Tearful Francis Lai acclaimed at World Soundtrack Awards

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By Ray Bennett

Oscar-winning French composer Francis Lai, 82, was visibly moved by a prolonged standing ovation after he accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award on Saturday night at the 14th World Soundtrack Awards in Gent.

Fellow French composer Bruno Coulais presented the prize to Lai in the audience where he listened with evident delight to a performance of his film scores by the Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Dirk Brossé.

At a press conference earlier in the day, the man who won the Academy Award and Golden Globe for best original score for “Love Story” in 1971, said that he became a film composer by accident. He started out as a songwriter and only when Claude Lelouch asked him for a couple of songs for “A Man and a Woman” (1966) did he work in feature films.

“Claude was so pleased that he replaced some of the dialogue with my music,” Lai said with remembered astonishment. The film won  two Oscars for original screenplay and best foreign-language film in 1967 and Lai’s film scoring career was launched.

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Concert highlights included the indelible song from “A Man and a Woman” performed by Clara Cleymans and Helmut Lotti, Lai’s original piano arrangement of the theme from “Love Story” and several cues from “Bilitis” with vocalist Joke Cromheecke. Lai said earlier that he believes romantic songs will always play a role in movies: “They will always exist because emotional communication is so important.”

Alexandre Desplat, who has been a Gent regular, could not attend this year but he sent amusing videos by way of thanks for his two awards. He was named Composer of the Year for his prodigious output that included scores for “Godzilla”, “Marius”, “Philhomena”, “The Monuments Men”, “Venus in Fur” and “Zulu”.

Somewhat surprisingly, Desplat’s splendid score for “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, which will almost certainly figure in awards for this year, also was included and it won him the prize for best original film score over Oscar- and Bafta-award winner Steven Price’s remarkable music for “Gravity”.

The young British composer, who has followed up with a sumptuous score for the Brad Pitt war picture “Fury”, took it with good grace as he said that established stars Desplat, John Williams and Thomas Newman had been more than gracious when he beat them to the Academy Award.

British composer Daniel Pemberton was on hand to accept his award as Discovery of the Year for his scores for “The Counselor” and “Cuban Fury” while Gabriel Yared appeared to announce that Pharrell Williams had won the award for best song for “Happy” from “Despicable Me 2” while Michelino Bisceglia won the public choice prize for his music in “Marina”.

French composer Cyril Molesti won the Saban Award for the most original composition by a young European composer in a competition that had 45 submissions. The challenge was to compose a cue to replace one by Nino Rota for a clip from Federico Fellini’s “8½”.

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Film review: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper in ‘Serena’

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By Ray Bennett

Among the many good things about the new Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper period drama “Serena” is that you’re never quite sure where it’s headed but the trouble is that when it’s over you’re not entirely certain where it’s been. Continue reading

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World Soundtrack Awards showcase best film music

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By Ray Bennett

It’s a measure of the authority of the World Soundtrack Awards that while the Academy Awards last time nominated two of the best film scores from last year, the Gent event has nominated all four plus one that will be a contender at next year’s Oscars. Continue reading

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FILM REVIEW: Brad Pitt in David Ayer’s ‘Fury’

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By Ray Bennett

The new Brad Pitt World War II film “Fury” is an old-fashioned combat picture with tough guys familiar from many platoon yarns but it is very modern in its fast and furious editing and taste for acres of gore. Continue reading

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Lyric Hammersmith to re-open in April with ‘Bugsy Malone’

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By Ray Bennett

The Lyric Hammersmith in West London has announced that it will re-open next April with a production of the stage musical version of “Bugsy Malone” after a multi-million pound redevelopment. Continue reading

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Matthew Bourne’s ‘Lord of the Flies’ a dance triumph

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By Ray Bennett

When you are not well versed in an art form it’s a joy to feel suddenly that you get it. Matthew Bourne’s production of “Lord of the Flies”, choreographed by co-director Scott Ambler, is so vital, clear and full of zest that newcomers will be as delighted as dance aficionados. Continue reading

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BMI London Awards honour Tim Rice

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By Ray Bennett

Oscar-, Tony- and Grammy-winning lyricist Tim Rice was named a BMI Icon at the BMI London Awards on Oct. 13 with Don Black, Ray Davies, and Van Morrison (pictured above) among the guests. Continue reading

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Tears and laughter at ASCAP’s London Awards

ASCAP Awards 2014

By Ray Bennett

Songwriter Jim Duguid, who was named songwriter of the year along with Alex Clare for Clare’s double platinum hit “Too Close”, brought down the house at the 34th Annual ASCAP Awards London gala at Grosvenor House on Oct. 8. Continue reading

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FILM REVIEW: David Fincher’s ‘Gone Girl’

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By Ray Bennett

Gillian Flynn’s hit crime novel “Gone Girl” is great fun but it turns out the book’s huge plot twist is such a vital part of its enjoyment that many who enjoyed it will find the film a disappointment. Continue reading

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Synesthesia and the mystery of great film music

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By Ray Bennett

“Give me music,” says Shakespeare’s Cleopatra. “Music, moody food for us that trade in love.”

Moody food, too, for those who trade in movies. Whether it’s Rupert Everett leading a rousing chorus of “I Say a Little Prayer” in “My Best Friend’s Wedding”, Henry Mancini’s feline tiptoe accompaniment to “The Pink Panther” or Maurice Jarre’s haunting “Lara’s Theme” from “Doctor Zhivago”, music in films has the power to move us as much as, and sometimes more than, the words and pictures. Continue reading

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