×

Desplat toils dawn to dusk

Eye on the Oscars: Music Preview

Alexandre Desplat has been busy, as usual. The prolific composer scored no less than nine films in 2012 including “Moonrise Kingdom,” “Argo,” “Rise of the Guardians,” “Zero Dark Thirty” and several from his native France, including Jacques Audiard’s Cannes entry “Rust and Bone.”

“I did a lot of movies but that is because I never stop,” Desplat says by phone from his house in Majorca, where he’s recharging for a few days between sessions. “I just write from dawn to dusk.”

Tight relationships with directors and a sharp intuition for melding sound and image have kept Desplat in demand since he broke into Hollywood with 2003’s “Girl With a Pearl Earring.” The Frenchman has since scored films directed by George Clooney, Tom Hooper, Stephen Daldry, Terrence Malick and Roman Polanski. It’s director’s visions that keep him energized, he says, and at this point the composer can afford to be picky.

“Every director has his own syntax, his own grammar, his own words,” he explains. “I always try to approach a film from the point of view of the director.”

Inspired in his teens by scores from Michel Legrand, Jerry Goldsmith and Hitchcock’s go-to composer Bernard Herrmann, Desplat says he strives to find the color of the film, “there is a vibration and that is the vibration I am trying to catch with the music.” His scores often follow a strong melodic line throughout — if it’s what the film calls for — and employ transparent instrumentation, like his score for Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom.”

“Wes is very accurate and very precise on what he wants and what he doesn’t want,” says Desplat. “When I have an idea I play it for him and we look closely at the picture and we adjust.”

For “Argo,” Desplat wanted to bridge the film’s Western and Middle Eastern viewpoints. This meant a pair of Turkish musicians and an Iranian chanteuse, which guide the score on a graceful yet unsettling trajectory.

“All these sounds create something very specific that belong to this film that I could not use in another film as a combination of sounds,” he says.

Audiard’s “Rust and Bone,” however, had few flourishes. The resonant, horn-driven score — pushed forward by a high-key monotone — appears only briefly. Desplat has composed all Audiard’s films, so he’s well-versed in the director’s penchant for sterile imagery punctuated by fast camera work and lush close-ups. His job, Desplat says, is to bring light and “more of the invisible” to the director’s bleak dramaturgy.

After a year of back-to-back projects and a full docket ahead, Desplat says he doesn’t worry about the lurking shadow that stalks many creators — writers block.

“I don’t have that,” he says-, adding, “My art is applied to another art which is cinema, that makes my life much easier.”

To reflect the director’s distinct aesthetic, the score needed to have a grandiose sensibility but remain minimal, with the ability to be at once mysterious, witty and tender. To achieve this, Desplat employed a male choir and unexpected instruments like vibraphone, glockenspiel and ukulele, which form a composition that both skips and marches.

More Film

  • 'Tomb Raider' Star Simon Yam in

    'Tomb Raider' Star Simon Yam in Hospital After Stabbing

    Hugely popular Hong Kong actor, Simon Yam was stabbed while on stage Saturday at a presentation in Zhongshan, Guangdong province in southern China. He is in hospital recovering. The incident happened at the opening of a branch of the Beijing Easyhome building materials company, where Yam was a guest. A man was seen rushing on [...]

  • Brazilian President Jair Bolosnaro attends the

    Bolsonaro Threatens Brazil’s Central Film Fund with Censorship or Closure

    In typical shoot-from-the-hip remarks, Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has declared that Ancine, Brazil’s powerful state-backed federal film agency, should accept “filters”or face closure. “If it can’t have a filter, we’ll close Ancine, or privatize it,” Bolsonaro added, attacking Ancine, which plows some $300 million a year into Brazil’s film and TV industries, for supporting [...]

  • TSOM-MASK

    Director Sara Gouveia on ‘Looking At Resilience Through Art’

    DURBAN–The Mapiko dance of Mozambique’s indigenous Makonde people was long used as a tool for social commentary. But during the colonial era it became an act of political resistance, prompting the Portuguese to stamp it out during Mozambique’s 10-year war for independence. Decades later, the art has been revived as a celebration of freedom. For [...]

  • Don Edkins

    Documentary Filmmaker Don Edkins on ‘Creating an African Voice’ 

    DURBAN–For the 10th Durban FilmMart (DFM), the industry program of the Durban Intl. Film Festival, a new strand was created to look at the unique challenges and opportunities facing documentary filmmakers in Africa. The two-day program, Durban Does Docs, offers a series of conversations, seminars and workshops with an intensive focus on the aesthetics, funding, distribution [...]

  • A Faithful Man

    Film Review: 'A Faithful Man'

    French actor Louis Garrel has been married twice, first to Iranian talent Golshifteh Farahani, and now to model-cum-actress Laetitia Casta. He has also directed two features, the first a free-wheeling love-triangle comedy called “Two Friends” in which Garrel plays the cad who comes between his best friend and the object of his obsession (played by [...]

  • LGBTQ Film Festival Outfest Opens With

    LGBTQ Film Festival Outfest Opens With Documentary About Gay Porn Shops Circus of Books

    Granted, the red carpet at the opening night of Outfest in DTLA may not have been the most star-studded but it was without a doubt the most diverse, inclusive and, yes, fabulous. “I’ve never been here before,” admitted “RuPaul’s Drag Race” vet Trixie Mattel, who stars in the documentary “Moving Parts.” “It’s supposed to be [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Russ Tamblyn's Career Had Legs After Childhood

    With an acting career that spans work for Cecil B. DeMille and Joseph Losey to Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch, Russ Tamblyn’s creativity and longevity is proof that there’s life after child stardom. In Tamblyn’s case, there’s also been a bounty of juicy film and TV roles long after his legendary legs no longer kicked [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content