Composer. Nationality: French. Born: Maurice Alexis Jarre in Lyon, 13 September 1924. Education: Attended University of Lyon and the Sorbonne, Paris, as engineering student; then studied under Honegger and Félix Passerone at Paris Conservatory. Military Service: French Army during World War II. Family: One son, the
composer Jean-Michel Jarre, from first marriage; married 2) the actress Dany Saval, 1965 (divorced), one daughter; 3) Laura Devon, 1967; 4) Khong Fui Fong, 1984. Career: Timpanist in the navy band La Musique des Equipages de la Flotte, and with radio orchestras; percussionist with Renaud-Barrault Theatre Company, under Pierre Boulez, 1940s, and musical director for the Théâtre National Populaire, 1950s, writing incidental music for many plays; 1951—first score for film, Hôtel des Invalides; has also composed orchestra music, and for TV, including the mini-series Jesus of Nazareth, 1977, Mourning Becomes Electra, 1978, and Shogun, 1980. Awards: Academy Award, for Lawrence of Arabia, 1962, Doctor Zhivago, 1965, and A Passage to India, 1984; British Academy Award, for Witness, 1985, and Dead Poets Society, 1989; Special César award, 1985.
Films as Composer:
Hôtel des Invalides (Franju—short)
Le Voyage d'Abdallah (Régnier—short)
L'Universe d'Utrillo (Régnier—short)
Le Grand Silence (Gout—short)
Le Théâtre National Populaire (Franju—short); Sur le pont d'Avignon (Franju—short); Toute la mémoire du monde (Resnais—short)
Bravo Alpha (Venard—short); Le Bel Indifferent (Demy—short)
La Génération du désert (Stéphane—short); Le Grand Oeuvre (Zuber—short); Donne-moi la main (Blanc—short); La Tête contre les murs (The Keepers) (Franju)
Vous n'avez rien à déclarer? (Duhour); Chronique provinciale (Rappeneau—short); La Bête a l'affût (Chenal); Les Drageurs (Mocky); Les Étoiles de Midi (Ichac); La Corde raide (Dudrumet); La Main chaude (Oury)
Vel' d'hiv' (Blanc and Rossif—short); Recours en grace (Benedek); Malrif, aigle royal (Hessens—short); Le Tapis volant (Mambouch and Stéphane—short); Les Yeux sans visage (The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus) (Franju); Crack in the Mirror (Fleischer); The Big Gamble (Fleischer); Le Puits aux trois vérités (Franju); Le Président (Verneuil)
Le Soleil dans l'oeil (Bourdon); Pleins feux sur l'assassin (Franju); Le Temps du ghetto (The Witnesses) (Rossif); Amours célèbres (Boisrond); Cybèle, ou les dimanches de Ville d'Avray (Sundays and Cybele) (Bourguignon)
The Longest Day (Annakin, Marton, and Wicki); Thérèse Desqueyroux (Thérèse) (Franju); Ton ombre est la mienne (Michel); L'Oiseau de paradis (Camus); Mourir à Madrid (To Die in Madrid) (Rossif); Lawrence of Arabia (Lean); Les Oliviers de la justice (The Olive Trees of Justice) (Blue); Présence d'Albert Camus (Régnier—short)
Les Travestis du diable (de Bravura—short); Mort, où est ta victoire? (Bromberger); Les Animaux (Rossif); Judex (Franju); Pour l'Espagne (Rossif—short); Un Roi sans divertissement (Leterrier)
Behold a Pale Horse (Zinnemann); The Train (Frankenheimer); Week-end à Zuydcoote (Verneuil)
The Collector (Wyler); Doctor Zhivago (Lean); Encore Paris (Rossif—short)
Paris brûle-t-il? (Is Paris Burning?) (Clément); Gambit (Neame); Grand Prix (Frankenheimer); The Professionals (R. Brooks); The Night of the Generals (Litvak)
The Fixer (Frankenheimer); 5 Card Stud (Hathaway); Isadora (The Loves of Isadora) (Reisz); Villa Rides (Kulik); The Extraordinary Seaman (Frankenheimer)
La caduta degli dei (The Damned) (Visconti); The Only Game in Town (Stevens); Topaz (Hitchcock); Broceliande (Hacquard—short)
El Condor (Guillermin); Ryan's Daughter (Lean); Plaza Suite (Hiller)
Una stagione all'inferno (N. Risi); Soleil rouge (Red Sun) (Young)
The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (Newman); Pope Joan (Anderson); The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (Huston)
Ash Wednesday (Peerce); The Mackintosh Man (Huston); The Island at the Top of the World (Stevenson); Airborne (short); Mrs. Uschyck (Quinn—short)
Grandeur nature (Life Size) (Berlanga)
Mandingo (Fleischer); Great Expectations (Hardy); The Man Who Would Be King (Huston); Posse (Douglas); Mr. Sycamore (Kohner); The Silence (Hardy)
Mohammad, Messenger of God (Akkad); The Last Tycoon (Kazan); Shout at the Devil (Hunt)
Lorenzaccio (Carrière); March or Die (Richards); The Prince and the Pauper (Crossed Swords) (Fleischer)
Two Solitudes (Chetwynd); Mon royaume pour un cheval (Bourguignon); Der Magier (The Magician of Lublin) (Golan); The Users (Hardy); Ishi, the Last of His Tribe (Miller)
Winter Kills (Richert); Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum) (Schlöndorff); The American Success Company (Success; American Success) (Richert); The Black Marble (H. Becker)
