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Soundtrack review: East / ouest (Patrick Doyle, 1999)

Composer of the month Patrick Doyle month

Soundtrack review: East / ouest (Patrick Doyle, 1999)

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East / West is a 1999 movie directed by frequent Patrick Doyle’s collaborator Regis Wargnier, about the fate of a Russian/French family returning to the Soviet Union after World War II and the atrocities they suffer because of Stalin.

The Russian influences are clear from the second track of the score, “Farewell of a Slav”, a militaristic cue which includes a strong Russian male choir. Then Patrick Doyle’s usual beautiful piano melodies kick in… It is a familiar territory, but I love it. “Forgive me” actually has something from the mood that dominated the last few tracks from “Great expectations”, a rich sadness. With the first four cues, the score immediately got me interested way more than the previous Wargnier / Doyle collaboration I had heard, “Pars vite et revien tard”. Even if some of the cues might start slow, there’s a rush of emotions there somewhere in most of them, be it a 30 second orchestral wonder or a beautiful piano motif.

I like the inserts of Russian vocal songs. They add to the identity of the score. The Ukrainian Army choir does its job brilliantly. “You’re doing it for us” is the first true highlight of this score, an emotional and a lyrically beautiful cue, an orchestral rollercoaster that makes me want to close my eyes and let the music take me over.

The dramatic parts of the score are deep and sweeping. It’s Patrick Doyle at his best. His usual strings point the love themes, like “Alexei and Olga”. It’s a beautiful cue with an unmistakable Russian flavor, there’s no mistaking where the characters are from when you hear that violin.

Even better surprises await the listener midway through the score: a few cues written as piano concertos. They are unbelievably beautiful and for me, as a lover of piano, cues that I will surely come back to. The soloist is Emmanuel Ax, a very gifted pianist who gives rolling performances in these cues, accompanied by a supporting orchestra, performances that remind me of great Russian piano composers. “The river”, “The race”, “The cliffs” and “The Black Sea” are my favorite pieces from this score. They have the vastness and turbulence of the ocean, and if you love Rachmaninov, or great piano compositions, you will surely connect with these.

We have strings, we have piano, we even have flute in “Madame Bovary” and almost every cue is engaging and interesting. The blend of Russian and French motifs works and it mirrors the characters of the movie.  The powerful Russian male choirs return for the end of the score with beautiful songs. “Nightingales” is a rousing track, beautiful and heartbreaking. The main theme of the movie returns in “Freedom”, and the vocal end track “The land” summarizes the score and all its influences…

“East / ouest” was one of the nicest surprises I got during Patrick Doyle month. I had never heard the score before, but I will definitely hear it again. It’s more Russian than French, but since this means powerful choirs, heartbreaking violins and agitated pianos, I’m in. It’s definitely one of the most interesting and unique Doyle scores.

 

Cue rating: 78 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 33 / 53

Album excellence: 61%

 

Cues to listen to:

Farewell of a Slav

Arrival in Kiev

Forgive Me

Jeopardy

You’re Doing it For Us

Betrayal

Alexei and Olga

The River

The Race

Madame Bovary

The Cliffs

The Black Sea

Nightingales

La Mer

Freedom

The Land

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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