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Rapture - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Soundtrack Review

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by Chris McEneany Nov 30, 2011 at 5:21 PM

  • Movies review

    Rapture - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Soundtrack Review

    It's not often that I come across the score for a film that I do not know, and there is something quite liberating about such a discovery. Unencumbered by any visual representation that I can recall and unhampered by any subjective emotions raised within me by the film's story, performances or direction, the music can literally speak for itself. And this is the case with Intrada's release of Georges Delerue's haunting score for John Guillermin's 1965 psychological drama, Rapture, which is based on the novel Rapture In My Rags by English writer Phylliss Hastings in 1954 .

    Indeed, although the film, which tells the story of a fragile young girl living with her domineering father on the rugged Brittany coast and encountering a mysterious stranger whose attraction will have fateful consequences, was warmly received at a couple of film festivals and formed a peripheral part of the trendy Nouvelle Vague, despite being written by, funded by and performed predominantly by Americans, has been rarely seen, and would appear to be something of a hidden gem. Going some way to rectifying this, the score release is being followed-up by a limited edition Blu-ray release from Twilight Time and distributed exclusively through Screen Archives, in just the same way that the label put out Mysterious Island just recently, and have made available Tom Holland's original Fright Night, as well. Going by the impressions that I gained from Delerue's yearning, bittersweet, frequently ominous and darkly spectral music, I am certainly tempted to seek it out.

    The film stars Hollywood royalty Melvyn Douglas as the emotionally blighted father who refuses to let his lonely, troubled and dislocated daughter Agnes, played by the mesmerising young French actress Patricia Gozzi, embrace her blooming femininity and grow up naturally. With a terrible fear and loathing of her burgeoning sexuality, he threatens to have her whisked away and placed in an asylum. Alienated and repressed, the fifteen-year-old finds an outlet for her crushed and hidden longings by creating a splendid scarecrow out of one of her father's old suits, a remnant of more affectionate times. But when Joseph, a fugitive from the law, played by then-screen-heartthrob Dean Stockwell (The Dunwich Horror, Paris, Texas, Quantum Leap) hides himself in the barn, he takes the suit from the scarecrow and metaphorically and figuratively becomes the man that Agnes has been secretly longing for, come to life as though her prayers have been answered. Sadly, things will not end happily, as the arrival of this enigmatic, but attractive stranger ultimately spells tragedy for everyone.

    One of the composer's earliest full feature film scores, Rapture is heard here in its entirety for the first time, courtesy of his widow, Colette Delerue, who secured the maestro's original ¼ inch tape copies. Several cues that were dropped from the film's final release make their debut on this disc, and the album is arranged according to Delerue's original session recordings. Intrada's Doug Fake informs us that although the quality of these tapes was quite good for their age, it was necessary to add a certain amount of stereo reverb to combat the otherwise “dry and pinched” mono effect. No tape hiss has been removed, so the original recording's ambience still shines through. The score boasts all the thematic qualities and dazzlingly haunting motifs that would become signature components of the composer, and stands as a tremendous reminder of how eloquent, bewitching and eccentric his unmistakable voice was. Delerue would provide the scores for A Man For All Seasons , The Day Of The Jackal, The Black Stallion Returns, Platoon and Black Robe amongst many others. His unused score for Something Wicked This Way Comes is justly hailed as a classic, striking out in a tangent from the arguably superior, and certainly more famous score that James Horner supplied for the finished film.

    Although ostensibly romantic, this is a dark, melancholic and foreboding score. It certainly wrong-footed me – it's beauty and whimsy hide a tremulous anxiety that is brooding and gothic in tone.

    The main theme for Agnes, which is heard throughout the score, and straight-away in Track 1, is elegant, classical and profoundly moving. String-led and sweeping, it has a distinct bygone times feel, a sort of string-quartet quality that wouldn't sound out of place swooning-away in the corner of some picturesque conservatoire and remarked upon by dandies in frills and ruffles. The gilded frisson of the harpsichord punctuates the delightful textures of the strings, woodwinds gently carrying the ensemble forward in a guiltless limbo. Delerue will alter this theme and make it dream-like, permeate it with doubt and danger and, most magically of all, grace it with the elemental qualities of the ghostly female voice, evoking the unearthly splendour of the sea.

