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Notre-Dame Brûle
  • Composed by Simon Franglen

Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, Notre-Dame Brûle (a French phrase that even I can translate) tells the story of the fire in Paris’s iconic cathedral. While his films have tended to fall somewhat below the radar of late, there’s no doubting Annaud’s ability to create a visual spectacle – nor indeed his appreciation for grand film music. His previous two films were both scored by James Horner and both were highlights of the great composer’s later years, the underrated Black Gold and his final sweeping epic, Wolf Totem, and it’s great to see Annaud retaining some of that musical DNA by enlisting Simon Franglen to score this film (as he did with the tv miniseries he directed a few years back). As with the composer’s previous score, The Curse of Turandot, there are times here when it is like listening to new Horner music – but these times are pleasingly spread out amongst a swathe of music which is in this composer’s own voice. The dramatic architecture of the score is perhaps not a surprise – it opens all big and majestic, with a liturgical air thanks to the vocals, in “Paris Morning” – we have some sprightly, lovely music in “The Workmen Arrive” – but not long later things very much go south.

“Through the Roof” starts this process – desperately dark and foreboding, it is sheer musical bleakness – and that style alternates with slightly punchier action material as the score develops. I love the tense “False Alarm”, with some very familiar-sounding suspense music techniques. Franglen is not afraid to use more modern elements and I like how he contrasts these with the ancient sound of his cathedral theme at times. There’s a huge crescendo to close “The Drone Squad” which has such a great dramatic sweep to it (a sweep that I’ve missed hearing). The majority of the album is actually made up of this tense action/suspense music – I like the clarity of the orchestration, the adherence to more classic techniques than is common in 2022 – it’s a long album though and perhaps my one criticism would be that some of this material in the middle could perhaps have been chopped off for a tighter listening experience. I do like the calm pause of “Crown of Thorns” in the middle of it, which has a distant beauty to it which is really very enticing. Late on, “Entering the Belfry” is a brilliant piece, full of grand gestures, and it precedes perhaps the pick of the action tracks, the brief “Hanging on for Dear Life”. One thing I like about the score is that Franglen tends to take quite a measured approach, which means that when he does go big, those moments have more of an impact. The biggest moment of all duly arrives at the end in “The Fire is Out”, a soaring and emotional piece which itself still finds time for a tender moment of calm through a piano solo. While perhaps not as striking as the composer’s previous effort (which was wonderful), it’s still a very nice score and makes an easy recommendation.

Rating: *** 1/2

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  1. MPC (Reply) on Monday 9 May, 2022 at 02:40

    A fantastic score — like you said, needs a bit of pruning.

    I think “Avatar: The Way of Water” is in safe hands with Franglen, considering how well he handled the Disney World Avatar theme park music.