Milan Records // 2007 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Jim Thomas // December 1st, 2007
David Lean's images.
Maurice Jarre's music.
What more do you want?
In a career spanning half a century, Maurice Jarre scored over a 150 films and television shows, including such diverse films as Ghost, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, Witness, and (this one still floors me) Top Secret!. But despite such a wide body of work, including nine Academy Award nominations, his primary legacy will be the four films he scored for David Lean: Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, Ryan's Daughter, and A Passage to India. Jarre won Academy Awards for Best Original Score for three of those, Ryan's Daughter being the exception. All four scores feature rich, evocative orchestrations that perfectly complement Lean's equally sweeping visuals.
Lean and Jarre became close friends through their work together. During the early 90s, Jarre began work on a tribute concert for Lean, preparing musical suites from their four films. In addition, Jarre also wrote a new piece in honor of his friend. Unfortunately, David Lean died in 1991, just weeks before shooting was to begin on his next film, an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's Nostromo. Suddenly, instead of conducted a tribute concert for his friend, Jarre was conducting a tribute to his friend.
To commemorate the 100th birthday of David Lean in 2008, Milan Concerts finally brings this concert to DVD. During post-production, Jarre selected clips from the films and behind the scene footage to accompany the music.
Jarre conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Barbican Centre in London.
1. Remembrance (original piece)
2. Ryan's Daughter
3. A Passage to India
4. Doctor Zhivago
5. Offering (original piece)
6. A Passage to India (Garden of Statues)
7. Lawrence of Arabia Suite
The accompanying CD has all of the above tracks save track 6. That particular piece was used in the concert to simulate a soundtrack recording session. Presumably, because that track was so visually oriented, the producers decided not to include it on the CD (There's more than enough room on the CD for the track).
These days, when most people think of iconic movie scores, they think of Jaws or Star Wars. But film scores were indeed written before John Williams picked up a baton, and from the moment Maurice Jarre was brought in at the last minute to score David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia, he became one film music's brightest lights. "Lara's Theme," from Doctor Zhivago, is possibly one of the most instantly recognizable movie tunes, surpassing even "This Song My Heart Will Go On andonandonandon."
The concert is impressive just for the music alone; the opening tribute, "Remembrance," is essentially a fanfare for David Lean, and starts to concert on a bold note. From there we move to Ryan's Daughter, not as well known as the other three scores, but one of Jarre's favorites. Although the film is set in Ireland, the music really doesn't draw from Irish sources, but there's a jaunty, almost boisterous feel to much of the piece that just makes it fun. A Passage to India has a sound that is at once familiar, exotic, and ethereal; it's probably my favorite of the four suites, partly because that is the only David Lean film that I've seen in a theater. Doctor Zhivago builds off "Lara's Theme," of course, but Jarre also makes a point of bringing in several other themes that had been cut from the finished film. "Offering" was written as a wedding gift for Lean and his last wife Alexandra; there are hints of themes from all four films, along with a new theme for the new couple. Emotions really start to run high for Jarre at this point, and just watching his face as he conducts tells you how much Jarre misses his friend.
Next is the "Garden of Statues" cue from A Passage to India; this is not a suite, but the exact musical cue from the film. In the scene, Adela Quested, a reserved young British lady, discovers a garden full of Indian fertility icons bordering on the pornographic. The images both disturb and stir, and as these unexpected feelings threaten to overwhelm her, she is chased away by a group of monkeys-animal urges threatening to break through the veneer of control. To illustrate the scoring process, Jarre projects the scene behind the orchestra, complete with "synch bars"-vertical lines that scroll horizontally across the picture to give the conductor a reference point. It's fascinating to watch; in the commentary, Jarre notes how stressed he was, because if he or the orchestra messed up, there would be no opportunity for a retake. The sequence also illustrates how Lean approached the use of music in his movies (Jarre discusses this at length in the accompanying interview). Lean did not want music to emphasize or enhance what was on the screen; he wanted the music to evoke that which could not be shown. In this case, the lush music suggests the intensity of Adela's emotions.
The concert concludes, appropriately enough, with the majestic Lawrence of Arabia; as the audience applauds, a tearful Jarre turns to them and says, "I think David would be happy." Overall, the concert is fairly brief (55 minutes), mainly because everything between the pieces was edited out.