The Last Flight of Noah's Ark (Jarrott); Lion of the Desert (Akkad); Resurrection (Petrie); Enola Gay: The Men, the Mission, the Atomic Bomb (Rich)
Die Fälschung (Circle of Deceit) (Schlöndorff); Taps (H. Becker); Chu Chu and the Philly Flash (Rich)
Don't Cry, It's Only Thunder (Werner); Coming Out of the Ice (Hussein); Firefox (Eastwood); Young Doctors in Love (G. Marshall); The Year of Living Dangerously (Weir)
A Passage to India (Lean); Dreamscape (Ruben); The Sky's No Limit (Rich); Top Secret! (Abrahams and D. & J. Zucker); Samson and Delilah (Philips)
Witness (Weir); The Bride (Roddam); Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (Miller)
The Mosquito Coast (Weir); Solarbabies (Johnson); TaiPan (Duke)
Fatal Attraction (Lyne); Gaby—A True Story (Mandoki); Julia and Julia (Del Monte); No Way Out (Donaldson); Shuto Shoshitsu (Tokyo Blackout) (Masuda)
Buster (Green); Distant Thunder (Rosenthal); Gorillas in the Mist (Apted); Moon over Parador (Mazursky); Le Palanquin des larmes (Dorfmann)
Chances Are (Ardolino); Dead Poets Society (Weir); Enemies, a Love Story (Mazursky); Prancer (Hancock)
Jacob's Ladder (Lyne); After Dark, My Sweet (Foley); Ghost (Zucker); Solar Crisis (Sarafian); Almost an Angel (Cornell)
Fires Within (G. Armstrong); Only the Lonely (Columbus)
Wildfire (Z. King—produced in 1986); School Ties (Mandel)
Fearless (Weir); Mr. Jones (Figgis); Shadow of the Wolf (Agakuk) (Dorfmann)
A Walk in the Clouds (Arau)
The Sunchaser (Cimino)
Le Jour et la nuit (Day and Night) (Lévy)
I Dreamed of Africa
By JARRE: articles—
Chaplin (Stockholm), no. 28, 1962.
Image et Son (Paris), no. 163, 1963.
Cinema (Los Angeles), July 1966.
Film Review (London), November 1976.
Soundtrack! (Hollywood), April 1979.
Soundtrack! (Hollywood), December 1984.
Soundtrack! (Hollywood), March 1985.
Revue du Cinéma (Paris), no. 417, June 1986.
Sequences (Haute-Ville) January 1993.
Cue Sheet (Hollywood), vol. 11, no. 3, 1995.
Scoundtrack! (Mechelen), December 1996.
On JARRE: articles—
Image et Son (Paris), no. 184, 1965.
Films in Review (New York), October 1972.
Ecran (Paris), September 1975.
Score (Lelystad, Netherlands), February 1978.
Soundtrack! (Hollywood), Fall 1980.
Séquences (Montreal), July 1985.
Soundtrack! (Hollywood), June 1991.
Séquences (Montreal), January 1993.
EPD Film (Franfurt/Main), June 1993.
Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), 1995.
Soundtrack! (Mechelen), December 1996.
Variety (New York), 30 August 1999.
* * *
Maurice Jarre, who began scoring films during the 1950s, had studied under the composer Arthur Honegger, best known for his programmatic works—a train speeding along a track and a rugby game. Jarre inherited his teacher's appreciation of the evocative and descriptive capacities of music, certainly a useful legacy for enhancing the filmic experience. Drawing upon an even deeper vein in the French musical tradition, Jarre shares with Bizet and Debussy the ability to adapt exotic elements from other cultures into his own musical fabric. His range of applying these traditions is equally wide. Jarre's film scores fall into the two most contrastive groups possible: those where his music constantly impresses itself upon the ordinary members of the audience and those where the music is below their level of consciousness.
For the first group, Jarre pulls out all the stops in his orchestral, harmonic, and exotic borrowings. The most famous among these are his award-winning scores for David Lean's spectacles. Overwrought music perfectly matches the overblown visuals—and yet, one cannot deny to the total effect a certain admiration. In Lawrence of Arabia, Jarre employs strings in tremolo and in wide-spaced voice lines to suggest the vast, open waste of the Arabian desert baking in the sun, and he tries to re-create the effects of Arabic music with heavy chromaticism. In Doctor Zhivago, he similarly employs open intervals to suggest the extensive steppes and wastes of Siberia. He exploits Russian Orthodox liturgical modes and derives inspiration from the great nineteenth-century Russian composers; however, sometimes he draws on their more saccharine violin style for his love scenes. His music for the Karel Reisz's Isadora sounds disconcertingly like that for Doctor Zhivago, and—of particular danger when inspiration is lacking—it falls even more deeply than the Lean scores into those 1930s paradigms that Korngold, Steiner, and Herrmann created. Passage to India, on the other hand, succeeds. Perhaps, the inspiration of Indian music returned to him some of his former strength. Be that as it may, his still old-fashioned score fits this anachronistically shot epic—with outdoor night-scenes shot in the studio.
