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Soundtrack review: Lisa (Gabriel Yared – 2001)

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Soundtrack review: Lisa (Gabriel Yared – 2001)

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“Lisa” is a 2001 French film. The film tells the story of young filmmaker Sam (Benoît Magimel) who becomes obsessed with an unfinished 1939 picture entitled “Princess Marushka”. In fact, Sam’s fascination is not with the film, but with its lead actor Sylvain Marceau (Sagamore Stévenin) who had mysteriously disappeared during World War II. What happened to him? Was the film unfinished because of his disappearance? Where had he gone? In order to answer the question, Sam decides to make a documentary about Sylvain and sets off to interview all surviving friends and colleagues who might have some insight into his character. His most interesting lead in the investigation is the eponymous Lisa Morain (played by Jeanne Moreau and a young Marion Cotillard) who recounts her torrid love affair with the actor on the eve of the outbreak of World War II. Gabriel Yared wrote the score.

This is a Caldera release and normally this alone would have guaranteed for me a magnificent score; but when the composer in question os Gabriel Yared, it’s almost too much. I’ve been saying for years that we need more Yared scores because his music has a melodic sensitivity like no other. I am a big fan and any release of one of his scores, old, new, it doesn’t matter, is a reason to celebrate. Also this being a French romance movie, it’s just one more reason for me to jump at this score since the sound of French and Italian romance is one of my post precious one.

This is one of those cases where what I hear will completely match my expectations no matter how high they might be. The opening cue “Overture” is a heart stopper; such a lush and ravishing orchestral piece, sweeping and emotional, there are so few composers who do that in film music these days and I need more. This is the epitome of beautiful music. The composer continues with a quieter, more sensible flute based piece in “Cinéthéâtre” and I am already into this musical story, caring, feeling, getting all warm and fuzzy inside; the quite and playful musings in this particular cue give me that most comforting and pleasant sensation I get when I watch my little girl play and discover things, imagining how her world might feel like in those moments. I’ll say it again Gabriel Yared has an unmatched natural and honest sensitivity in his music and you have to sweep me off the floor with a cloth when I’m done listening to one of his scores.

Even when the story gets serious and dangerous in the eve of war the composer manages to keep that sensitivity untouched; I know what’s happening from the darker tones, the percussion, the grave string motifs but the music is still comfortable to listen to. The music is painful and serious but still soft to the touch. And when Gabriel Yared lets the flow of emotions free like for example in the second half of “Mirador” I get a feeling of eternity. That’s my favourite motif from this entire score.

“Lisa” is one of those beautiful and meaningful orchestral scores that will leave a lasting mark. After listening to thousands of film and TV scores over the years, one of my strongest certainties is that when Gabriel Yared writes an orchestral score I will be touched and moved and I will be grateful. I am also grateful once again to the people at Caldera for bringing all these treasures to life and doing justice to compositions that should never be forgotten or ignored. We might not get a lot of releases from them each year but those we do get are, almost always, perfect in every way.

Cue rating: 100 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 43 / 43

Album excellence: 100%

Highlights:
Ouverture
Cinéthéâtre
Monologue
Joinville
Mobilisation
Escalier
Kiosque
Miroir
Mirador
Les enfants cachés
Gare de l’est
Les Enfermés
Variation Mi mineur
Sylvain enfermé
Kaddish
Henriette et les enfermés
Henriette suit Lisa
Mirador no 2
Arrestation
Générique de fin

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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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