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  • Composed by Ennio Morricone
  • Film Score Monthly / 2011 / 70:05

Roman Polanski’s Frantic stars Harrison Ford as a doctor whose wife vanishes from their hotel room while he takes a shower.  He then gets tangled in a web of mystery while trying to get her back.  It’s strong stuff, not one of the director’s best but highly-watchable despite being arguably just a bit too elaborate, and marked something of a comeback for Polanski after he had been reduced to making Pirates as a director-for-hire for his previous film.  His films have usually featured very strong scores and Frantic is no exception, marking his only collaboration with the legendary Ennio Morricone.

Morricone’s score begins with the excellent main theme, stylish and compelling in a uniquely Morriconean way.  The staccato strings brilliantly create the required atmosphere of intrigue and suspense.  The electronics and electric guitar which accompany the orchestra add to the carefully-honed style.  This is followed by “On the Roofs of Paris”, an exceptional piece of film music.  The composer blends together an incredible tension (the piece accompanies the film’s most memorable scene, as Ford’s character battles to break into an apartment from its rooftop window) with Parisian romance, via a waltz which blends into the piece and creates a dreamlike atmosphere.  It’s so skilfully done, works so well in the film and it’s impossible not to be impressed on the album.

Ennio Morricone

Morricone musically represents the night-time through the other main theme, first heard in “One Flugel Horn” and later explored further in “Nocturne for Michelle”.  This noirish piece which, yes, showcases a flugel horn, is dark in nature but tinged with romance.  Those two cues bookend “Six Short Interludes”, which does what it suggests, combining short vignettes into a coherent piece, focusing mostly on tension-building material.  “In the Garage” sees Morricone head briefly into action territory for the only time in the score, with a fine arrangement of the main theme leading into an explosion of sax and percussion.  “The Paris Project” is another floaty, dreamy piece; “Sadly Nostalgic” a final touch of flair before a lengthy reprise of the main theme serves as a finale.

The album released at the time of the film has long been unavailable, so Film Score Monthly’s new release is very welcome.  It reprises that album’s contents (including the Simply Red song “I’m Gonna Lose You”) but adds for the first time the music as actually heard in the film, which is rather different from that heard on the original album, very little of which appears in the film in that form.  It’s interesting to hear, but the ideas have less time to breathe and I would imagine that most people will listen to the album arrangements far more often.  The sound quality is perfect, there are good liner notes by Lukas Kendall, so this one’s highly recommended.  ****

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  1. Zach (Reply) on Friday 1 March, 2019 at 20:43

    Couldn’t disagree more. Morricone is obviously a music genius, but this soundtrack is a rare misfire. The music in the rooftop scene was so distractingly inappropriate that it ruined the scene. The scene itself was a tense, Hitchcockian tightrope walk, while the music was mellow, romantic, and not tense in any way. Complete mismatch. Same goes for the subsequent car chase scene. It’s almost as if he scored the film without seeing it. Total fail.

  2. Andre---Cape TownS (Reply) on Thursday 28 March, 2019 at 12:27

    You’re probably correct about the Maestro maybe not having seen the movie….MORRICONE often wrote scores based on a synopsis sent by a director– and said helmer would then structure scenes and editing prompted by musical tempos and emotional/psychological elements. I saw FRANTIC when it was first released, many years ago Zach, in 1988, and can’t recall the scenes you refer to, nor my reaction to the movie..