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A Walk in the Clouds
  • Composed by Maurice Jarre
  • La-La Land Records / 2012 / 72:09

A big-budget romance set in the Napa Valley immediately after the second world war, A Walk in the Clouds sees Keanu Reeves play a soldier returning from the war to a wife he barely knew and follows his romantic highs and lows thereafter.  It’s the kind of film that’s a hard sell to today’s cynical audiences, though it has more than its share of admirers, in particular for the director Alfonso Arau’s unabashed, old-fashioned romanticism and the now-famed cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s gorgeous helming.  Looking for a composer for his film who shared his romantic outlook on life, Arau made a fine choice when he selected one of the last great romantics of film music, Maurice Jarre, whose career went on a very varied path – but who will forever best be known for his great, swooning, sweeping themes.

The theme for this film is certainly one of those.  It simply soars with its enthusiastic, heartmelting beauty.  A massive orchestra dominated by strings gets a workout that could only be the work of a great French romantic like Jarre, but which is filled with the kind of undiluted emotional content that was so common in film music’s golden age, but is much rarer today.  It’s a wonderful theme, worthy of a place on any “great romantic film themes” collection; and the listener is given plenty of chances to enjoy it in the largely monothematic score.  It goes through a number of variations – including a childlike, music box variant used for flashback sequences – the lilting guitar arrangement will be a highlight for many.  There’s a range of set-pieces too; most impressive is “The Harvest”, a lively and fulfilling piece of Mexicana.  This new extended album from La-La Land adds a few extra minutes of score (which actually make it a more balanced experience overall, since they are generally of a more suspenseful nature than the material included on the original Milan album) and plenty of alternate versions of cues which I don’t suppose many people will listen to more than once.  Whether I could recommend it as being an essential upgrade for those who have the old album (which is still in print) I’m   not sure, but for those who don’t – and like their scores to be big and melodic and to wear their heart on their sleeve – well, there’s no question about it, it’s an essential purchase.  Vintage romantic Jarre, the music’s just a delight.  **** |

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