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Coco Before Chanel
  • Composed by Alexandre Desplat
  • Varese Sarabande / 2009 / 39:44

If you were to take a quick look at me, you might be forgiven for thinking that my sartorial elegance is indicative of a keen interest in high fashion, but when I bought these clothes I wasn’t actually trying to be ironic.  Having said that, even I’ve heard of Coco Chanel, who as well as inventing Coco Pops (for which we should all be grateful) also dabbled in all things fashion.  Reportedly, this new biopic Coco Before Chanel, with Audrey Tautou taking the lead, concentrates on her fashion work rather than her pioneering phase in the breakfast cereal industry.

This French film was scored by Alexandre Desplat, who seems to have become the busiest film composer around at the moment – this is his second of six currently-scheduled 2009 projects.  That he has become so highly-sought is extremely satisfying – a great finger in the eye of those who said the only way to score motion pictures these days is the Hans Zimmer way.  His elegant, refined approach to film scoring has been a great revelation – and long may he continue to be in such great demand!

Alexandre Desplat

If one were to level a criticism in Desplat’s direction then it would be that most of his scores are composed in a very similar vein – he has not yet done enough that this has become a problem, but it’s easy to see that in a few years if he is still writing scores in this way then it might be.  Fortunately, at the moment it’s still nice to hear this style, however little variation there may be from one score to the next.  Of course, there are subtle variations in colour and Coco Avant Cheriis at the sweetest end of Desplat’s output.

The main theme is full of Parisian charm – and it’s nice to hear a score for a Paris-set film which doesn’t go down the cliched route (and ironic that it took a French composer to write one like that).  It’s both lovely and lively, gently playful and sweetly nostalgic.  Perfect.  The other main theme, introduced in “Chez Chanel”, is a waltz; that’s right, Alexandre Desplat has written a waltz.  Remarkable!  And the good news is, it’s yet another doozy.  Quite why and how he keeps incorporating waltzes into his scores I don’t know; but you won’t find me complain about it.

What a delightful score this is.  For sure, it’s comparatively light compared with the composer’s most serious scores, but Desplat is such a perfectionist that it is certainly not lightweight.  Sumptuous and charming throughout, it’s simply a lovely album to sit and listen to.  Note that in America, it was originally available only as a download, under its French title Coco Avant Chanel; but Varese Sarabande’s European distributor Colosseum released it as a proper CD in Germany and eventually Varese released it in the US as a physical CD too.  Highly recommended.  ****

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