    A tear-stained and beautiful passage comes in Agnes And Seagulls. We hear a tender music-box tinkling with the reverie of charmed and innocent dreams, a childhood glory of sanctuary that weaves a hypnotic spell over us. It is effortlessly transporting to dusty attics and toy cupboards, distant memories and cherished thoughts ... and painfully humbling. It comes out of nowhere and knocks the feet from under you, whittling away the years from your face and making you long for those lost years once again … if only for a moment. But there is a sting in the tail of this blissful nostalgia. This is where Delerue gently blends in an ethereal siren call for solo female voice that wafts spectrally across the delicate clockwork sound of piano, harp and chimes. So immediately does this track reduce your resolve that you understand completely the power of the composer to reach inside and caress that little bit of you that remains forever optimistic and un-cynical. There's no warning, no gradual build-up. His cue is short – as most of them on the album are – but there is so much detail and emotion swept-up in it that you fall for it, utterly. The haunting vocal sonoration plays on the wind, echoing across the vastness of a simple yearning dream, twisting the handsome music-box phrase into a heart-rending plea. It is simply gorgeous, and it will stop you in your tracks. The vocal phrase is reminiscent of Hugo Friedhofer's sublime and equally haunting score for The Boy On The Dolphin, and even Harry Gregson-Williams' score for the animated adventure Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, which both favour this lilting siren-song. This combination returns, with added harpsichord, in Track 6, Doll Thrown Over Cliff, to similarly mesmerising effect. There's a tremendous story being told here, but it is one that is so damn poignant that part of me actually fears the impact the film might have when I finally get to see it.

    The main title theme sweetly meanders across Father Gives Agnes Gloves, the harpsichord daintily and sedately played. The mouth organ provides some raucous, discordant fun as the track comes to a close. In the brief, but sombre The Hospital, we hear menacing low chords and the harpsichord brushed beneath the solo siren call, and muted chimes warble in the background. Tense shivering strings gather in trepidation and suspense in Tragedy, which begins ominously with a serious incarnation of the Agnes theme, before violins shriek with shock and we have brass bleating out a series of stark two, three and four-note warnings until a forlorn motif from woodwind takes us onward to the dark conclusion.

    The mood alters in Track 10, as Agnes' theme returns with a beautiful treatment that is curled-in on the mandolin. But Delerue skilfully maintains a serious tone to some elements of this track, making certain that we don't confuse this charming rendition for anything too hopeful. Woods again bring us to a close, with a wavering, pensive voice. Agnes Kisses Her Scarecrow boasts some divine plucking of the harp as a dream-like euphoria is gently unveiled. The weaving in-and-out of happiness and melancholia is continued brilliantly in the next track, “You See How Much I Need You”, in which fragile refrains of the Agnes theme are floated away from the flute, whilst curtains of strings heave and sway as though blown by a summer's night-time breeze. The siren call is repeated, but this time from the woods and without the female voice to echo around the sea cliffs, and although not as ghostly, as a result, this actually darkens the texture … but almost immediately afterwards Delerue goes sprightly and upbeat with a playful cadence to deliberately catch you off-guard … and then, just as quickly, he drops the smile and goes for a deeper, more earnest tone. He's clearly marrying-up his music with the thin-ice veneer of Agnes' mindset. Her understanding of the world around her is skewed and subject to change from one moment to another. This could have sounded inelegant and jumbled in less assured and intelligent hands, but Georges Delerue is supreme at such deft manipulation of melody and structure. There is an overall flavour and direction to the score, but these myriad deviations are what give it that essential colour and atmosphere, and what make the highs and lows all the more powerful.

