ORLANDO — Within musical genres, the movie soundtrack may be one of the most underrated. If you’re sitting in a movie theater watching the screen, you’re caught up in the story, characters and plot development, but you might not notice just how creatively the score enhances our appreciation of the film. There really have been a lot of remarkable film composers over the years, who have created music that stands on its own, on a compact disc set apart from the movie it was created for.
One of the best modern film composers is Philippe Sarde, who has worked on scores in his native France and for plenty of Hollywood productions as well. One of his earliest scores, for Roman Polanski’s 1976 horror film The Tenant, was also one of his best. And now those who appreciate excellent film scores owe a debt to Quartet Records, the independent record label that specializes in the release of soundtracks on CD and vinyl. In the past 9 years, Quartet has released more than 400 titles, and one of their most recent was Sarde’s complete score for The Tenant. If you loved Polanski’s darkly comic horror film about a paranoid tenant in a Paris apartment building, you’ll definitely want to buy this CD.
Philippe Sarde’s Eerie Score for The Tenant
Philippe Sarde was just 28 years old when he composed the score for The Tenant, after Polanski’s co-screenwriter Gerard Brach introduced him to the director who has just made Chinatown. As Sarde noted in the 2000 CD release of the score, ” ‘The Tenant’ script made a very strong first impression on me; the subject was profound and disturbing and impregnated with the great themes in Polanski’s work: the ambiguity of truth, evil, persecution, paranoia … ” Sarde’s music for the film’s opening credits, both eerie and nostalgic, ingeniously used a glass harmonica as an instrument to help convey the lead character Trelkovsky’s growing obsession with glass, which in the film becomes a symbol for his impending death.
The film was released in June 1976, but Paramount Pictures never issued a soundtrack for the movie (in the 1970s, movie scores were released on vinyl or cassette). It would take another 25 years before Sarde’s score was released in France by Universal Music France on a CD titled “Musique De Philippe Sarde: Bandes Originales Des Films De Roman Polanski.” That CD featured the soundtrack for Polanski’s 1979 movie Tess, which won Sarde an Academy Award nomination for best score in 1980 (and which was released on vinyl that year), and 9 tracks from the score of The Tenant, including the superb opening, ‘Cour d’Immeuble.’ Now out of print, this CD has become a collector’s item. However, anyone who has seen the movie knows that some of the music used in the film is missing from that French CD.
The new release by Quartet Records corrects that. The CD not only includes all of the music from the French release but quite a bit more — including songs composed for the film that didn’t get used!
What’s Unique About The Tenant Soundtrack?
As the producers of the Quartet CD point out in the liner notes, they went back to the Paramount Studios vault to see if they could uncover additional music from The Tenant — and they were successful.
“Today, thanks to Paramount’s archive, this new edition of The Tenant allows us to appreciate even more the subtleties of a score freshly remixed and re-mastered from the original multi-track tapes,” Stephanie Lerouge writes in the CD’s liner notes. “And if it sounds as though it was recorded only last week, this is no doubt because Sarde has always flatly refused prefabricated formulae …”
The CD is a handsome package, complete with a 16-page booklet on the making of the film and Sarde’s involvement in it, which also contains plenty of photos from the movie. And the score itself sounds wonderful: it includes 16 tracks taken directly from the movie, starting with the opening song (here called ‘Main Title’) right up to ‘The Final Scream’ (fans of the movie will know what that refers to). There’s some additional music that was not used in the film: ‘The Park,’ which sounds like the theme song to a children’s TV show, was likely originally intended to be used in the scene where Trelkovsky is sitting in the Bassin Octagonal, Jardin des Tuileries in Paris and sees a little boy crying (he then decides to slap the boy across the face, in one of the film’s most picture-perfect moments of cruel black humor).
One track that a lot of fans of the movie missed on the 2000 French CD was “Dance At Robert’s,” a hypnotic Jazz song used in the scene where Trelkovsky follows his friend Stella to the home of her pal Robert and Trelkovsky starts dancing with Stella. It’s one of the best pieces of music in the entire film.
Another masterful track is “The Audience Is Ready,” used during the hypnotic moment when Trelkovsky climbs out onto his window sill at night wearing Simone Choule’s clothes and watches the crowd of neighbors cheer him on as he prepares to jump through the glass roof below. This grisly a scene conjures up the horrors of the Nov. 9, 1938, Nazi pogrom against Germany’s Jews, Kristallnacht (Night of the Broken Glass), when some terrified Jews actually did jump out of their windows to their deaths before the rioting SS could reach their homes. This chilling track includes the sinister drum roll as Trelkovsky prepares to jump.
The CD also includes five songs taken from the French CD, including the very haunting “En Souvenir De Madame Choule.” Clocking in at 46 minutes, that’s more than double the 20 minutes of The Tenant music from the French CD. It’s a terrific release for anyone who loves film scores — and horror movie scores in particular.
How Did Quartet Records Put Together This CD?
Quartet Records did their homework with this one.
“Now, thanks to the discovery of the original multi-track elements in the Paramount vaults, with access to the complete recording sessions at CTS, London, under the baton of Carlo Savina, the score of THE TENANT can be released in its entirety, including tracks not used in the final edit of the film, alternates, as well as the album-specific montages prepared by the composer for an MCA album that never materialized,” Quartet notes on its website.
Produced by Neil S. Bulk, the CD is now available to purchase and was released on vinyl by Quartet Records in October.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book When I Woke Up, You Were All Dead. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.