would probably not call them that even as they start off pleasant enough but then really do not progress develop or go anywhere. This work, although serving the movie will I guess be a disappointment to Rombi fans who are used to haunting and delicious sounding tone poems that are draped in romanticism and drenched in melancholy, as in his score from only last year, FRANTZ. If you want that then please don’t even go here.
FRANTZ is an anti-war movie, but also contains a bitter sweet story of love and romance. It is set in 1919 just after the first world war and we see a young German girl who is visiting the grave of her fiancée in France who was killed during the war. Whilst there she notices a young Frenchman who is also visiting the grave, it emerges that he is an old friend of her Fiancée’s and became friends with him when he studied in France before the war, but as the story unfolds we see little things that tell us that this is not entirely the whole truth. Much respected and acclaimed French director Francois Ozon seems to have poured his heart and soul into this movie creating a stylish and elegant motion picture which is shot in black and white which adds to the authenticity and atmosphere considering the period in which it is set. The film which is in German and French also purveys a message, which is one that basically calls for us to reject the prejudice and the racism that we are experiencing now everywhere in the world. There are no side tracking subplots or gimmicky inputs aside from the use of colour photography at a few key points within the story, which normally occur at times of happiness or within different periods of the character’s life. The music is by Philippe Rombi and as soon as you see his name on the credits one knows you are in for a treat no matter what the genre or subject matter. Although Rombi is revered amongst collectors of film music he at times is still sadly overlooked, he has composed some of the most thematic scores for cinema during the past two decades. My first encounter with this French Maestro was when I brought a copy of SWIMMING POOL which was also directed by Ozon and starred Charlotte Rampling. After this I have never looked back and have at every opportunity added his releases to my collection even if I have not seen the movie or heard the score and I have to say have never once been disappointed. FRANTZ contains a rather subdued and melancholy soundtrack, the composer employing solo piano and solo string instruments during its running time. The opening cue which is track number two, UNE AMITIE is a short but certainly sweet and beguiling piece with piano and cello combining to create a sombre but at the same time melodious cue which sets the scene perfectly. Track number three LA PROMENADE is a slightly fuller piece although is also short lived it has a warm and rich sound created by the string section which introduce a near luxurious but apprehensive theme to the listener for the first time.
This theme is carried through to the next track, LA LECON DE VIOLON as it opens being picked out on piano that is underlined by strings. Track number five, LES TORMENTS also contains hints of this theme and is a slow builder but does not segue into a melodic theme instead it changes direction with cello being brought into the equation, and strings fading in and out in a Barry-esque fashion to fashion a more threatening mood. Track number eight is I must say one of my favourite cues from the score, a slow and understated piano solo opens the piece and after a short while is joined by cello with punctuates and underlines the piano creating a sad and heartrending performance. This is a score that must be heard to be believed it is filled with emotive and poignant tone poems that will enchant and delight. Rombi like wine improves with age and FRANTZ is a score of the finest vintage. Highly recommended.
Another wonderful release from the ever industrious and un- stoppable French film music specialist label MUSIC BOX RECORDS. This time they treat us to not one but three soundtracks on one great compilation, which have all been penned by the highly talented and versatile composer Philippe Rombi, the films from which these scores are from are LA MAISON DU BONHEUR (2006), RIEN A’ DECLARER (2010) and BIENVENUE CHEZ LES CH’TIS (2008) all of which were directed by French actor/film maker Dany Boon. The latter which has already seen a compact disc release is represented by a selection of cues from the soundtrack with the inclusion of a variation of one of the themes performed on chimes. The other two titles are first time released scores and are presented here in their entirety. The collaboration between film maker Boon and composer Rombi has been a fruitful and interesting one, Rombi’s eloquent, melodic and robustly infectious music complimenting and enhancing perfectly the scenarios and images that have been created by film maker Boon. The compact disc opens with the score for RIEN A’ DECLARER, (NOTHING TO DECLARE). This lively and full-bodied sounding work includes a handful of themes that are hauntingly beautiful and also an equal amount that are slightly boisterous and definitely infectious. Rombi’s score posses a puckish and uncomplicated comedic atmosphere, the composer creating not just highly thematic passages but bringing to the surface an almost joyous and effervescent mood. In many ways this score reminded me of the style of past French film music Maestros, Michel Magne and Georges Delerue. Magne was brought to mind because of the upbeat sections of the score and mainly because of the presence of a quirky waltz like theme that establishes itself as the core and foundation of the score, a madcap and almost eccentric sounding piece on which the composer builds a pulsating and strident central theme which in turn influences thee remainder of the score, this theme first manifests itself within the scores opening track, Générique début, which opens with a grand and lavish sounding introduction that is almost operatic in its stature, performed by strings and brass this imposing opening melts away to allow the composer to bring his more mischievous sounding piece into the equation. Rombi ushers this impish and infectious motif in very gently in fact almost warily but soon expands and enlarges it until we begin to hear the full roguish entertaining impact of this humorous sounding composition, which has the ability to be haunting in a kind of annoying yet pleasing fashion. The composer makes excellent use of the jaunty and mischief infused theme throughout the score and re-invents it on a number of occasions within the score, thus keeping it fresh and vibrant and above all original.