The concert visuals are far more dynamic than one would expect. A total of seven cameras were used, one of which were mounted on a Louma boom that could cover any section of the orchestra, providing distant shots, birds' eye shots of a featured instrument, as well as tracking and panning shots. After the concert, the director apologized to Jarre for the camera, which often rose directly in front of the director's podium. Jarre replied, "What camera?" He was so focused on the music that he was completely oblivious to the cameras moving around him-the orchestra showed no signs of being distracted either. The quality of the concert footage is good, though there are the sorts of lighting issues that are inevitable when lighting a concert hall. The film clips are from restored prints, so they are exceptional. It's interesting to see this new juxtaposition of image and music -- Jarre does not match a passage in the suite to the section of the film that featured that cue, but rather went through and selected scenes or images that he thought would complement his music (his commentary notes how odd it was to be matching Lean's films to his music, after so many years of doing the opposite). The home movie footage shows it age; however, under the circumstances, that's really not a problem.
Audio is a basic Dolby Digital 2.0. That in and of itself isn't a bad thing, as I've heard some stunning 2.0 recordings. The problem is that the concert was recorded with only three microphones. The sound engineer did a magnificent job with those three mics, and the orchestra as a whole is magnificent, but the overall sound is somewhat flattened-that can probably be alleviated with some sound system tweaking.
One interesting thing-Early in the concert, I was having major problems imaging the orchestra; it appeared that sounds weren't coming from the right directions. As it turns out, I was being sonically disoriented by the moving cameras. As a camera passed across the front of the orchestra, my mind unconsciously expected a similar movement within the sound field, and when it didn't happen, I was thrown for a loop. All I had to do was close my eyes for a few moments to "reset" my orientation, and I was fine. The problem only occurred the first time I watched the concert. I didn't have the problem on subsequent viewings.
There are two extras, one a commentary track provided by Jarre. He doesn't talk throughout, but just injects little bits of information here and there. In addition to details about the music, there are also some fun anecdotes, like the time he was in the middle of a recording session and the orchestra members just stopped playing one by one. He looked up to discover that there was a slight distraction-Sophia Loren was in the sound booth! You can hardly fault the orchestra on that one. There's also a 35 minute interview by film critic Christian Lauliac, focusing on the collaborations with Lean. Very informative, and there's not really any overlap between the interview and the concert commentary. Jarre details how he got the Lawrence of Arabia job in the first place-Malcolm Arnold, who had scored Lean's previous film, The Bridge on the River Kwai, was unavailable, and Lean and producer Sam Speigel were feverishly trying to find a replacement. Speigel brought Jarre (~30 years old at the time) in, and the plan was to have several different composers, including Richard Rogers, score different parts of the film. But Lean disliked all the music that was presented-until Jarre played what became the main theme of the film. Lean simply put his hand on Jarre's shoulder and said "Just let this young man score the entire film." As Jarre recounts the story, the affection in his voice is evident, even if you don't speak French. Both the commentary and the interview are in French with English subtitles. If either were notably longer, it might have grown tiresome, but it's fine as is.
My only real complaint is that while the film footage is widescreen, the concert (and thus the video as a whole) is in 4:3. As a result, the film clips appear quite small. It would have been much more effective to shoot the concert in widescreen, so that Lean's visuals could be better appreciated. How quickly we forget -- The concert was filmed in 1992-it's doubtful that the possibility of filming the concert in widescreen even occurred to anyone.
The only other thing that might improve the concert would be to include Jarre's comments to the audience between pieces. It would have at the very least set up the "Garden of Statues" section clearly. As it stands, you really don't know what's going on until you listening to the commentary.
This is definitely one of those niche DVDs. Fans of Lean and/or Jarre will definitely want it, but anyone with a passion for movie music should at least give it a look.
Not guilty. The defendants are free to go, with the deepest thanks of the court.
Review content copyright © 2007 Jim Thomas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Milan Records
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Maurice Jarre interview with Christian Lauliac
* Audio commentary by Maurice Jarre
* Concert CD
* Wikipedia: David Lean
* Wikipedia: Maurice Jarre