Maurice Jaubert - Writer

Composer. Nationality: French. Born: Nice, 3 January 1900. Education: Attended Lycée Masséna and Nice Conservatory; studied law at the Sorbonne, Paris; studied music with Albert Groz. Military Service: 1920–22; 1939—recalled into the army, and killed in action. Family: Married the singer Marthe Bréga. Career: Practiced law briefly, then music director for Pleyela Records, 1925, and music director for Pathé-Natan Studios, 1930–35; also composed music for orchestra and for stage works. Died: In Azerailles, 19 June 1940.

Films as Composer:


Die wünderbare Lüge der Nina Petrowna (Schwarz) (French accompaniment)


Le Hyas (Painlevé—short); Le Petit Chaperon rouge (Cavalcanti); Caprelles et pantopodes (Painlevé—short) (co)


Au pays du scalp (de Wavrin); Le Bernard-l'hermite (Painlevé—short); Ostende, reine de plages (Storck—short)


L'Affaire est dans le sac ( It's in the Bag ) (Prévert—short); La Vie d'un fleuve: La Seine (Lods—short); Quatorze Juillet (Clair)


Zéro de conduite (Vigo—short); Trois vies et une corde (Storck—short); L'Atalante (Vigo)


Obsession ( L'Homme mystérieux ) (M. Tourneur—short) (co); Le Dernier Milliardaire (Clair); En Crète sans les dieux (Leenhardt and Zuber—short)


L'Ile de Pâques (Fernhout—short) (+ narrator); Barbe-Bleue (Painlevé and Bertrand—short); Trois-mâts "Mercator" (Fernhout—short)


Mayerling (Litvak) (co); Regards sur la Belgique ancienne (Storck—short)


Un Carnet de bal (Duvivier); We Live in Two Worlds (Cavalcanti—short); Drǒle de drame ( Bizarre Bizarre ) (Carné); Les Maisons de la misère (Storck—short)


Les Filles du Rhône (Paulin); Le Quai des brumes ( Port of Shadows ) (Carné); Altitude 3.200 ( Nous les jeunes ) (Benoît-Lévy and Epstein); Lumières de Paris (Pottier) (uncredited, + ro); Eau-vive (Epstein—short); Hôtel du nord (Carné); L'Esclave blanche (Sorkin) (co); La Fin du jour (Duvivier)


Le Jour se lève ( Daybreak ) (Carné)


Violons d'Ingres (Brunius—short); Village dans Paris: Montmartre (Harts—short)


Solutions françaises (Painlevé—short) (produced 1939)

Films as Music Director:


Poil de carotte (Duvivier); Der Traumende Mund ( Dreaming Lips ) (Czinner) (+ ro); Mirages de Paris (Ozep)


Le Petit Roi (Duvivier)


Les Misérables (Bernard—3 parts); Sapho (Perret); Sans famille (M. Allégret); Les Nuits moscovites (Granowsky)


La Vie parisienne (Siodmak); L'Equipage (Lit vak); Terre d'amour (Cloche—short)


Nuit de décembre (Bernhardt) (+ ro)

Film as Consultant:


Ces dames aux chapeaux verts (Cloche)

Films Using Precomposed Music by Jaubert:


L'Histoire d'Adèle H. (Truffaut)


L'Argent de poche (Truffaut)


L'Homme qui aimait les femmes (Truffaut)


La Chambre verte (Truffaut)


Le Temps détruit: lettres d'une guerre 1939–40 (Beuchot)


By JAUBERT: article—

"Music on the Screen," in Footnotes to the Film , edited by Charles Davy, London, 1937.

On JAUBERT: book—

Porcile, François, Maurice Jaubert, musicien populaire ou maudit? , Paris, 1971.

On JAUBERT: articles—

"Jaubert Issue" of Information Musicale (Paris), 4 June 1943.

Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1947.

Cinématographie Française (Paris), no. 1473, June 1952.

"Hommage à Maurice Jaubert" (Montréal: La Cinémathèque Canadienne), April 1967.

Film Français (Paris), no. 1592, September 1975.

Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), no. 165, January 1976.

Image et Son (Paris), no. 327, April 1978; no. 461, June 1990.

Rivista del Cinematografo (Rome), vol. 54, no. 11, November 1981.

Film Dope , no. 27, July 1983.

Catherine A Surowiec, "Maurice Jaubert: Poet of Music," in Rediscovering French Film , edited by Mary Lea Bandy, New York, 1983.

Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), no. 393, March 1987.

Revue du Cinéma (Paris), no. 461, June 1990.

Time , 12 November 1990.

Positif (Paris), no. 359, January 1991.

Kosovsky, B., "Musique de films de Marcel Carne," in Film Score Monthly (Los Angeles), April 1994.

Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), Hors Serie, 1995.

Film en Télévisie (Brussels), no. 458, January 1996.

* * *

Initially destined to become a partner in his father's law firm, Maurice Jaubert rejected this conventional opening to pursue a less predictable career in music. After early studies at the Nice Conservatory, he pursued his musical education under Albert Groz in Paris and came into contact with future leading composers of his generation: Georges Auric and Arthur Honneger. In the course of the 1920s, as film moved from the silent to the sound era, Jaubert gained important experience both of the music industry and as a music critic and composer. As director of the perforated sheet music company Pleyela, he came to know Jean Grémillon and Maurice Ravel, whilst as music critic for Esprit , he began to formulate, under the pseudonym Maurice Gineste, an aesthetic of film music.

