Interview to Raymond Lefevre
The Music for the "Gendarmes" films
This is a rough translation from the French liner notes of the
Les Plus Belles Musiques De Louis De Funès
How did you handle your dual career as a musician image and variety performer?
Simply with a lot of work! Knowing the uncertainties of the music industry, I started compartmentalizing my career in several areas: conductor of radio and then TV, composer of film music, arranger and conductor of records.
With most of all concert tours abroad. I believe that this diversification has helped me to make a sustainable career ... But I can't be certain of it!
Under what circumstances did you meet Jean Girault?
For the score of the film "Faiters Sauter La Banque", the music producer had
already spoken to Paul Mauriat, which is also a composer and a conductor. So at the time, Paul and I had put our working together, which was very pleasant. So I co-composed with him the score of this film. Subsequently, Paul, devoted his career to his recordings, so he abandoned film music
What was your method of working with Jean Girault? Was he demanding for the approach of music?
Jean Girault gave me his confidence, which was particularly encouraging. I spent much time with him and to create a montage we decided to set a share of scenes requiring musical accompaniment, and secondly, the style of this music. If we were not quite agree, we discuss frankly and then ... revisit the recording! But honestly, I must say that my relationships have Girault been made to mutual understanding and trust.
How did you react to discovering the first shots of "Gendarme of Saint-Tropez" in 1964? Was it for you just a film series or did you expect such success?
I found the film funny, nothing more. Anyway, I wasn't expecting such success! I was forced to compose the music in the month of August ... An assistant of Girault gave me the timings at my country house, where I spent my vacation. Not to put Girault into trouble at a time when there was nobody in Paris I wrote the musical score of the film ... with my feet on the grass!
In the De Funès movies, your music does not merely function to synchronize with the gag, just like the cartoons?
It is true that many sequences in the De Funès demanded it. But fortunately for the composer, there were also space for music and sometimes romantic music. Personally, it is the latter that my preference.
Can we say that the saga of the "Gendarmes" represents a synthesis of twenty years of musical styles: starting with the twist to go to the use of synthesizers, to pop music ...
Absolutely. In almost all the "Gendarmes" movies, there are scenes with dance music. Those music styles evolve very quickly and you had to be updated... Obviously, when you listen to it today, is extremely retro!
Once you've had the opportunity, you seem to have tried to escape from "comical" music, expressing a different speed. I think particularly in the score of "Jo" ...
In fact, "comical" music has never been my ideal. But I did it, as was expected for a good professional. Moreover, it is true that the score of "Jo" is a special case. Because the film was in big part funded by American
investors. And there I was able to talk with Girault the idea of a musical counterpoint. I told him: "If Americans are cool, do not want to appear as a fool!" I therefore tried to move towards a more sophisticated style, by developing a musical color that were dramatic and police.
You also composed the music for "La Soupe aux Choux" movie where the character of De Funès evolves towards greater sensitivity. What have you tried to express musically?
By "La Soupe Aux Choux" I'm frankly amused. From the start I thought that there was a trap of falling into the traditional "bourrée Auvergnate". So I had the idea to compose a theme based on a rural rhythm but recorded with synthesizers, which avoided the old-fashioned side. I also played everything myself, recording on the sixteen tracks of that time. Between this theme and the music for the romantic sequences and flying saucers, I really burst myself!
De Funès, Girault, the "Gendarmes" ... what is it today for you this time of the French film and popular comedians?
Let's say I had the opportunity to work with a team extremely friendly and also very understanding with Louis De Funès. We often had long conversations about music and I think he had a some regard of me ... Hello Nostalgia!
- Interview conducted by Stéphane Lerouge