Our colleague Frederic Torres was present at the 36th edition of the Mostra de València-Cinema del Mediterrani, held from October 15 to 24 in Valencia (Spain), and leaves us here an extensive special article exclusively for SoundTrackFest.
In the article he tells us how was the tribute concert to the late Spanish movie director Berlanga, performed by the Banda Simfònica Municipal de València, the piano concert offered by the special guest of the festival and jury, Jean-Michel Bernard, as well as his masterclass.
While John Williams shone with his own light in the three concerts offered in Berlin on the same dates, specifically on Friday, October 15, the 36th edition of the Mostra de València, Cinema del Mediterrani, in its fourth edition after its restart since it was liquidated by the mayor of the Spanish Popular Party, Rita Barberá, as an austerity measure imposed by the economic crisis that devastated the Western world last decade, kicked off.
And it did so with a simple inauguration in the La Rambleta venue, where, among other things, the jury was presented, including the French film composer, jazzman, and pianist Jean-Michel Bernard, offering to the audience a preview of the Spanish film El lodo, in competition in the Official Selection of the festival, by the Valencian director Iñaki Sánchez, starring Paz Vega and Raúl Arévalo, a solvent thriller set in the Valencian Albufera that bears certain similarities (and not only for sharing protagonist) with La isla mínima (2014), as well as with Straw Dogs (1971), Sam Peckinpah’s classic, which has a functional music by Xema Fuertes and Amadeo Moscardó.
But it was on Sunday, the 17th, that film music fans were waiting, in the morning, also in La Rambleta (it should be remembered that the Palau de la Música of the capital of the Túria is still closed for renovations), for the Banda Simfònica Municipal de València to offer a concert in tribute to Luís García Berlanga, the popular Valencian director who died in 2010, which this year marked the centenary of his birth.
Conducted by the expert baton of Rafael Sanz-Espert, the Band thus consolidates its link with the Mostra by offering this concert, which has been performed within it for some years, and from which a compact disc of the concert held the previous year, dedicated to Ennio Morricone, was offered to the audience as a detail.
With the special participation of Merly Zafra, vocalist who opened the concert with the interpretation of the well-known “Copla de las Divisas”, from ¡Bienvenido Míster Marshall! (1952), the audience was immediately devoted to the show, which continued with brilliant suites from Calabuch (1956), with music by Guido Guerrini, which had the no less brilliant arrangements of the young Valencian composer and conductor Vicente Ortiz, who has been in the team of orchestrators of no less than the latest James Bond film, No Time to Die (2020), composed by Hans Zimmer.
No less interesting was the suite from Los Jueves, milagro (1957), with music by Franco Ferrara, again arranged by Ortiz, who took great care to give the deserved prominence to subtle percussion featuring xylophone, vibraphone, and bells. In between, Zafra intervened again singing “Si vas a Calatayud”, with arrangements, like his previous intervention, by Azael Tormo Muñoz, who was also in charge of those of “El mambo al coll”, from Todos a la cárcel (1993), which incorporated the traditional Valencian folk song “La manta al coll”, of festive tradition and originally from Alicante.
Previously it had already been possible to listen to the pasodoble that Miguel Asins Arbó wrote for La vaquilla (1985), in addition to a fiery proclamation by the social representation of the Symphonic Band, which interrupted the concert to claim its historical link with the municipal council, in view of the attempts of the current local government, whose mayor is in the hands of Joan Ribó, of the Compromís coalition, to transfer its ownership to the management of the Palau de la Música.
From this point on, the spotlight shifted to the duo formed by Bernardo Fuster and Luís Mendo, members of the veteran group Suburbano (and authors of such popular hits as “La Puerta de Alcalá” and “Arde París”), who had the opportunity to work with the director tributed in this concert on his latest projects. Again with Ortiz’s arrangements, we heard “Mango Sabroso”, composed by the duo, both present in the hall as guests of honor, as well as an extensive suite from the television series Blasco Ibáñez, dedicated to the famous Valencian writer, in which the composition of the main theme overlapped with various themes of popular characteristics to contextualize the plot. The composers themselves told us at the end of the concert, in an improvised chat under the fine rain that was soaking us at the exit, that it was recorded by a group of about thirty musicians in Madrid, specialists in band music, almost all of them Valencian, given the profusion of formations and specialists in the country.
