Joseph Kosma - Writer





Composer. Pseudonym: Used pseudonym Georges Mouqué during World War II. Nationality: French. Born: Jozsef Kozma in Budapest, Hungary, 22 October 1905; naturalized French citizen, 1949. Education: Attended Budapest Academy of Music, and studied in Berlin. Career: Composed incidental music for plays, operas, and ballets; 1929—first film score, in Hungary; 1933—settled in Paris.

Award: Cannes Festival Prize for Juliette, ou la clé des songes , 1951.

Died: Paris, 7 August 1969.

Films as Composer:

1929

Elet, hal l, szerelem ( Eternal Love ) (Lázar)

1934

La Pêche à la baleine (Bunin—short)

1935

La Marche de la faim (Daniel—short); Le Crime de Monsieur Lange ( The Crime of Monsieur Lange ) (Renoir) (song)

1936

Jenny (Carné) (co, + ro)

1937

La Grande Illusion ( Grand Illusion ) (Renoir); Le Temps des cérises (Le Chanois)

1938

La Goualeuse (Rivers) (co); La Bête humaine ( The Human Beast ) (Renoir)

1941

Le Soleil a toujours raison (Billon) (song); Une Femme dans la nuit (Gréville)

1942

Les Visiteurs du soir ( The Devil's Envoy ) (Carné) (songs)

1943

Adieu Leonard (P. Prévert)

1945

Les Enfants du paradis ( Children of Paradise ) (co, + song)

1946

Messieurs Ludovic (Le Chanois); Pétrus (M. Allégret); Les Portes de la nuit ( Gates of the Night ) (Carné); Les Chouans (Calef); L'Arche de Noë (Jacques); L'Amour autour de la maison (de Herain); Voyage-surprise (P. Prévert); Aubervilliers (Lotar—short); L'Homme (Margaritis—short); Une Partie de campagne ( A Day in the Country ) (Renoir—produced 1936)

1947

Bethsabée (Moguy); Le Petit Soldat (Grimault—short); La Dame d'onze heures (Devaivre)

1948

Le Carrefour des passion (Giannini); D'homme à hommes ( Man to Men ) (Christian-Jaque); Bagarres (Calef); L'Ecole buissonniSre (Le Chanois); Les Amants de Vérone ( The Lovers of Verona ) (Cayatte); Le Paradis des pilotes perdus (Lampin); Hans le marin (Villiers); France, nouvelle patrie (Deleule—short); Le Sang des bêtes (Franju—short)

1949

Les Eaux troublés (Calef); Au grand balcon (Decoin); La Ferme des sept péchés (Devaivre); La Marie du port (Carné); Le Jugement de Dieu (Bernard); La Belle que voilà (Le Chanois)

1950

Vendetta en Camargue (Devaivre); Trois télégrammes (Decoin); Souvenirs perdus (Christian-Jaque); Ombre et lumière (Calef); Sans laisser d'adresse (Le Chanois); Black Jack (Duvivier); L'Inconnue de Montréal ( Son Copain; Fugitive from Montreal ) (Devaivre); Dans la vie tout s'arrange (Cravenne); Champions juniors (Blondy—short) (co); En passant par la Lorraine (Franju—short)

1951

Juliette, ou la clé des songes (Carné); Un Grand Patron (Ciampi); Parigi è sempre Parigi (Emmer); Le Cap de l'Espérance (Bernard); Les Loups chassent la nuit (Borderie); Dupont-Barbès (Lepage); The Green Glove (Maté); Agence matrimoniale (Le Chanois); Les Anonymes du ciel (Devaivre—short); Le Canard aux cérises (de Roubaix—short); La Commune de Paris (Menegoz—short); Isabelle (Gout—short); Festival acrobatique (Devaivre—short); Mon ami Pierre (Neurisse and Félix—short); Si toutes les villes du monde . . . (Freedland—short)

1952

La Bergère et le ramoneur (Grimault); Opération Magali (Kish); Le Rideau rouge (Barsacq); Torticola contra Frankensberg (Paviot—short)

1953

Innocents in Paris (Parry); Les Enfants de l'amour (Moguy); Alerte au sud (Devaivre); Les Fruits Sauvages (Bromberger); Le Cigale et la fourmi (Image—short); François le rhinocéros (Alexandre—short); Le Loup et l'agneau (Image—short); Lumière et l'invention du cinématographe ( Louis Lumière ) (Paviot—short)

