Gabriel Yared performed a concert at the Millennium Centre on Friday night. Accompanied by the world class BBC Symphony Orchestra of Wales, Gabriel played a selection of his beautiful scores for films such as The English Patient, Betty Blue, Cold Mountain and my personal favourite, The Talented Mr Ripley. It was a heartfelt tribute to the late film director Anthony Minghella, who collaborated with Yared for many films.
When I first became seriously interested in music, it was through film and soundtracks that this love grew from. I must confess I was never much of a classical music fan either, until I started watching more films. One of the first classical composers I began to appreciate was Beethoven, (rather alarmingly you might say) because of Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange. I guess this makes me rather Alex-esque. But I promise I am not into 'ultra-violence'.
But soundtracks awakened my love of music. Which had always been there, but had been lying dormant. The Talented Mr Ripley holds a special place in my heart, both the film and the musical score. I saw it in the cinema four times, the most I've seen any film. I loved it. I loved everything about it. I was still relatively new to the whole film studies world at the time of its release, still in school, and had only been watching Hitchcock films for a few years. I saw a Hitchcock film in The Talented Mr Ripley, the themes, the imagery, the characters. It also introduced me to the books of Patricia Highsmith, whose novels on cold, calculated yet charming villains struck something within me that I liked. She is my favourite author, a master of suspense - in book form. And of course, Hitchcock turned Highsmith's Strangers On A Train into a wonderfully enjoyable film, still one of my all time favourites.
Anthony Minghella was a very good director, and it is sad that he died so young. The Talented Mr Ripley was Anthony's best film in my opinion. The English Patient won all the Oscars, Cold Mountain probably had all the hype but it's Ripley that's the most interesting and striking. The critics didn't always like it, and most people I knew who saw it hated it. But it had a superb cast; Jude Law and Matt Damon are fantastic, the Hitchcock type blonde in Gwyneth Paltrow, the ever brilliant Cate Blanchette; it was fairly and well adapted from the novel, and above all was lusciously directed by Minghella. His love of Italy and music seeps through into the film, drenching it with his passion; you'd need to have a heart of stone not to appreciate it and feel that too. Minghella was a talented director, and passionate about music. He was, from all accounts, a thoroughly decent and nice guy too. It is tragic that he died so young when there was so much more he could have created and brought to the world.
Yared created a beautiful soundtrack for Ripley, one that was perfect for the film. I would love to know if Yared was or has been influenced by Hitchcock's collaborator Bernard Herrmann, as the use of violins and strings for the Ripley pieces evoke that sense Psycho did. Perfectly apt for characters losing their minds, striking and cinematically effective. But Yared also captures Italy so beautifully, in particular the Sorrento-type coast where the film is set, just as much as Minghella did with the visuals. Close your eyes, the music takes you' dreamily back there. Both the film and the music had a huge influence on me. Along with David Lynch's collaborator, Angelo Badalamenti, Yared is one of my favourite film score composers.
It seems incredible, to watch Yared play at the piano, such fantastic music, to think he is also a self-taught musician. A seemingly humble and modest guy, Yared came on stage in jeans, a crumpled shirt and trainers, hardly looking like the Oscar-winner he is but it did not matter. He spoke so eloquently about Anthony Minghella, about how close they were and what a loss he was when he passed away in March.
Yared ended the night with a small independent piano piece he wrote for Anthony, and it was emotionally charged and heartfelt. He said Anthony was his soul mate, played the piece, took his applause and left the stage in floods of tears. I hope he comes back to Wales, and I look forward to his future film scores. For Anthony Mingella's watching parents, it would have been a fitting tribute of beautiful music; the combination with film that has such a power to touch people everywhere. It is an over-used cliche, but Anthony Minghella does live on through his films.