The concert ended with the absolute premiere of the suite of Paris-Tombouctou (1999), the last film released by Berlanga, in which the song “A Ninguna Parte” was presented as a surprise, which in the film was sung with his broken voice by Manolo Tena, and that on stage was interpreted again by Merly Zafra. A brilliant end, which had its climax in the encore of the “Copla de las Divisas”, final point to such a festive concert, which is expected to offer the corresponding physical CD as a detail to the audience attending the next concert that the Band will perform, almost certainly, in next year’s edition.
With the presence of the French composer among the members of the jury, on the 17th, the same day as the concert of the Banda Simfònica de València in tribute to Berlanga, but in the afternoon, the fans were summoned to the historic building of Arab origin L’Almodí, to attend the recital that Jean-Michel Bernard gave to the audience.
Known above all for his relationship with the director Michel Gondry, but also for other musical facets, such as being a well-known jazz pianist, selected by Ray Charles to accompany him during his European tour in the middle of the first decade of the millennium. Author of albums of the specialty such as Jazz for Dogs, from 2014, conceived as a tribute to his dog, or the seminal Yellow Cow, from 1991, in which Bernard also conducted the Paris Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as for his compilation album, Jean-Michel Barnard Plays Lalo Schfrin, recorded jointly with the great Argentine composer, the French musician prepared a varied and extensive repertoire.
The recital lasted almost two hours, from the opening and very well known “The Pink Panther”, by Henry Mancini, to the “Interestellar Theme”, by Hans Zimmer, through a whole bunch of well-known themes ranging from those conceived by European authors such as “La Valse d’Amélie”, by Yann Tiersen; Philippe Sarde’s “La Chanson d’Hélène”, performed by vocalist Kimiko Ono, Bernard’s wife; Georges Delerue’s “Le Mépris”; or the inevitable Cinema Paradiso by Morricone.
In addition, we were able to enjoy “Ange et Gabrielle” and “La Science des Rêves”, both by Bernard himself, the latter with Ono and cellist María José Santapau, as well as other American composers, with the suite dedicated to Williams, composed by the credits of E.T. (which in the film itself begin with the piano), “Schindler’s List”, “Hedwig’s theme”, from Harry Potter, and the main theme of Catch Me If You Can, followed by the song from Jerry Goldsmith’s Papillon, which Ono performed (strangely, in English).
The concert also had space for the very famous “City of Stars”, by Justin Hurwitz from La La Land, or the no less known Bernard Herrmann’s Suite for Psycho, transcribed in a surprising and precise way to the piano.
Introducing and explaining in English each of the selected fragments, Bernard also played “You’ve got a friend in me”, a song composed by Randy Newman for Toy Story, with clear jazzy roots, and the well-known central theme of The Last of the Mohicans, by the South African Trevor Jones, as well as Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, by the Japanese Ruichi Sakamoto.
Next, he approached several themes of his idol, Lalo Schifrin, of whom he played “Tango del Atardecer”, belonging to Carlos Saura’s film, besides proposing an enigmatic fusion between the music of Chopin, of whom he had interpreted the “Balada Nº1 en sol menor, op. 23”, on the occasion of its inclusion in Polanski’s film, The Pianist, and the theme of the television series Mannix, for which he did not offer any explanation, limiting himself to raising his hands and proposing a “why not?” to the satisfied audience. This is a fusion that the composer has been performing in his concerts for some time now and has almost become a hallmark of the house.
The encore, with the incombustible main theme of the Mission: Impossible franchise, by Schifrin, put an end to a concert marked by a certain minimalist imprint in the composer’s style of execution, which sometimes made him rush the themes, as well as establish interesting jazz variations to his interpretations, always from the clearest and absolute mastery of the instrument, as it is worth mentioning that virtuoso condition wielded by Bernard.
And since Bernard was available throughout the week as a result of his task as a juror, when he was contacted, according to the artistic director of the Mostra, Eduardo Guillot, in his presentation before the beginning of the recital, he proposed to also conduct a master class, which took place on Wednesday, October 20, at 18:30h in the hall of the SGAE in València.
