Alexandre Desplat: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, suite for orchestra

Duration : 12 minutes

The Orchestre National de France performs the orchestral suite from the film "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets", directed by Luc Besson, conducted by the composer Alexandre Desplat. Excerpt from the concert recorded live on 6 December 2018 at the Radio France Auditorium.

With a nine-figure budget, the most ambitious in French cinematic history, six thousand storyboard drawings, thousands of assistants on set and in post-production, several hundred costumes, one hundred and fifteen actors and almost five times as many extras during filming: all the stops were pulled out for Valerian! It all started with a comic strip in the French publication Pilote "Valérian et Laureline", by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières. Luc Besson remembers: "_At the age of ten, I used to go to the store every wednesday. One day I thought to myself 'What is that?'. From that point on, I was in love with Laureline and wished to become Valérian._"

"It was the seventies, and the first time that we were given such a tough female character" In that same decade, Alexandre Desplat discovered Star Wars and the music of John Williams, and decided to dedicate himself to film music. Forty years later an unfortunate scheduling conflict eventually forced him to turn down working for the Star Wars film Rogue One and, moving away from the Death Star, brought him to another galaxy and its two young heroes. There is a vast amount of music in Luc Besson's latest cinematic creation. Dialogue is somewhat secondary to the special effects, and the music takes center-stage. 

The music therefore becomes part of the set, a quasi symphonic poem at times, on other occasions a simple musical background to set a specific atmospher, and on other occasions to create suspense and add to the action, particularly effective when the choir joins in with the orchestra. In the 28th century, Valérian and Laureline have one mission: save the universe. The credibility of these characters and their adventure depends on the music. What could be more incredible than the tentacular (and very blue) Bubble, capable of turning into any alien imaginable? What could be more unique than the deep-sea dive in search of a jellyfish that lives on the fresh water expelled by male bromosaurs? As a luminescent butterfly lands on her hand, Laureline is snagged by vile fishermen with yellow eyes. She is then added to a menu of improbable dishes served to the Emperor Boulan as a delicacy. As for Valérian, Luc Besson explained that the cinematic adaptation of a comic strip forces one to "think outside the box" to go from a story that one reads in twenty minutes to a film that lasts two hours.

The story fragments must somehow all be tied together, to create a continuity hitherto limited by the white of the paper and the turn of the page. It is up to the music to make disappear the black lines that divide the strip. Since Alexandre Desplat almost always composes using finished images, "moving images are what set off [his] imagination", he does not hesitate to play with contrasts of nuance and orchestral density to signal a crescendo or decrescendo, sometimes subito, or a particular moment of change of scene. Let us forget for an instant the borrowed songs (such as David Bowie's Space Oddity and Jamming by Bob Marley & the Wailers…) and focus instead on the compositions, combined by Alexander Desplat to make a suite with japanese percussion at the heart of the orchestra. Though the film's reception was far from unanimous, many criticising the protagonists' candor and lack of juvenility, and a somewhat "simplistic" plot, one cannot criticise Luc Besson's film for lacking an aesthetic beauty. It is here that the music finds its true role; there are as many colours in Alexandre Desplat's musical palette as in the slender and pearlescent beauty of the Pearls, and a transparency matching the extraordinary metamorphosis of Bubble.     

Concert by Alexandre Desplat "Au-delà de l'image", performed by the Orchestre National de France
Full concert
Concert by Alexandre Desplat "Au-delà de l'image", performed by the Orchestre National de France
Auditorium de la Maison de la Radio, Paris