His initial experience with silent film was the selection of suitable music to accompany the images, notably for Renoir's Nana (1926) and Grémillon's Maldone (1927). Meanwhile, his own creative talents found expression in commissions for the theatre, Le Magicien Prodigieux (1925), Terminus (1928), and for Falconneti in the cabaret Attractions (1928). These excursions into other art forms further developed his conception of how music should eventually become part of film, not simply as a pleonastic accompaniment, but as an integral part of the film's dynamics.

In the following decade, successive scores marked out his immense contribution to the now rapidly evolving sound cinema. After providing music for shorts by Jean Painlevé, notably Caparelles et pantopodes (1930) which drew on themes by Scarlatti, and Le Bernard-l'hermite (1931) using themes by Bellini, Jaubert produced some of his finest original compositions for René Clair, Jean Vigo, and, in the darker late 1930s, for Marcel Carné.

The music for Clair's films demonstrated the composer's gift for underpinning the director's message. In the bittersweet Quatorze Juillet (1932), the theme song "A Paris dans chaque faubourg" (composed by Grémillon, but developed by Jaubert) captured the poignancy of transient happiness and rapidly became a popular success, while for the heavily satirical Le Dernier Millionaire (1934), telling of the marriage of a megalomaniac financier to a bankrupt princess, the pomposity of the court is deflated by a clever burlesque of the national anthem.

With Vigo, Jaubert achieved a particularly fruitful partnership. His highly inventive score for Zéro de Conduite (1933) echoed in musical terms the subversive thrust of Vigo's iconoclastic images. In the dream-like sequence of schoolboy rebellion, for example, Jaubert experimented by inverting his original score to achieve a suitably surrealist soundtrack. Perhaps the more potent success of the partnership, however, came with L'Atalante (1933), where again Vigo experimented with dream sequences and the depiction of affective memory. In a highly evocative score characterized by simple themes and pulsating rhythms imitating the boat's engine, Jaubert created a rare poetic lyricism to match Vigo's erotic vision. Particularly powerful elements include Jules's rendering of "Le Chant des mariniers" on his accordion and the use of the composer's preferred solo instrument, the alto saxophone, in scenes of tender intimacy.

Jaubert's ability to conjure up atmosphere was again a key element in the success of Duvivier's Un Carnet de bal (1937), where the haunting melancholy of the composer's valse grise (inspired by Sibelius' Valse triste ), provided the all-pervading tone of nostalgia essential to the widow's recollections. An elegiac, increasingly fatalistic mood is also central to Carné's films at the close of the decade: Le Quai des brumes (1938), Hôtel du nord (1938), and Le jour se lève (1939). The celebrated poetic realism of these films is frequently defined in terms of visual style alone, thereby failing to give sufficient recognition to Jaubert's music as a vital ingredient in the creation of the characteristic mood. The downbeat seediness permeating Hôtel du nord , the doom-laden atmosphere of Le Quai des brumes or the fatalistic mood of Le Jour se lève are all derived in no small degree from the suggestive scores composed to encapsulate precisely these values.

Reflecting on the role of the film composer in Footnotes to the Film , Jaubert was adamant that music should not be used simply "to annotate the action." For him, music should be used sparingly rather than as a continuous background accompaniment, and deployed to its maximum effect to suggest subjective states "when the image escapes from strict realism and calls for the poetic extension of music."

Resourceful and innovative, Jaubert preferred to develop scores around strong melodies with frequently unconventional harmonies. His intimate understanding of the film medium, with his sensitivity to the internal rhythms of the image structure, combined with a creative talent which is rare amongst film composers. In that sadly single decade of the 1930s, Jaubert achieved an outstanding position as a film composer, providing leading directors with some 38 scores, both for short-and feature-length productions. Neither did his involvement stop at composition, for as Director of Music at the Pathé-Nathan studios between 1930–35, he conducted several musical scores for the studios' films and on two occasions actually appeared in the role of a conductor, in Mélo (1932) and Nuit de décembre (1939). Although essentially a composer for the French cinema, Jaubert was tempted to work briefly in London, where he scored films for the celebrated GPO film unit, most notably Cavalcanti's We Live in Two Worlds (1937).

The most fitting homage to Jaubert's enduring qualities came from François Truffaut when, for four of his films ( L'Histoire d'Adèle H. [1971], L'Argent de poche [1976], L'Homme qui aimait les femmes [1977], La Chambre verte [1978]), he chose to use the composer's music, and compositions which had not initially been written for the screen. Thus in L'Histoire d'Adèle H. , Truffaut draws on orchestral compositions ( Suite française from 1932 and Sonata à due from 1936), as well as music originally composed for Giraudoux's La Guerre de Troie n'aura pas lieu (1935). Few film composers can have advanced further the recognition of music as a discrete and integral component of film aesthetics, either by their compositions or by their theoretical writings, than Maurice Jaubert.

—R. F. Cousins

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