Accompanied this time by the translator Natalia Gascón, the musician was able to express himself in his native French language, which resulted in a greater naturalness and communicative fluency, and before starting his presentation he was interested in the profile of the audience, inquiring about the presence of composers in the hall (only a couple, among the approximately four dozen attendees).
He then went on to deliberate on the diversity of the new times, in which he stated that, although it is true that technology offers great help and comfort to musicians, it is always necessary to insist that emotions and orchestral transcription are the basis of a good cinematographic work, as a good admirer of the music of the seventies, and of authors such as John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith (of whom he announced a forthcoming compact disc compilation).
After offering a video presentation with some of his most significant cinematographic works (Madame Bovary, the version shot by Claude Chabrol in 1991; The Officer’s Ward, by François Dupeyron, in 2001; or the remake of L’emmerdeur carried out by Francis Veber, in 2008), Bernard focused mainly on his relationship with Michel Gondry, offering several fragments of some of the films in which they collaborated together, pointing out the immense luck of having been able to work with someone of such great talent.
Thus, after a fragment of The Science of Sleep, the 2006 film that was a success for the director, making him internationally known, Bernard explained the complexity of his work with him through a sequence from Be Kind Rewind, Gondry’s following film, made in the United States a couple of years later, in 2008, and starring Jack Black, in which the diegetic music that contextualizes a celebration party between the characters gradually gives way to the composer’s incidental music, which explains their feelings much better.
Curiously, the day before, Tuesday 19, a Tunisian co-production directed by Mehdi Hmili, entitled Streams, was screened in the official competition section, in which a harassed protagonist lady, overwhelmed by the suffocating machismo and the political situation of the country, after suffering an attempted rape and being unjustly accused of being a prostitute, goes to the suburbs in search of her teenage son, a promising soccer player who has sunk into the misery of drugs, and finds him after the desperate passage of a few years. In it, a sequence of the same characteristics described by Bernard stands out, with the protagonist dancing to a strongly percussive music thanks to which she begins to let herself go until reaching an effect of inner liberation that leads to a transition towards the incidental music of Amin Bouhafa, which ends up explaining better that sensation in the final part of the sequence.
Curious coincidence given Bernard’s complaint about the musical treatment of most of the films in competition, of which he said that only one of all of them had a specific treatment in this field. Presumably he was referring to Tailor, a Greek comedy with music by Nikos Kypourgos, which ultimately won the specialty award, as well as best actor, for Dimitris Imellos, in his impeccable role as a tailor trying to make it in the traveling haute couture business.
Anyway, the composer, proposed another couple of examples of some of his most international works, such as Love Punch, a 2013 film starring Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson, and his participation in Hugo, the film by Martin Scorese that takes place in Paris, and for which the Canadian Howard Shore was nominated for an Oscar for best music, with whom he collaborated to carry out part of the diegetic music, which according to Bernard, the director, a perfectionist, treated with the same consideration and importance as the incidental music.
Then, the composer gave way to his facet of virtuoso pianist to take the stage and interpret to the audience some themes already heard in the previous recital, such as “The Pink Panther” by Mancini, the suite by Williams, and the fusion between Chopin and Schifrin. A brilliant culmination to a masterclass of almost an hour and a half, which can be described as successful given the attendance.
After his performance, a round of questions was opened among the audience, to which Bernard kindly answered, among which I asked him again about the importance of technology, explained as a means but perhaps, due to the influence of Hans Zimmer and his acolytes, turned into an end. Bernard, who described the question as difficult, returned to emotion as the basis of the musical-cinematographic work. After several more questions about his relationship with Gondry and his way of working, the conference concluded with the audience’s applause for the composer.
Now we can only hope that the directors of the Mostra takes good note of the interest reflected in this event, as well as in the recital offered in the Almodí, with a very accomplished presence of public in a complicated schedule (Sunday late in the afternoon), and that instead of considering it “a flower of a day”, give continuity to this type of parallel activities that once led the Mostra to devote an important part of its program to the pioneering Film Music Congress, developed throughout the nineties, which also disappeared due to lack of budget. There is no lack of proposals in this sense, adding will and planning. A past worth rescuing and a future within reach. In view of what has been seen, it would certainly be worthwhile.
Article by Frederic Torres
Pictures by Sabin & Frederic Torres