Evgueni Galperine, Sacha Galperine and Amine Bouhafa

" Gagarine is an overwhelmingly hypnotic and warmly evocative hybrid score. "

Written by Joep de Bruijn - Review of the regular release

Gagarine is a 2020 French film directed by Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh, a broader and more extensive take on their earlier short film La République des Enchanteurs. The film focuses on Youri, a boy who grew up in a social housing project Gagarine, in Ivry-sur-Seine; the outskirts of Paris inhabited by people of various social, economic and ethnically diversity. As the buildings are set to be demolished, Youri and his friends are about to embark on a journey to create their own Joeri Aleksejevitsj Gagarin space shuttle amidst this soon to be gone buildings. It sounds (bitter) sweet, which it is, and not like something surprisingly new, but because of the great social issues and aesthetically incredible cinematography, becomes phenomenal magic realism cinema, which sets it apart from the many shallow attempts in film to pursue such a dream as Youri has to become an astronaut.

The composers attached into bringing the dream of Youri alive is rather 'surprising'; the excellent Russian-born French composers Evgueni & Sacha Galperine in collaboration with French-Lebanese Amine Bouhafa. They share alike the enormous minimal musical strength to subtly depict very subdued emotions by hybrids of processed live instruments and electronics throughout their careers. I do think Bouhafa is overall better at this when live instruments are more evidently, clearly heard in his many musical scores, but the thing with Gagarine is that the three composers sounds virtually as a collective. The film does mix the Cold War race into space with Gagarin being the first, with the theme of immigration. The area to be demolished was named after the astronaut, and in earlier days many Soviet government programs were launched, which also did result in the invention of the theremin by Lev Sergeyevich Termen. Given their track record, these must have played a role in the reasons of hiring the Russian-born composers and their presumable knowledge of contemporary electronics music, as well Russian electronic musical heritage, which at times equals the quality of an electronic pioneer such as Eduard Nikolayevich Artemyev. On the other hand, Bouhafa excelled in scoring projects with projects focusing on Middle-East/Maghreb regions, which is musically apparent through the Yi Tara song, performed by Syrian-Lebanese female singer Lena Chamamyan. While it is an appropriate and evocative song, a far more relevant older song (Nihnaa walkamar jiiraan) by Lebanese famed Fairuz was used in the short film and the full length Gagarine , which makes Bouhafa efforts to create an original song seem inane.

The score mixture mostly appeals to the dreams of the boy, especially in a sense of space and weightlessness, but not without adding a sense of nostalgia and dramatic reflection, by the use of slowly maneuvering atmospheric, minimal pieces using live instruments, a theremin, guitars, a magnificent array of electronic sounds in a therefore mentioned hybrid. It's hypnotically slowly moving music, beautifully poetic at heart, and as the film progresses the sense of magic realism reaches a definite height, scored by Amine Bouhafa towards the end.

While I suspect the reasons to unite these three composers is evident, as mentioned earlier, but upon a detailed look into the overall score, it sounds cohesive and not very distinguishable from one another. Yes. Bouhafa got to score the most attractive later parts of the score, but it is just too similar sounding to the composing Galperine duo, which still makes me wonder why, and how, did these three even collaborate, regardless of the result?

The score to Gagarine is an overwhelmingly hypnotic and warmly evocative hybrid score. Due to covid measurements, the film and its music release, were put on hold, and the film is now slowly expanding on its theatrical release a year later than expected. It is one of the very best scores of 2020/2021.

1. Gagarine Evgueni Galperine, Sacha Galperine 2:12
2. Yuri et Diana Evgueni Galperine, Sacha Galperine 1:28
3. La capsule Evgueni Galperine, Sacha Galperine 3:19
4. Le potager cosmique Evgueni Galperine, Sacha Galperine 2:23
5. Ya Tara Amine Bouhafa, Lena Chamamyan 5:14
6. Finnegan Evgueni Galperine, Sacha Galperine 1:51
7. Les banlieues célestes Evgueni Galperine, Sacha Galperine 2:17
8. Rêve d'apesenteur Evgueni Galperine, Sacha Galperine 2:17
9. Snow Rooftop Amine Bouhafa 3:08
10. Weightlessness Amine Bouhafa 2:35
11. Inside the Building Amine Bouhafa 2:26
12. Youri's Farewell Amine Bouhafa 2:58
13. Ya Tara (Radio Edit) Amine Bouhafa, Lena Chamamyan 4:00

Total duraton: 36:07

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Released by

Haut et Court (download only release 2021)