Two-time Oscar winner Alexandre Desplat is the composer behind such films as The Queen, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Shape of Water and the new Netflix space epic The Midnight Sky directed by George Clooney. As a master musician and cinephile, Desplat finds inspiration from looking back on great films made by prodigious storytellers who love music and interact with it in a way where the score and picture become intrinsically linked. For Desplat, radio is still the best conduit for him to discover music of today and of the past; his favorites being KUSC, France Musique, France Culture and FIP. He also relies on a French streaming site Qobuz, where he seeks out new jazz, classical, world music and pop releases. For A.frame, he shares a list of five timeless films where the music and images go hand-in-hand, and inspire him when approaching his own work.
La Peau Douce (The Soft Skin)
Directed by Francois Truffaut; music by Georges Delerue
For this adulterous love story, Georges Delerue could have written a flamboyant score, a love theme made of passion and desire, but chose instead a melancholic, sometimes darker approach. From the opening title, he sets the tone of the film with a poignant melody for flute and strings and presages the drama coming ahead. The composers of the “Nouvelle Vague” (New Wave) had the talent to create a musical flow parallel to the storyline, emphasizing the narrative and the emotions of the characters, avoiding the more traditional approach which was to pleonastically underline the images.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Directed by Steven Spielberg; music by John Williams
An incredible melody, both moving and epic, sophisticated orchestrations, spotting ... E.T. is the perfect film score. Kids all over the world dreamt of flying on their bicycles like the heroes of the film. And John Williams’ music was the flame that set Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece on fire.
Directed by Akira Kurosawa; music by Tōru Takemitsu
The score of this Shakespearean drama is one of the most impressive I have ever heard. Not only is it often diegetic, interweaving with the sound FX, but the silent battle scene and its funeral composition is one of the longest ever filmed.
Directed by Roman Polanski; music by Jerry Goldsmith
For this film noir set in Los Angeles in the 1940s, Jerry Goldsmith wrote one of his most inspired scores in only two weeks. A jazz-influenced haunting melody played by a trumpet, a string orchestra and an innovative orchestral line up, with four pianos and four harps, create the most unexpected sound. And, as often heard with Jerry Goldsmith, the unsettlingly odd meters create chaos and tension. Roman Polanski’s genius at placing his camera is emphasized by the placement of the musical moments. Fantastic!
Directed by Federico Fellini; music by Nino Rota
Collaborations between Nino Rota and Federico Fellini are among the most inspiring. In Amarcord, diegetic music and score become one in many sequences. The scene in front of the shut-down hotel, when the boys dance together recalling the dolce vita of their summer to the nostalgic beautiful main theme played by an imaginary band, is one of the most poetic in cinema history.