1954

Le Port du désir (Gréville); Huis clos ( No Exit ) (Audry); Fantaisie d'un jour (Cardinal); Les Evadés (Le Chanois); Pas de souris dans le bizness (Lepage); Les Chiffonniers d'Emmaüs (DarSne); A Paris . . . un jeudi (Gout—short); Le Village magique (Le Chanois); Ma Jeannette et mes copains (Gout—short)

1955

M'sieur la Caille (Pergament); Cela s'appelle l'aurore (Buñuel); Pas de pitié pour les caves (Lepage); Goubbiah (DarSne); Des gens sans importance (Verneuil); Chagall (Hessens—short); L'Amant de Lady Chatterley ( Lady Chatterley's Lover ) (M. Allégret); Maigret dirige l'enquête (Cordier); Le Devoir de Zouzou (Vidal—short); Un Grain de bon sens (Image—short); Guillaume Apollinaire ( Je m'appellerai Guillaume Apollinaire ) (Prouteau—short); Le Sixième Jour (Huisman—short); Tindous (Devaivre—short); La Tapisserie au XXe siècle (Demain—short); Le Trésor d'Ostende (Stock—short); Zut, chien des rues (d'Artec—short)

1956

Calle Mayor (Bardem); Le Quai des illusions (Couzinet); Le Long des trottoirs (Moguy); Soupçons (Billon); Eléna et les hommes ( Paris Does Strange Things ) (Renoir); Je reviendrai à Kandara (Vicas); Le Cas du Docteur Laurent (Le Chanois); L'Inspecteur aime la bagarre (Devaivre)

1957

Les Louves (Saslavsky); Trois jours à vivre (Grangier); Un Certain M. Jo (Jolivet); Tamango (Berry)

1958

La Chatte ( The Cat ) (Decoin); The Doctor's Dilemma (Asquith); G.S.O. (Menegoz—short); Magie du diamant (Roos—short)

1959

Le Testament du Docteur Cordelier (Renoir); Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe ( Picnic on the Grass ) (Renoir); La Chatte sort ses griffes (Decoin); La Cocotte d'azur (Varda—short)

1960

Katya ( The Magnificent Sinner ) (Siodmak); Le Huitième Jour (Hanoun); Crésus (Giono); "L'Enfance" ep. of La Française et l'amour ( Love and the Frenchwoman ) (Decoin); Le Grand Erg oriental (Jacques—short); Neuf étages tout acier (Wronecki—short); (co); Quand midi sonne par la France (Sirkis—short); Teiva, enfant des îles (Mazière—short)

1961

Le Pavé de Paris (Decoin); Snobs! (Mocky); Le Trésor des hommes bleus (Agabra); Accident (Daninos—short); Les Hommes veulent vivre (Moguy); Henri Matisse, ou le talent du bonheur (Marcel Ophüls—short)

1962

La Caporal epinglé ( The Elusive Corporal ) (Renoir); Lemmy pour les dames (Borderie); La Poupée ( He, She, or It )(Baratier) (co); A fleur de peau (Bernard-Aubert); La Salamandre d'or (Regamy); In the French Style (Parrish)

1963

Un Dr"le de paroissien ( Thank Heaven for Small Favors )(Mocky); A l'aube du troisième jour ( Les Moutons de Praxos ) (Bernard-Aubert) (co)

1966

Un Soir à Tibériade (Bromberger); Fruits amers ( Soledad ) (Audry)

1970

"Le Cireuse électrique" ep. of Le Petit Théâtre de Jean Renoir ( The Little Theatre of Jean Renoir ) (Renoir)

Films as Co-Arranger:

1938

La Marseillaise (Renoir)

1939

La Règle du jeu ( Rules of the Game ) (Renoir)



Publications

By KOSMA: article—


Image et Son (Paris), December 1965.


On KOSMA: article—

Unifrance Film (Paris), November 1951.

Film Dope (Nottingham), January 1985.

Glayman, Claude, "Kosma: Chansons + Baptiste," in UNESCO Courier , July 1991.

Kosovsky, B., in Film Score Monthly (Los Angeles), April 1994.


