Thomas Bangalter

" an infrasonic sound of vibration and subwoofer that causes nausea "

Written by Joep de Bruijn - Review of the regular release

Irréversible (2002) is a French film directed by Gaspar Noé, featuring roles by Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel. The film is about the love affair between Alex and Marcy, and shows how one crucially painful event, in which the woman is caught up in, affects their lives beyond words. The narration of the film is told backwards, with (excessively) stylized, impressive cinematography that gradually becomes less and less chaotic and unnerving, only to transform into an almost scarily warm presentation as the film ends. While the reverse telling can be seen as a simple stratagem, it enables the viewer to feel a variety of mixed and deviating emotions as it progresses; which is from start to finish a very bleak, yet pathos-filled confrontation with oneself. Each of us has a different point of reference and view as to what cinema should or should not do. Irréversible is exemplary of film that defies, confronts, deranges, and yet emotionalizes. The value of a word like shocking cinema, generally perceived as having a negative connotation, is something I cannot abide by.

The music was composed by Thomas Bangalter, one half of the famous Daft Punk.

At the beginning of the film, the assertive over-stylization is exceptionally well met by the eerie music written by the composer. The sequence in Club Rectum includes graphically unearthed and vengeful violence, with the inevitable use of CGI, by one of the protagonists. The scene is impressive, and the graphic images are something I simply cannot erase from my mind, and as later explained, they reveal the motivations for such an onslaught. There's music in it composed by Bangalter; an infrasonic sound of vibration and subwoofer that causes nausea; very disorientating and consciously, scientifically musically intended by the composer to evoke just that. The hallucinatory siren, the additional rhythmic undercurrent, and some gradually increasing pounding towards the end are exquisite. Noé explained that this noise, and its given effect, should only be experienced, aided by a good sound system. And so, the intended effect cannot be understood by anyone who has not experienced Irréversible without the appropriate sound system, yet without it and as a stand-alone track, the effect and feel is still memorable. From a broad perspective, and perception of what a film and its music are supposed to do, complete unrest is one of the many things I am strongly connected to, and this music is a rare example of an original score that scientifically causes it.

The second sequence I would like to discuss, some would call it the key scene, but there are actually several others - the disgust you feel at the way the characters behave in the nightlife, the au naturel morning sequence and graphic violence at the beginning - is the infamously long venereal abuse sequence that, unlike the film so far, bypasses the exceptionally wobbly cinematography, and for the first time, the camera stands still, making the viewer a voyeur, enabling you to defy your (emotional) senses, and as intended, a mixture of disgust and great empathy for what Alex is going through. Bangalter left the score unscored and pure in its experience, most likely as the director intended.

While Rectum is the highlight of the score, several other cues produce a similar hallucinate experience, with some notion of disorientation, yet mostly a sense of despair and doom enabled by the percussion, synthesizers, organs, and other sounds in various depictions of the couple as they are enjoying the nightlife. Even in the more rhythmic cues, the sense of depression and suffocation is maintained throughout their use in the film. In particular, some of the synthesised sounds are reminiscent of much older film scores. Sadly, however, the included Daft Punk' hit track' Spinal Scratch seems out of place, as do a few others, possibly remixed tracks, which all are too plain and devoid of musical accents to signal misery. In the film, they serve their purpose, but on the official album, the contrast is immediately apparent, barely halfway through its length, and makes the overall experience less appealing.

In contrast to everything that has happened in the film, supported by Bangalter's generally brilliant score, the fairy-tale ending with the lovers in a park is underpinned by the notes of a familiar classical piece (Beethoven), which supports the warmth of the lovers but is eerily saddening now that we know the climax, and also contrasted by the frighteningly effective use of background sounds. The scene and film end with Bangalter' return to the mood of the first quarter of his score with the piece 'The End',whose distorted sounds mix with vague and muted sounds of the classical piece, as the viewer sees blurred and flickering lights on screen.

Thomas Bangalter's original score is a personal contradictus interminus of misconceived and likeable qualities; I like the overall approach, but not the style of most music. For lack of a better word, the danceable quality of some of the music on paper reaches me with a great level of numbness, but yet the more repetitive and atmospheric ominous qualities are what sets it apart.

Thomas Bangalter also wrote a small amount of music to Gaspar Noé' Enter the Void, co-scored Tron: Legacy as Daft Punk, and recently composed the music to the French ballet Mythologies.

Tracklist (album version 1)
1. "Irréversible" 6:32
2. "Tempus Edax Rerum" 1:14
3. "Rectum" 6:23
4. "Night Beats" 2:17
5. "Stress" 6:41
6. "Paris By Night" 6:05
7. "Outrage" 6:29
8. "Outrun" 5:42
9. "Spinal Scratch" 6:29
10. "Extra Dry" 4:57
11. "Désaccords" 3:48
12. "Ventura / Into The Tunnel" 5:47
13. "The End" 1:11

Total length: 63:36

Tracklist (album version 2)
1. "Irréversible" 6:32
2. "Tempus Edax Rerum" 1:14
3. "Symphony n°9 in D Major – Adagio" (Excerpt) Gustav Mahler 1:49
4. "Rectum" 6:23
5. "Night Beats" 2:17
6. "Stress" 6:41
7. "Paris By Night" 6:05
8. "Outrage" 6:29
9. "Outrun" 5:42
10. "Spinal Scratch" 6:29
11. "Extra Dry" 4:57
12. "Désaccords" 3:48
13. "Ventura / Into The Tunnel" 5:47
14. "Mon Manège à moi" Étienne Daho 3:51
15. "Symphony n°7 in A Major Op. 92" (Excerpt) Ludwig van Beethoven 3:23
16. "The End" 1:11

Total length: 72:38

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Released by

Roulé (regular release 2002)