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The Magic and Majesty of Alexandre Desplat

“I feel honoured and happy to stand here, in the Krzysztof Penderecki Auditorium Hall, and play for him and for you together with the wonderful Krakow orchestra”, said Alexandre Desplat after receiving an extraordinary gift from the Mayor of Krakow Jacek Majchrowski – a copy of a copperplate portrait of Krzysztof Penderecki. Moments earlier, the two-time Academy Award winner had led Sinfonietta Cracovia in a monographic concert dedicated to his own work.


Alexandre Desplat is one of the youngest giants of world film music, with more than a hundred soundtracks to his name, over thirty nominations for prestigious awards and nearly twenty awards in his collection (including Academy Awards for Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel  in 2014 and Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water in 2018). “From the very beginning, I dreamed of becoming a film composer and, so far, I have not found anything more fascinating in my life,” Desplat told his fans during a meeting held as part of the Audiovisual Forum, organised during the 12th FMF. “Composing music is like attending a big party. You’re standing in front of a giant buffet that has everything and you can choose whatever you want. Later, you have to combine it into a whole, like colours in a painting. Once you have these colours, you can proceed to the most important stage of the creative process, which is to create a concept for film music. To do this, you have to learn to understand the language of cinema and build bridges in order to skilfully translate the director’s ideas into sounds or be able to offer another one.

The programme of yesterday’s concert – The Magic and Majesty of Alexandre Desplat – was prepared by the composer with great insight over a long period of time. Apart from eight film suites, it featured a piece that had no connection to the silver screen – a concert symphony Pelléas et Mélisande for flute and orchestra, inspired by Maurice Maeterlinck’s 19th-century drama of the same title. As the artist himself explained, it is sometimes worth leaving the world of cinema, even for a short while. “Concert music is an enormous challenge, here you can’t hide between dialogues, cars and other images,” said Alexandre Desplat.

The film repertoire of the evening included some of the greatest cinema masterpieces with music composed by Desplat; including the famous Girl with a Pearl Earring and the Academy Award-winning The Shape of Water, followed by Valerian and the City of a Thousand PlanetsThe Ghost WriterThe King’s SpeechThe Imitation Game and The Ides of March. The finale featured a Hollywood-style suite from the first and second instalments of  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Following the performance, Alexandre Desplat received a gift from Jacek Majchrowski, the Mayor of Krakow, who presented him with a copy of a copper engraving with a portrait of Krzysztof Penderecki by Krzysztof Skórczewski, a graphic artist from Krakow. The original plaque decorates one of the entrances to the main hall of the ICE Kraków Congress Centre – it was unveiled on 30 May 2018 during the ceremony of naming the auditorium after the maestro. The prints, in line with the decision of the city authorities, go to the most eminent personalities visiting Krakow.

The Magic and Majesty of Alexandre Desplat programme was performed by the Sinfonietta Cracovia Orchestra under the baton of the artist himself, and the solo part of Pelléas et Mélisande was performed by French flute virtuoso Jean Ferrandis. The audience of the 12th FMF rewarded the musicians with standing ovations and did not want to let them out of the stage. The double encore included the Academy Award-winning music from the Grand Budapest Hotel and themes from Roman Polanski’s film Venus in Fur. The concert was held under the honorary patronage of Frédéric de Touchet, the Consul General of France in Krakow.

The rest of Saturday’s evening and night we spent playing and dancing to the rhythm of the most popular songs known from Quentin Tarantino’s masterpieces. The heroes of the third edition of the Dance2Cinema club series were the musicians of the eleven-person Spanish Pop Culture Band led by guitarist Gonzal de Araoz Vigila, as well as Polish vocalists Anna Karwan and Damian Ukeje. The Tarantino Unchained project was organised together with the  FIMUCITÉ International Film Music Festival in Tenerife, and the repertoire was taken from cult films such as Pulp FictionDjango UnchainedKill BillReservoir DogsJackie BrownGrindhouse: Death ProofFrom Dusk till Dawn and Sin City.  

Today, we are in for the finale of the 12th FMF, featuring Alexandre Desplat’s music, this time in a chamber version – early in the afternoon, the historical interior of the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Krakow will host the Traffic Quintet under the direction of the composer’s wife, Dominique “Solrey” Lemonnier, as part of the Cinematic Piano series. The evening will bring the colourful FMF finale gala, featuring dancers and stars: The Glamorous Show at the TAURON Arena Krakow.

Maria Wilczek-Krupa