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 mesmerizing 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.
Read other recent reviews by John Mansell: Erika
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