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  • Composed by Mathieu Lamboley
  • Milan / 34m + 36m

An exceptionally entertaining French series, Lupin is possibly the most consistently-impressive Netflix original series I’ve seen yet. Set in Paris, Omar Sy stars as the lead character Assane Diop, out for revenge against the wealthy industrialist Hubert Pellegrini (Hervé Pierre) whom Diop blames for the death of his father when he was a boy. The USP is that the character is inspired by the French literary hero Arsène Lupin – the gentleman burglar – and goes about his business accordingly. While it’s silly, it’s silly in the best possible way and there are so many twists and turns over the ten episodes, I was quickly hooked and remained that way.

The show was released in two volumes and so too was the soundtrack, composed by the very talented Mathieu Lamboley. His score is a wonderful blend of classic orchestral drama with more modern elements which bring to mind a heist movie, with a drum kit and electric guitar and bass often joining the orchestra for the more action-oriented moments. Lamboley favours shorter soundtrack albums which offer the premiere listening experience (my hero!) and so even though there’s an awful lot of music in the series, the albums last only 70 minutes between them – and each is great.

Mathieu Lamboley

Volume one opens with a few themes for some of the main characters – “Arsène” is the main theme for the show and for Diop, a swirling theme which is intriguingly mysterious, dashingly stylish and absolutely charming – perfect in other words for what it needs to do. “Pellegrini” for the villain is a psychological, string-driven portrait; then there’s the merest hint of romance in “Juliette”, but it’s actually a pretty complex emotional portrait.

There’s some great action material, which often builds off the main theme – I love the dynamic way the composer allows the theme to swell in tracks like “Gentleman” and “Coffre-Fort”; the distinctive sound of the cymbalom adds another really elegant colour to the music in several cues, sometimes combined with grand, crashing piano gestures – “Etretat” is another great piece. On the flip side of this, there are some genuinely touching emotional moments – delicate piano in “L’Aiguille Mystérieuse” and “Claire” is great.

Perhaps the best track from the body of the album is “Diamants”, a hugely stylish piece of action music that Lalo Schifrin would have been proud of – fast, energetic, jazzy, A-grade. “Louvre” is where the first album’s heist sound reaches its peak, with a great momentum building up through the cue, before the album ends with “Lupin”, which offers an elegiac string treatment of the main theme leading up to the dynamic conclusion.

Volume two – which covers music from the second set of five episodes – is just as good. It opens with “Le Secret”, in which an aching violin solo floats above choppy strings and immediately draws in the listener’s attention – there’s a real sadness to it which offers a slight contrast to what has gone before, while remaining entrenched firmly within the same sound world. We’re straight back to very familiar territory after that, with the driving sense of unfolding mysteries at the heart of the great “Coulisses”.

What is different about the second album is that because all the establishment of the key themes had already happened, it tends to focus more on the specific pieces that underscore the episodes’ key moments. There is possibly very slightly more of a piecemeal feeling to it as a result (but really, very slight) but we also do get some terrific cues – “Le Manoir Mystérieux” ventures basically into horror movie territory, with groaning celli and basses set against swirling violins for a very effective atmospheric effect, and this leads into the even darker “Léonard” which ratchets the tension right up.

There’s more than a hint of Don Davis and The Matrix in the opening of the fantastic “En scène!” which is a furiously exciting piece of action music – the moment when the main theme soars expansively away is pure joy. Then in “L’Arnaque” the now-familiar heist movie sound comes very close to what Brian Tyler produced in one of his best scores, Now You See Me (whose director also worked on this show, so perhaps it was in the temp-track, but this cue is the only time Lamboley’s music sounds explicitly like Tyler’s). The sweeping “Les Miliards” is one last fantastic piece of action music and offers a great sense of closure.

We’re not quite done yet though because the second album’s best cue is “La Symphonie de Lupin”, which is actually performed on-screen during the dramatic finale, Lamboley conducting the orchestra on stage (and even named, as himself, as the conductor) in a purely orchestral five-minute, particularly dramatic take on the main theme. It’s a classic montage sequence with the orchestra intercut with the events unfolding in the concert hall, and it’s just as good to listen to on the album as it is in context.

Lupin is distinctive, clever and hugely satisfying, one of the best television scores I’ve heard in an age and probably the best “film” music of 2021 so far. Better still, it has led me to explore earlier works by its composer Mathieu Lamboley which has revealed him to be a top-drawer film composer, with consistently high-quality music everywhere I’ve looked. Do yourself a favour and check these albums out, they’re lots of fun and produced intelligently to provide maximum satisfaction.

Rating: **** 1/2 | |

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  1. Gabriel Bezerra (Reply) on Monday 28 June, 2021 at 15:38

    Great review James! The theme is stuck in my head ever since I’ve watched it. The Now You See Me-Esque music had me smiling when I noticed in the show.

  2. Luc Van der Eeken (Reply) on Friday 2 July, 2021 at 18:11

    His score for the animated feature Minuscule was ace.

  3. Ian Simpson (Reply) on Sunday 11 July, 2021 at 19:00

    Thanks again – you’ve introduced me to another good composer that, until today, I’d never even heard of! I agree that there’s lots of good stuff in these two albums. Much of the main “Arsène” theme, to me, wouldn’t sound out of place in a James Bond film.

    Incidentally when I saw the first two track titles I thought of English Premier League association football of the 2010s (Arsène Wenger, Manuel Pellegrini), but that’s probably coincidence.

  4. James Southall (Reply) on Sunday 8 August, 2021 at 15:36

    I didn’t realise at the time I wrote the review that it’s not just Now You See Me by Brian Tyler that creeps in – the main Lupin theme is almost identical to Tyler’s theme for Ready Or Not (quite disarmingly similar in fact).