    Clarinet and strings begin the dark and sinister Track 13. Entitled “I Can't Be Helped, I'm Mad”, this brings back the wind-hefted female siren. It is like a constant reminder to Agnes whenever she threatens to become too happy with her newfound paramour. Almost like the wailing voice of her own conscience, calling out to her whenever she takes a step too far towards womanhood. In this manner, the score, itself, seems to imply that she is just as guilty as repressing herself as her father has been. With themes this simple and yet so totally heartfelt, the score can play any amount of tricks on you that it wants to. As an album, this makes for a hugely satisfying experience, and one that seems to spiral around you, almost like an endless merry-go-round in a Twilight Zone funfair. After the disc has finished, it may even take some time before you realise it is over … these sweetly savage lullabies will be coursing through your mind so clearly. The woods in this track are warm and sorrowful, but they build, along with the strings and a distant, but steady percussive beat towards that ethereal wail that drifts around the harpsichord. Strange, miss-tuned piano notes add a further hint of delirium. We are inside Agnes' head … and this is not how things on the outside really are.

    Agnes Runs To Hospital contains some morbid phrases for flute and clarinet, but this distemper is soon suffused with a somewhat guilty rendition of the Agnes theme. The track then develops with a suspenseful passage for sudden surging strings that then whirl into a woozy spin for the finale of the cue. Following this, in Agnes Looks In Mirror, an oboe plays fragments of the Agnes theme against a growing sea of worried strings, and lost and alienated notes from the harpsichord shimmer in the cloudy background. Perhaps after such disturbed and unsettling passages, Delerue feels the need to give the poor girl some unbroken happiness for a change. In the next track, Joseph And Agnes Together, he provides her theme without interruption from darkness or melancholic intrusion, the piece quite charming and irresistible … and with no hidden tones of wary portent. There is a very Victorian quality to this cue, a wintry snow-globe mood of sheltered, idealistic romance that you wish could last forever. The violins dance and the harpsichord sputters merrily. In the film, this must either be a montage or a swirling dance amidst farmhouse dust-motes.

    This joy turns bittersweet and more delicate in Joseph And Agnes Love Scene. Slower and more measured, with higher keening strings and a more sedate anchoring from the cello, this is as close and intimate as we get, but laced with a deep uncertainty and an agonised fragility. The cue ends with a dark note as the harpsichord is strummed and the vibration allowed to peter-out, closing the romantic aura down and reminding us that this relationship cannot end well.

    Before we go into the score's powerful final stretch, it is important to note that Delerue has also invested in it some colloquial colour. To this end there is a brief flurry of traditional French peasant music, which goes heavy on the accordion in Track 2's Wedding Reception, for example. What is amazing about this jolly and hugely upbeat cue is that the first section of it is actually playing a variation of the main theme again … but you won't notice it at first because it is so upbeat and toe-tapping. Plus, we get to hear the strains of a rustic gob-iron in Agnes Plays Mouth Organ. These act like source cues, but they also provide lots of variety and a true sense of setting and locale to the aural picture being painted.

    Without a doubt, the score's major highpoint comes in Track 18, with Agnes Frightened. The longest track on the album, this is a tour de force of disturbing psychological torment and shock. The main theme attempts apprehensive progress, but worrying strings and woodwind deviations dog the journey. The siren song plays about, nervous notes from the piano like stepping stones across a dark and treacherous stream. Lovely organic cello plucking creeps about in the shadows. The Agnes theme makes a plaintiff appeal. Horn and piccolo make tentative forays, the harpsichord wobbles and brass then lurches in, Hammer-style, to whip up a storm. There's a Bernard Herrmann-esque flurry of agitated strings and nudging brass to reach a crescendo … and then the piece folds back inward with subdued brass and a smoother, more soothing rendition of the main theme. But this is merely a lull. Things get frenetic and dramatic with shivering, see-sawing strings that gain in intensity until they turn aggressive, almost suggesting a clifftop struggle, perhaps, and plucked cello lending weight and brass crashing against the lost, waif-like theme, everything struggling to a violent peak. The track then closes with the lament from the ghostly siren.

    In Joseph – The Police, strings return to their bittersweet agonies of the main theme, with the melody's equilibrium almost returned. But Delerue drives a twisted harpsichord flourish and a darkened phrase for embittered woodwinds to muddy-up the end of the cue, providing some sort of narrative closure to the relationship that Agnes surely now realises should never have been.

