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  • Composed by Philippe Sarde
  • Varese Sarabande CD Club VCL 0310 1107 / 2010 / 32:42

A film which was well-received by critics but not audiences, The Manhattan Project is about a smart kid who decides to build a nuclear bomb, to prove various points to various people.  Director Marshall Brickman had already worked with French composer Philippe Sarde on another film; this was to be their second together.  Sarde’s full-bodied score has to tread a careful path around the film’s carefully-plotted, disparate elements – the scientific elements, the thriller elements, the romance, the drama.  He does so with aplomb, blending everything together into something which works beautifully and coherently.  (But then, he’s a terrific composer – and I love his quote in the liner notes that “black on black or red on red equals zero… music should only add something extra that the images haven’t provided” – one might think that would be lesson #1 at film composing school, but on today’s evidence…)

The score opens with a piece dominated by electronics, setting an ominous tone – dark, an edge of mystery (and, it has to be said, more than just an edge of the 80s).  But for the most part it’s orchestral, quite delightfully so in fact.  The warm, summery theme heard in “Ithaca” and “The Gadget” is a real treat, playful winds and brass with swirling strings painting an evocative portrait.  A gorgeous love theme drips with feeling.  There’s action, too, most notably in “Escape”; and hearing how strong it is, I wonder why Sarde hasn’t had more of a Hollywood profile over the years, because this suggests he’d have been a strong composers for action thrillers.  (Maybe he just didn’t want that.)  This is a fine, multi-faceted score; Varese actually put out more than half of it on CD before (with their release of Sarde’s Sister Mary Explains It All, for the same director) but this album shows it off in an even greater light.  Highly recommended!  ****

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  1. Broxton (Reply) on Sunday 4 April, 2010 at 22:38

    I agree, this is a very good score. As for Sarde not being more of a Hollywood player – I think he’d rather be strolling around his apartment in the 17th arrondissement, wearing nothing but a bath robe, eating brie and drinking bordeaux!

  2. James Southall (Reply) on Monday 5 April, 2010 at 09:22

    Wouldn’t we all!

  3. Pete (Reply) on Friday 9 April, 2010 at 23:43

    I don’t if you knew this but the main theme/love theme is an exact copy of the love theme from Sarde’s “Le Choc” (1982). Just putting it out there.

    • James Southall (Reply) on Saturday 10 April, 2010 at 00:27

      I didn’t know that – thanks for the info.