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cannes 2019

The unsung heroes of film scores get noticed at Cannes Film Festival

Gabriel D'Almeida Freitas and Xavier Dolan in Matthias and Maxime, directed by Xavier Dolan
Gabriel D'Almeida Freitas and Xavier Dolan in Matthias and Maxime, directed by Xavier Dolan Copyright Shayne Laverdiere

"Film is like the new opera," says Jean-Michel Blais, composer of the music score for Xavier Dolan's Matthias et Maxime at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. "All the art discplines work together."


Movie music is sometimes pop and foot-tappingly well-known. For example, reworked Abba or Barbara Streisand in Abdellatif Kechiche's Mekhtoub my Love: Intermezzo. Or classical or post-classical, as in Céline Sciamma's The Portrait of a Lady on Fire who chooses Vivaldi's Four Seasons.

Xavier Dolan chooses a mixture of electro and post-classical in Matthias and Maxime.                   

It's the first time pianist-composer Jean-Michel Blais had worked on a music score. "I'd wouldn't hesitate to do it again, it was an amazing experience," he said.

His strikingly romantic and wistful piano piece called "Solitude" was inspired, amongst other sources, by Schubert's "Themes and Variations". He was one of the first romantics.

Blais and Dolan improvised and had some of the composer's early ideas on the shoot. Blais said this is unorthodox, but it worked.

"'Solitude' happened when Xavier was explaining how the scene would be and I was just improvising. We decided to keep it because there was something so strong about it. Now I hear some 'mistakes', because they weren’t planned. But I'm loving these imperfections because I think that’s the beauty of this film and its music.”

Composers, the unsung heroes of film

In their blood

Music can become part of an auteur director's identity. Quentin Tarantino is one example. The outbursting songs in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood take us back to the late 1960s American scene, where the film is set and where the characters dance to discs on record players with crescendos flowing into the following scene.

Elsewhere, the main character in closing film in the Director's Fortnight, Yves is a rags-to-riches rapper whose career takes off thanks to an artificially intelligent fridge-freezer.

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