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Eiffel is a fictionalised romantic drama about Gustave Eiffel, whose name became synonymous with one of the great landmarks of the world, the Gustave Bridge. The French film was released in 2021 but despite featuring music by one of the world’s leading film composers it didn’t receive any sort of album release at the time, now arriving (irritatingly on CD only) in Japan. (If you thought buying American CD releases was expensive…)

I’ve been a big fan of Alexandre Desplat for decades but I do have to admit that in more recent times I’ve found his output to be a little less dazzling than it used to be, for whatever reason. Well, Eiffel is absolutely vintage Desplat, and could easily come from earlier in his career. Full of romance and melancholy, and even featuring a beautiful waltz for its main theme, it’s got everything that made so many of us fall in love with his music in the first place.

Alexandre Desplat

The waltz (“Valse d’Eiffel”) opens the album with elegant opulence but then the hits just keep on coming, with a new theme introduced in every track for a bit. “Construction” has a real buzz to it – the trademark Desplat electronic pulse getting a welcome airing alongside some driving percussion – then “Gustave et Adrienne” introduces a love theme of sorts, before what I assume is a theme for the famous tower itself soars away at the start of “Un projet insensé”.

The construction theme is heard again at the opening of “300 mètres” (which translates as “300 metres”) before the first real jeopardy in the score is heard, dark and swirling psychological tension and what I swear is a musical approximation of vertigo. “Amour impossible” (“Impossible armour”) takes the love theme and does a very John Barry-like minor key twist on it, making it full of longing and sadness.

We continue weaving around all this material as the album progresses, Desplat managing to convey both the bustle and the grandeur of this great construction project with the romance being inserted by the film against its backdrop. As in his vintage scores earlier in his career, he is not afraid to use very modern touches in the music and – as then – he still manages to convey a timeless quality to it, always one of his strengths.

“Le concours” is a great track, the composer playing with a nervous energy vying with some really beautiful little textures coming from the typically-precise orchestration (there is never even a single little colour in this guy’s music that isn’t there for a reason). There’s a real buzz too about “Garden Party” (I’m really not sure what that is in English) – I love the way the sense of joy builds throughout the track before it’s suddenly taken away again. When I was a teenager I would have loved “Erection” because of its title but now I’m a very mature middle-aged man (with absolutely no problems in that department, I should tell you) I can enjoy it for its musical content instead. Having said that – it is a bit of a shame that this music isn’t streaming, denying the world the opportunity to ask Alexa to give us Alexandre Desplat’s erection.

This is absolutely not a criticism of Tokyo’s Rambling Records who have released the album – indeed, great credit to them for doing so – but it would be a real shame if Desplat’s finest score of recent years should prove to be one of his least-heard just because of the effort and cost required to get a copy for those outside Japan. It brings back very fond memories of his early scores like Birth and The Painted Veil and is full of grace and charm, not to mention very vivid musical storytelling. Only occasionally does the music directly bring to mind 19th century Paris – like some other great film composers before him, Desplat isn’t particularly interested in telling the film viewer what they can already see – instead, the treasure is in the very subtle emotional depth he provides, with the music full of these little shifts in colour taking place beneath the surface. Recommended.

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  1. Marco (Reply) on Sunday 19 March, 2023 at 18:46

    Always fun, trying to import CD’s from Japan… I should know, I’ve got roughly a quarter of my collection from there.