While continuing to draw on a wide musical background and resulting vocabulary, Jarre has moved in the direction of more austerity and down below the level of consciousness. He works in touches, rich and evocative, but still touches. Sometimes, natural or human sounds are either suggested or actually employed to such an extent that one is not able to determine where the composer's contributions end and the sound-effects editor's begin. When the music is assertive, it is the music of other composers chosen for the moment, or it derives from some local or exotic source—this last can lead into some fine inventive veins. In Taps, he not only uses the actual theme suggested in the title to great effect, but, for really highly charged moments, he has a brass choir playing fragments of the theme in a closely knit polyphonic texture, bearing an uncanny resemblance to Wagner's "Rhine Journey" music for The Twilight of the Gods; however, the subtlety of applying the motif is Jarre's and had nothing to do with the German's heavy-handed reiterations. Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome also has a few touches of conventional orchestra instruments that have a Wagnerian feel.
Jarre shows himself quite able to employ synthesized music in his score for Peter Weir's The Year of Living Dangerously (supplemented by music in this vein by Vangelis). Jarre's quiet eerie dissonance is apt accompaniment for the walk through the Jakarta (Manila) slums of Billy (Linda Hunt) and Guy (Mel Gibson). This music is created by muted percussive instruments and a sense of muted strings from a synthesizer, composed by Jarre and programmed by Andrew Thomas Wilson. The tonality for the music of this slum scene and other darker moments of the film seems to be based on a whole-tone scale, so much favored by Debussy; it is an amorphous, mysterious scale. Jarre, however, bases most of his film music on another scale loved by Debussy: it is, appropriate to the setting, a five-tone or pentatonic scale—that of most far-Eastern music.
As with Lean, Weir has discovered an ideal collaborator in Jarre—but the change from the one to the other offers a significant metamorphosis. As if to match the neocolonial aura that plays about Lean's films, Jarre has given us exotic embellishments. However, for Weir's truly postcolonial efforts, Jarre has made every effort to use real instruments. While his music for Lean often seems to be what Edward Said would label "Orientalism" or a sort of Westernized Eastern decorative pastiche, Jarre really dug into the Indonesian musical traditions. He went for what in 1982 were relatively untapped sources for inspiration: the ceremonial music of Java and the temple music of Bali. Weir has always advocated periodic dunkings of Westerners in alternative cultures. C. H. Koch, the author of the novel on whichDangerously is based, has repeated denied that Australians are Western, but really as much a part of Southeast Asia as Indonesia—at least, in potential and prospect. Further, Jarre uses the traditional Javanese gamelan, which translates as "orchestra" consisting of drums, gongs, and a stringed instrument. The actual gamelan players for the film were from the Department of Music of Sydney University. The sprightly, cheerful music that accompanies Billy and Guy's first moments of journalistic camaraderie consists of a gamelan accompaniment that moves at the fast tempo most characteristic of the style. But for quieter moments—such as the symbolically important moments when Billy shows Guy the wayang puppets or Guy searches for his news story along a highway snaking through emerald rice paddies—Jarre has slowed down the tempo. Another sign of Jarre's postcolonialism is that what is good for Indonesia is also good for the United States. In Dead Poets Society, Jarre uses the dulcimer to accompany shots of the Delaware countryside and bagpipes to fit the Anglo-Scotch pretensions of the Eastern prep-school where the film is set (St. Andrews); both instruments recur in the closing-credits music.
There is one outstanding aspect of the Jarre and Weir collaboration that, while it goes beyond the perimeters usually set for judging a film composer, is resonant in its capacity to reveal the psychology of the characters and touch that of the audience: the music chosen from the canonical or classic masterpieces. Their approach is a compromise between an original orchestral score employed throughout and the use of massive portions of the classics—the approach one usually associates with Stanley Kubrick. For Year of Living Dangerously, Jarre leaves the lushness of orchestration, as it were, up to Richard Strauss, whose "September" from his Four Last Songs plays—appearing diagetically, as if Billy is playing a recording—at moments of great psychological tension for Guy and especially for Billy. The oldfashioned music of the autumnal glow in European culture and imperialism is juxtaposed with the vitality and freshness of the music of the Third World. Music from an album suite by Vangelis was chosen for the lovers' dangerous post-curfew ride to a night of love. For Dead Poets Society, Beethoven—again introduced diagetically, as if played on a phonograph by the teacher hero (Robin Williams)—matches the dynamic self-assertion that is advocated by this teacher. An almost nonexistent original score for Fearless is supplemented by fragments from music of Penderecki and culminated by an impressive selection from that of Gorecki.