The Scores: The sound of silence in 'The Artist'

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Ludovic Bource | "The Artist"

There was, of course, a bit of a history lesson that French composer Ludovic Bource embarked upon while working on "The Artist." Some of the touchstones for director Michel Hazanavicius' silent film about the end of the silent film era were clear, such as "Sunset Boulevard" and the music of the late film composer Franz Waxman. Yet Bource also immersed himself in the work of early Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein and classical masters such as Johannes Brahms.

Next, he had to get that all out of his head, to compose a score that would pay tribute to Hollywood's musically flamboyant and often playful beginnings yet still capture the starkness of the dying pride of silent film star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin). "With all these music references, I had to start, first and foremost, on my own music, my own main theme for 'The Artist,'" said Bource, who speaks limited English. "I started with six principal themes for George."

In the 100 minutes of "The Artist," Bource's music touches on a lifetime of sounds, from Bollywood melodicism to noir-like diversions. Sometimes, Bource said, he wasn't sure what the right cue would be, instead waiting to see the exaggerated expressions on the faces of the actors.

"Music and film are sometimes a strange chemical formula," he said.

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