I also make comparisons with Georges Delerue; my reason for this being that I think Rombi like Delerue takes a simple theme or motif and turns it into an intricate and fragile sounding tone poem that at times although making only a fleeting appearance manages to add depth and greater atmosphere to any scene within a film. Creating a high degree of emotion and colouring the scenario with glorious and haunting music. The second score that is represented on the compact disc is LA MAISON DU BONHUER (THE HOUSE OF HAPPINESS) which was the first film that Rombi and Boon collaborated on, the score for this movie is written in the same comedic style as RIEN A’ DECLARER, but in my opinion goes a little further in the humorous department, it is a far more deliberate sounding score, in some ways the music sounds almost clumsy but immensely effective, the composer using strings to great effect to create a comical apprehensive sound, there are also a few more jazz orientated moments within the score where solo piano is utilised to great effect as in track number 18, CASINO, track number 20, La bague and track 21, Rêve de maison, where light and airy piano is underlined by smooth and sultry sounding strings. There is also present a feint hint of subdued samba or a laid back bossa nova beats which make an entrance within a few of the cues and these soon become infectious and entertaining. The final score as mentioned in the opening of this review is Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis (Welcome to the Land of Shtis), already issued on compact disc this is another delightful score, and this edition of the soundtrack includes a bonus cue in the form of Le carillon d’Antoine performed on bells or chimes. Again the score is for the most part comedic in its overall sound and style but does also include a beautiful theme Valse des Ch’tis which is track number 29 on this release. A lilting and quite melancholy sounding piano performance is centre stage of this piece with subdued strings acting as punctuation and support; these however soon become more prominent the composer increasing the volume of the string section as they glide into a delightfully mesmerising waltz. The compilation ends as it begun with music from RIEN A’ DECLARER, this time in the form of a concert suite, which includes a number of the scores principal; themes, it is an almost five minute musical pleasure, the themes are interwoven into a resounding and attractive suite and it is a fitting end to a wonderful compilation of quality French film music, this I cannot recommend highly enough and I urge you to add this to your collection as soon as you can, because any self respecting film music connoisseur should not be without it. Presented to the normal high quality that is now normal for music box records, this is a must have release.
I first discovered Philippe Rombi a few years ago when I heard his score for SWIMMING POOL. I was attracted to his music for its melodic and infectious nature and likeness to the music of composers such as Georges Delerue and Michel Legrand. He has the ability to work on any type of film and compose a score which is enriching and supportive to it. His style is melodic and, by turns, grandiose, intimate or effectively emotive. Since hearing SWIMMING POOL and discovering other scores such as LOVE ME IF YOU DARE, the luxurious and haunting ANGEL and the marvelously delicate and poignant music for RICKY, my initial feeling about the composer has not altered but has been confirmed with each and every assignment. My respect for his music and distinctive style has grown and I look forward to every new release of his music.
LA NOUVELLE GUERRE DES BOUTONS is a superb score. Rombi has created a soundtrack that literally ticks all the boxes. It is intimate, highly emotional, romantic but also boisterous, comedic and exciting. The disc begins with the “Main Title” or “Generique Debut” where the composer commences with solo horn to which is added subtle and delicate use of woods and strings, creating a delightful and slightly melancholy piece which becomes the core of Rhombi’s soundtrack. I love the way in which the Maestro combines woods with strings and punctuates both elements with delicate and pensive piano which is itself lightly augmented by pizzicato commas and full stops. This opening for the score has a wistful and playful air about it, conjuring up summer days and rolling countryside. In many ways it evokes memories of some of James Horner’s work such as COCOON and the lighter more romantic moments from THE ROCKETEER. It’s a wholesome and carefree sound that garners much appreciation from the listener.
Philippe Rombi has risen to the challenge on this particular assignment – more so than on others he has been involved with – it is an exuberant score containing tinges of pathos and some of the most elegant and emotive tone poems I have heard in a while. I was particularly impressed and drawn to track 6 “Paul et Simone” which is a short but affecting composition; a fragile piece relying on subtle and light nuances performed on piano and woods, underlined and held together by strings and made further tantalizing by delicate placing of barely heard chimes. Track 7 “Les Longeverne Contre-Attaquent/Le Premier Bouton” is one of the more lengthy cues on the disc and begins with a fanfare which develops into a full-blown proud theme performed by strings and brass. The beginning soon fades away and the composition settles into some wonderfully clever writing and orchestration with the emphasis on utilization of pizzicato which is masterfully employed to create an atmosphere of humour and mischief with just a touch of apprehension. The cue ends with a crescendo where the composer combines the strings and brass with a children’s choir, bringing the cue to a triumphant conclusion. Overall this is a wonderful score to have in one’s collection and is a gem of a soundtrack from a composer who will return again and again to entertain us with more delights and enthral us with his mesmerizing music. Packaged marvellously by MUSIC BOX RECORDS with many stills, eye-arresting cover art and informative notes. Highly recommended.