There was Nino Rota and Fellini. There is Steven Spielberg and John Williams... These composer/director duets are now part of history, and no film-buff worth his 35 mm copy of Jaws would imagine one without the other. And then there is Luc Besson and Eric Serra. The two do not breathe the same rarefied air, but they are faithful to each other like a bird to its feathers. And Besson's latest smash, Lucy, is no exception of course. The film cannot certainly be called subtle. It's a mishmash of gunfights, karate (of sorts), and everything required to entertain the average moviegoer.
But the music is a different beast. Rather than crush the listener under a blanket of punishing rhythms, the soundtracks (at first though) draws a fine line between light and darkness, knowing how to highlight emotion and nuances in a movie that desperately needs it.
Things start slowly but surely with an unreleased song by Damon Albarn, living definition of "Cool Britannia" two decades ago, and who now recycles as a depressive grown-up who knows a thing or two about life. Of course, the result is superb, and very close, unsurprisingly, to his magnificent solo album, EverydayRobot.
This 'Sister Rust', which opens Lucy, seems frankly out of place in a overactive blockbuster. Quiet, impeccably arranged, extremely melodic, this Kinks-gone-dub gem takes us to a place far above the clouds. But then the atmosphere changes drastically. Eric Serra takes command with the menacing 'Mr Wang's Bloody Suite', a dark, dissonant track, which crawls slowly into our brains and threatens to explode right before our ears.
And then the unexpected arrives. Instead of yet another brooding piece, the composer offers us... a short jazz interlude, All we have done with it. This smart and logic-defying song is probably the pivotal moment of the soundtrack. The last surprise before the heavy artillery takes charge. With 'Inner Fireworks', Eric Serra lets his quieter side go and concentrates on thick, multilayered sounds. Modern ? Probably, but old-school too. Serra seems to have discovered the newest sounds of 1998, when hard-techno literally invaded the mainstream, from pop to (urgh) classical.
The sensitive, tiptoes-walking soundtrack turns into a kind of The Prodigy-showcase, and says goodbye to subtlety, apart from the occasional breath of fresh air ('I Feel Everything' or 'Disintegration'). The nadir is reached with an unforgiving song by The Crystal Method, a band that, fortunately, was forgotten long ago. Their 'Sling The Decks' takes us back to the not-so-good-old days of ecstasy and ill-advised Spawn soundtrack.
Difficult to recover after such a nightmarish moment. Eric Serra himself seems shaken... and runs out of ideas with pieces that are invariably made out of the same mold. Then what happened ? Why a soundtrack that began so well ends up with tedious, repetitive songs that test the patience of the listener ? Like a gum that has been chewed too long, Lucy loses its flavour and makes us wish we had eaten something else.
Lucy is out now from Back Lot Music