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Maurice Jarre - A Lifetime of Music
by Birgit Schrumpf

Who does not know the impressive symphonic music of Doctor Zhivago, with the catching melody underlining a romantic love story in Russia? But who is aware that the composer is Maurice Jarre who is also one of the pioneers in the development of electronic music?

The Homage of the 59th International Film Festival is dedicated to the French film composer Maurice Jarre, and in addition, he was awarded the Honorary Golden Bearfor his lifetime achievements on February 12, 2009. He is considered one of the most important composers as well as the most popular in cinema history.

Born in Lyon in 1924, Maurice Jarre began his musical career with studies in percussion and conducting at the Conservatoire de Paris. He became the musical director of the Théâtre National Populaire in 1950, and composed the orchestra music for more than 70 plays, from Shakespeare to Kafka. In 1952, he had his debut with the film score for the anti-war documentary Hôtel des Invalides, and by the mid-sixties had written the scores of numerous French films before turning his attention to Hollywood.

His international breakthrough came with his arrangement for David Lean’s desert epos Lawrence of Arabia in 1962 for which he received his first Oscar. Jarre’s successful work on Doctor Zhivago (1965) and A Passage to India (1984) earned him two more Oscars. He also wrote the score for another acclaimed David Lean film, Ryan’s Daughter (1970). In addition, Jarre received six Academy Nominations for films as diverse as Witness, Ghost and Gorillas in the Mist. He won British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards for Witness and Dead Poets Society and Golden Globes for Witness, India, Gorillas and A Walk in the Clouds. He received a special César from the Gallic Film Awards in 1985.

Jarre worked on more than 150 international film productions, including such well-known directors as John Frankenheimer, Alfred Hitchcock, John Huston, Luchino Visconti and Peter Weir. In the 1980s and 1990s, he scored commercial successes including Firefox, Mad Max, Fatal Attraction and Ghost (the soundtrack of which became a platinum-record best-seller). He moved to America and spent half of each year in California and the other half in Switzerland.

“Maurice Jarre has created scores for films that imprint themselves deep on our memories. His main connection to German cinema is his distinctive composition for Volker Schlöndorff’s The Tin Drum,” points out Dr. Rainer Rother, artistic director of the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen, who is in charge of the Homage.

An impressive aspect of Jarre’s long career is the variety of his musical styles, ranging from elaborate symphonic arrangements to small ensembles. His use of ethnic instruments and his shift towards electronic music significantly influenced the development of film music and made Jarre a pioneer in the field of score composition. (By the way, he is also the father of Jean-Michel Jarre, the well-known composer of innovative electronic music).

Maurice Jarre, one of the great composers of the 20th century cinema, died of cancer at his home in Malibu on Saturday, March 28, 2009. He was 84.