LP: Man and a Woman, A / Un homme et une femme (1966)

February 23, 2011 | By

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Rating: Very Good

Label: Disc AZ/ Released: 1966

Tracks & Album Length: 9 tracks / (29:10)


Special Notes: n/a.


Composer: Francis Lai




To call Francis Lai’s 1966 feature film debut meteoric is an understatement, given his main theme for the Oscar-wining film became an international hit, playing for years on radio stations in various incarnations.

The original soundtrack album, much like the film mix, contains more than the yaba-daba-da duet single, which wasn’t heard in the film until the 80 mins. mark. Besides that wordless male-female vocal version (plus an up-tempo variation that closes the album), there’s another duet with lyrics, culminating in the same nonsense refrain presumably meant to mimic pulsing heartbeats.

“Samba Saravah,” which took advantage of the samba craze of the era, integrates dialogue and repeated phrases in place of traditional rhyming lyrics; and the gentle “Aujourd’hui c’est toi” plays over a montage as Anne wanders and rides through Paris (and simply exploits the striking beauty of actress Anouk Aimee in trendy clothes and wafting, shoulder-length hair).

“A l’ombre de nous,” in turn, is a wonderful combination of free-form singing with the lyrics gently flowing over a steady heartbeat. Organ chords and subtle acoustic guitar characterize the lovely theme as a haunting liturgical statement on the murkiness of love, and the male singer’s cadence is often punctuated by a loose piano figure before the organ completes the final refrain and the cue fades out.

The duet “Plus fort que nous” is the album’s longest cue (quite surprising at almost 5 mins.), and it’s a total contrast to the ditzy yaba-daba-da theme. The male tonal drones and passionate female arching are quite arresting, and Lai applies short burst of organ improv to bridge the song’s refrains, but the song’s overall mood is of looming tragedy, and a hint the romance is poised to hit a wall and lose its verve.

The album also contains a few of the orchestral cues which aren’t straight instrumental theme versions minus voices. “Plus fort que nous” has solo trumpet and a Manciniesque trombone performing looser versions of the theme’s melody, with triste strings and woodwinds, and a lumbering beat that hints at the instability of the lover’s burgeoning relationship.

The galloping orchestral version of “Aujourd’hui c’est toi” is written in a classical jazz style (and quite evocative of Michel Legrand), with strings inferring romance, brass injecting burst of urgency, and rapping percussion providing an unwavering momentum. Lai uses the cue in several scenes, including Anne’s first recollection of meeting husband Pierre on a film set, and Jean-Louis’ mad driving during a cross-country race.

Missing from the album – released at a time when 30 mins. were sufficient for the market – are additional instrumental theme variations, including the rather haunting organ rendition which plays over the Main Titles.

Originally released in mono, Lai’s debut score is a charming mix of teasing, fun, and sadness, but the full score deserves a release after fans have had to settle for this curt version, issued 44 years ago.



© 2011 Mark R. Hasan


Related links:

CD:  Francis Lai – The Essential Film Music Collection (2011)

DVD / Film:  Man and a Woman, A / Un homme et une femme (1966)


External References:

IMDB — Soundtrack Album — Composer Filmography


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