Le Juge and Le Transfuge - by Luis Bacalov

Luis Bacalov: Le Juge and Le Transfuge - soundtrack CD cover The composer Luis Bacalov was born in Argentina but he has been living in Italy for much of his music career. He won an oscar in 1995 for his score to "Il Postino" (The Postman) yet he has a long and illustrious career as a composer and musician. Some of his early career has paralleled the work of Ennio Morricone including a number of Spaghetti Westerns, and that similarity is apparent in some of the film scores he contributed to French Cinema in the 1980s. The two film scores on this soundtrack album were created for the director Philippe Lefebvre in 1984 & 1985. Le Juge (The Judge) is a crime drama and Le Transfuge (The Defector) is a spy film. Much of the soundtrack album is new material, with several tracks in "Le Juge" containing previously unreleased material, and this being the first ever release of music from "Le Transfuge". Although there are some similarities in the two scores, they seem to exhibit quite different moods.

The opening theme immediately grabs the attention. It starts with a bold latin vibe, and it contains a number of elements which feed into the rest of the score with some subtle string suggestions of Morricone's "Chi Mai". Between the dramatic tracks which carry the story forward, there are a number of tracks which are largely source music, because the Judge and Police Investigator both like Jazz. "Flic" is one of the characters in the film, and "Flic et jazzmen" make regular appearances throughout the score in a set of variations. The composer can speak eloquently in a range of different jazz idioms, but rather than allowing these to reach their natural progression as true source music, Bacalov subtly subverts these styles from their normal musical conclusion to better integrate with the dramatic purposes of the film. "Golpe Errado", a relaxed French song accompanied by fluttering jazz flutes" is another piece of source music heard on the car radio. The drama starts in earnest with "La Trappola" which hints at the main theme between bouts of chromatic urgency.

Luis Bacalov: Le Juge and Le Transfuge - soundtrack CD back cover The jazz tracks continue with "Variation 2" on bluesy trumpet with acoustic bass and string chords, then "Street of Silence" revert to the older Dixieland style of Jazz with sax and banjo and muted trumpet. However rather than continue with the Jazz style, "Flic et jazzmen (variation 1)" returns to the main theme with a dark undercurrent brought out with piano and harpsichord against a background of percussion. "Superstunt" is very much an action track in the Hollywood tradition starting with a low piano ostinato and joined by different orchestral sections until it reaches a very tense concluding section with tremolo strings. Appropriately the main theme returns in "Le juge (variation 1)" though this restatement is more complex before it reaches an uncertain conclusion. The three tracks "Régine", "La peur", and "E decise" are full of suspense with various combinations of dark strings, harpsichord and woodwind. The final four tracks reward the listener by developing elements of the main theme with the suspense and action motifs, while saying goodbye to "le flic" on jazz piano with double bass. The final statement of the main theme is initially sad and halting, before gaining confidence in "Chi Mai" fashion.

Although some of Bacalov's musical mannerisms in "Le Transfuge" have a remarkable similarity to those in "Le Juge", the soundtrack is far more classical in feel. The opening tracks establish its classical credentials with cor anglais and oboe solo work, with this orchestration colouring much of the soundtrack. With the exception of "Le Transfuge #3" which is a piece of source music based on the main theme, the consoling warmth of jazz is absent and the music is generally more impersonal as befits the plot of a spy drama. "Le Transfuge #5" in particular is very tense with disturbing sounds building to a crescendo with familiar thematic motifs literally holding their breath. The classical underpinning returns with a vengeance in the atonal yet fugal "Le Transfuge #7" while "Le Transfuge #9" (used as source music) is like the slow movement of a Mozart piano sonata followed by a classical cello sonata, with only some subtle transitions betraying these as modern interpretations by Bacalov. The mood of shady suspense returns for the remaining tracks which take the main thematic elements to a logical conclusion, before the final statement of the opening theme and an inspired coda on piano.

This album is a worthy addition to any collection, and highlights the genious of a composer who seems unfairly neglected. The soundtrack CD is available at Amazon.co.uk or via Music Box Records.

Luis Bacalov: Le Juge and Le Transfuge, full Track Listings

Luis Bacalov: Le Juge

Luis Bacalov: Le Transfuge


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