    The score then ends with Agnes Alone With Gulls. Her main theme returns, with hints of the music-box and the harpsichord taking us back into the girl's lonely world, a world now broken but, in musical and emotional terms, having turned full-circle. After the warped anxiety that has dotted the score, it is a final act of absolution that can do nothing other than promise the gift of luxurious limbo – Agnes appears to be trapped in time again, her one strand of love and adventure and escape now seemingly dashed and the becalming tranquillity and safety of her reunion with her beloved birds and the rugged beach.

    Repetition is key to how Delerue structures the score. The Agnes theme rolls with the darker cues, resurfacing and transforming in subtle, heartstring-tugging ways. The darker phrases, acting like the temptations of a colder, more calculating world, seek to ensnare such whimsical charm and slight, fantastical romance, and the psychological edge that this provides becomes both fascinating and genuinely scary at times. There is doom here, to be sure … but Delerue makes it sound so angelic and beguiling that you can't help travelling down that twisted and dangerous path to meet it.

    There is a dark cloud permeating this surprisingly short, but highly atmospheric score. Take away the rustic bal musette material and we have an emotionally charged gothic drama that mingles innocence with tragedy in a grand old style that seduces and unnerves in equal measure. As I say, I haven't yet seen Guillermin's film, but there is such potency and compromised fragility at work in this haunting score that I know I have to see it sooner rather than later.

    Intrada's release comes with a 12-page booklet with technical notes from Douglass Fake and Julie Kirgo's small essay on this perplexingly overlooked film.

    Full Track Listing

    1. Main Titles 1.38

    2. Wedding Reception 2.28

    3. Karen Fetches Agnes 0.40

    4. Agnes And Seagulls 2.08

    5. Agnes Plays Mouth Organ 0.11

    6. Doll Thrown Over Cliff 1.34

    7. Father Gives Agnes Gloves 2.11

    8. The Hospital 0.56

    9. Tragedy 1.16

    10. “He's Mine – I Made Him” 1.17

    11. Agnes Kisses Her Scarecrow 0.39

    12. “You Can See How Much I Need You” 2.11

    13. “I Can't Be Helped, I'm Mad” 2.14

    14. Agnes Runs To Hospital 2.09

    15. Agnes Looks In Mirror 2.16

    16. Joseph And Agnes Together 1.32

    17. Joseph And Agnes Love Scene 1.20

    18. Agnes Frightened 6.11

    19. Joseph – The Police 1.25

    20. Agnes Alone With Gulls 1.36

    Total Running Time 36.30


    Verdict

    For many people, Georges Delerue is something of an acquired taste – at once charming and melodic, but also indefinably European and romantic. His light touch is deceptive, however. Simple harmonies and beautiful orchestration mask sudden depths of emotion and wells of darkly psychological resonance. His work for John Guillermin's little-seen 60's treasure, Rapture, embodies this gift for simple musical eloquence and devastating drama perfectly. One of his earliest international film scores, this is also a tremendous introduction to a style that he would make his own.

    Intrada's release of this complete score is something of a revelation. I wasn't aware of the intimate and haunting melodrama screenwritten by Stanley Mann until this CD was was announced … but the music is so seductive and hypnotic that the rarely seen production has surely gained the summit of my wanted list, and the score has been played a great number of times already since its arrival.

    The lyrical main theme for the troubled Agnes is exquisite, but it is how Delerue is able to slyly coerce it through dark quagmires of tension and the fragile layers of a disturbed young mind to create a canvas that is delightfully beguiling, and yet full of spectral menace. He captures the delicate balancing act that the trapped Agnes is performing and serenades the tragic consequences of her attempts to step out from the confines of the stifling emotional cell that her father has placed her in. There are harmonies here that will soothe and caress, and harmonies that will break you down. This blend of the the moving and the unnerving is simply magical and incredibly haunting.

    The film may be little-seen, but at least it is receiving a limited release from Twilight Time. The score is now readily available from Intrada and I heartily recommend it to you all. As its title suggests, there is, indeed, Rapture to be found here.


    The Rundown

    Movie

    9

    Overall

    9

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