Björk, Vangelis, Rota, Hermann… The best soundtracks of the award-winning films at Cannes


Halfway through the 75and Cannes Film Festival, organized from May 17 to 28, we offer you a selection of music – and a song – composed for films that have received a Grand Prix or a Palme d’or over the different editions. Unlike the Oscars, where they have been on the list since 1935, the best film music or the best original song are not rewarded on the Croisette.

Anton Karas for “The Third Man”

Filmed in Vienna, in 1948, The Third Man, film noir by Briton Carol Reed with Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten and Alida Valli, received the Grand Prize at the Cannes International Film Festival in 1949 – the Palme d’or denomination would not arrive until 1955. Based on a screenplay by Graham Greene, who will draw a book from it published after the release and the success of the film, we follow a writer played by Cotten. In the Austrian capital still under the control of the American, British, Soviet and French armed forces, he is looking for his friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles), given for dead, who is discovered to be a drug trafficker. medicines on the black market.

Beyond the staging, the quality of the shots – it has often been said that Welles directed certain scenes of the film – and of the interpretation of the actresses and actors, The Third Man is marked by the Harry Lime Theme, composed and played on the zither by Anton Karas (1906-1985), a musician of Hungarian and Czech origin. This plucked string instrument, fixed on a soundboard placed on a table or on the knees, is present in traditional Austrian music, but also in Germany and in various countries of Eastern Europe. The deceptively cheerful theme of Karas, of which this will be the only participation in a film, is heard from the credits and accompanies, with variations, various scenes. Sylvain Siclier

Mieczyslaw Weinberg for “When the Storks Pass By”

The 1958 Palme d’Or is awarded to When the storks pass, by Mikhail Kalatozov, a production of a post-Stalinist Soviet Union that attenuates the dictates of censorship. This is evidenced by the music of Mieczyslaw Weinberg (1919-1996), daring by its harmonies and even more by its very plastic writing, when it is not purely cinematographic.

To the vertiginous superimposition of the images corresponds the dizzying superposition of the masses. The principle of crossfading also reigns in some musical transitions. As for the very contrasting black and white of the intimate or apocalyptic scenes, it is accentuated by the quartering between strident violins and cavernous brass. Full of distortion and dislocation, the language of Mieczyslaw Weinberg often recalls that of Dimitri Shostakovich. Mikhail Kalatozov’s film then reveals to the West a composer of great stature whose, two decades later, the violinist Gidon Kremer and other leading performers will gradually allow us to take the measure. And it’s not over for the Polish-Russian author of twenty-two symphonies, seventeen string quartets and seven operas! Pierre Gervasoni

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Björk, Vangelis, Rota, Hermann… The best soundtracks of the award-winning films at Cannes