* * *


If Joseph Kosma is generally remembered for his "literary" songs, written in collaboration with Jacques Prévert, he was also one of France's finest composers of film music, working on over a hundred films. Throughout his career, whether setting to music the poetry of Jacques Prévert, Robert Desnos, Raymond Queneau, or Jean-Paul Sartre, or collaborating on the films of Jean Renoir, Pierre Prévert, Marcel Carné, or Paul Grimault, or composing ballet music or operas, Kosma wrote music identifiable by its popular accessibility. Rather than a commercial decision, the popular nature of Kosma's work reflects an ideological stance which held music as a means of communication with the people, he constantly succeeded in producing an "engaged" music that was free from potentially alienating intellectual forms.

Born in Hungary, Kosma first studied at the Budapest Academy of Music and, before accepting a scholarship to study in Berlin in 1929, he wrote his first score, for one of the earliest Hungarian sound films, Lajos Lázar's Eternal Love . In Berlin he met, and was considerably influenced by, Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill, and Hanns Eisler, but in 1933 Hitler's accession to power forced Kosma to leave for Paris where he settled and took French citizenship in 1949.

Despite this international background, Kosma soon became the favoured composer of Jean Renoir, thus contributing to some of the most quintessentially French of French films. Having composed the score for I.M. Daniel's fictional appeal for worker solidarity, La Marche de la faim , in which the influence of Eisler and Weill is clear, he embarked on his collaboration with Renoir by composing the song, "Au jour le jour, à la nuit la nuit" for Le Crime de Monsieur Lange . There followed Carné's first feature film, Jenny , in which Kosma also played the role of a pianist, scripted by his life-long friend and colleague Jacques Prévert. But while the high moments of the poetic realism of the films of Carné involved compositions by Maurice Jaubert, Kosma continued to work with Renoir on some of his most celebrated prewar films: La Grande Illusion , La Marseillaise , La Bête humaine , and La Règle du jeu . His vigorous opening "symphonie du rail" for La Bête humaine has been compared to that composed by Honegger for Abel Gance's La Roue , and is in marked contrast to the gentle and melodious score for the unfinished Une Partie de campagne . But in both cases, the music perfectly complements the visual style of Renoir, demonstrating Kosma's belief that the successful composition of film scores involved the discreet relationship of the music to both the subject of the film and the atmosphere created visually by the director. Hence he always preferred to compose his scores from the shot material rather than from the scenario.

During the war, working under the name Georges Mouqué, Kosma resumed his collaboration with Marcel Carné and Jacques Prévert (together with Alexandre Trauner, also working clandestinely). He wrote two songs for Les Visiteurs du soir and the mime sequence for Les Enfants du paradis which was so successful that it entered Jean-Louis Barrault's own repertoire as the ballet Baptiste . Immediately after the war the same team produced Les Portes de la nuit , including the tenderly romantic song, "Les Enfants qui s'aiment." Kosma's postwar career is prolific and varied. He collaborated with "quality" directors such as André Cayatte (the grandiose oratorio at the end of Les Amants de Vérone ) and Henri Decoin (the classical overture of Au grand balcon ), but he also wrote music for the animated films of Paul Grimault and Jean Image, the documentaries of Eli Lotar, Georges Franju, and Robert Ménégoz, and the postwar French films of Renoir (including, for example, the "Air des Bohémiens" in Eléna et les hommes ).

In 1951, Kosma was awarded the Cannes Film Festival's prize for the best musical score for Juliette, ou la clé des songes , a somewhat mediocre fantasy directed by Carné. But Kosma's music excels less in such a fantasy world as in the precise location of popular Paris, the working-class districts into which he injects a degree of poetic pathos—such as in the plaintive opening of Le Sang des bêtes or, with recourse to song, the gentle revolt of Prévert's verse in Lotar's Aubervilliers .

Towards the end of his life, Kosma concentrated less on film music than on opera and lyrical theatre, always as a means of communication with the people. His oratorio Les Canuts , inspired by the revolt of the oppressed silk weavers of Lyon in 1831, is typical of Kosma's wish to apply his classical training to the service of the masses; in Les Canuts , there are no virtuoso solo parts, but a choral mass represents an impressive and powerful working class.

Although Kosma did compose purely instrumental pieces such as his "Suite languedocienne" and "Sonatine pour violon," his music was at its best when in conjunction with images or verse. His name will remain associated not only with the films of Renoir and Carné but with the heyday of postwar Saint German-des-Prés and the voices of Juliette Greco and Yves Montand singing his settings for the poetry of Jacques Prévert: the supple melodies of the melancholic "Autumn Leaves" and "Les enfants qui s'aiment" and the lyrical realism of "Barbara" have ensured these songs a permanent place in French culture.

—Richard Alwyn



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