Francis Albert Lai in Nice, 26 April 1932.
Attended Lycée Saint-Philippe, Nice.
Married Dagmar Pütz, 1968; two sons, one daughter.
1950—orchestra musician; then accompanist for Claude Goaty, 1955,
Edith Piaf, 1960–63, and Mireille Mathieu, 1965; composer of songs
for Piaf, Gréco, Montand, and others; 1966—first film score,
A Man and a Woman
, the first of many films for Lelouch; also composer for radio and TV.
Academy Award, for
Un Homme et une femme ( A Man and a Woman ) (Lelouch); Masculin-Féminin ( Masculine-Feminine ) (Godard) (co)
La Louve solitaire (Logereau); The Bobo (Parrish); Mon amour, mon amour (Trintignant); Le Soleil des voyous ( Action Man ; Leather and Nylon ) (Delannoy); I'll Never Forget What's 'is Name (Winner); Vivre pour vivre ( Live for Life ) (Lelouch)
Mayerling (Young); Treize jours en France ( Grenoble ) (Lelouch and Reichenbach—doc)
La Vie, l'amour, la mort ( Life, Love, Death ) (Lelouch); Three into Two Won't Go (Hall); Hannibal Brooks (Winner); House of Cards (Guillermin); La Modification (Worms); Un Homme qui me plaît ( Love Is a Funny Thing ) (Lelouch); Le Passager de la pluie ( Rider on the Rain ) (Clément)
Du soleil plein les yeux (Boisrond); Madly (Kahane); Le Voyou ( The Crook ) (Lelouch); The Games (Winner); Dans la poussière du soleil (Balducci); Hello-Goodbye (Negulesco); Love Story (Hiller); Berlin Affair (Rich)
Smic, Smac, Smoc (Lelouch) (+ ro); Le Petit Matin (Albicocco); L'Odeur des fauves (Balducci); Les Pétroleuses ( The Legend of Frenchie King ; The Petroleum Girls ) (Christian-Jaque)
Le Petit Poucet (Boisrond); Les Hommes (Vigne); L'Aventure c'est l'aventure ( Money Money Money ) (Lelouch); La Course du lièvre à travers les champs ( And Hope to Die ) (Clément)
Un Homme libre ( A Free Man ) (Muller); La Bonne Année ( Happy New Year ) (Lelouch)
Child under a Leaf (Broomfield); La Ronde ( Le Baiser ) (Schenk); The Sex Symbol (Rich) (co); Toure une vie ( And Now My Love ; A Lifetime ) (Lelouch); Par le sang des autres ( With the Blood of Others ) (Simenon); Un Amour de pluie ( Loving in the Rain ) (Brialy); A Visit to a Chief's Son (Johnson); Emmanuelle (Jaeckin)
Le Chat et la souris ( Cat and Mouse ) (Lelouch); Le Baby-Sitter (Clément); Mariage (Lelouch); Emmanuelle II: L'Antivierge ( Emmanuelle II: Joys of a Woman ) (Giacobetti)
Le Bon et les méchants ( The Good and the Bad ) (Lelouch); Si c'était à refaire ( A Second Chance ) (Lelouch); Le Corps de mon ennemi ( The Body of My Enemy ) (Verneuil)
Anima persa (Risi); Bilitis (Hamilton); Un Autre Homme, une autre chance ( Another Man, Another Chance ) (Lelouch); Nido de viudas ( Widows' Nest ) (Navarro)
International Velvet (Forbes); Robert et Robert (Lelouch); Oliver's Story (Korty); Passion Flower Hotel (Farwagi); Les Ringards ( The Small Timers ) (Pouret)
A nous deux ( Us Two ) (Lelouch)
Les Uns et les autres ( Bolero ; Within Memory ) (Lelouch); Madame Claude 2 ( Intimate Moments ) (Mimet); Beyond the Reef (Clarke)
Salut la puce (Balducci)
Edith et Marcel ( Edith and Marcel ) (Lelouch); Canicule ( Dogsday ) (Boisset)
Les Ripoux ( My New Partner ; Le Cop ) (Zidi); J'ai recontré le Père Noel ( Here Comes Santa Claus ) (Gion)
Association de malfaiteurs (Zidi); Un Homme et une femme: vingt ans déjà ( A Man and a Woman: 20 Years Later ) (Lelouch)
Attention Bandits ( Bandits ) (Lelouch); Oci ciornie ( Dark Eyes ) (Mikhalkov)
Bernadette (Delannoy); Itinéraire d'un enfant gaté (Lelouch); Les Pyramides bleues (Dombasle)
Der Aten ; Earth Girls Are Easy (Temple) (song); Trop belle pour toi ( Too Beautiful for You ) (Blier)
Il y a des jours . . . et des lunes ( There Were Days . . . and Moons ) (Lelouch) (co); Provincial (Gion); Ripoux contre Ripoux ( My New Partner II ; Le Cop 2 ) (Zidi)
Les Cléfs du paradis (DeBroca); La Belle Histoire (Lelouch)
Tolgo il disturbo (Risi); L'inconnu dans la maison (Lautner)
Tout ça pour ça (Lelouch)
Le voleur at la menteuse (Boujenah)
Les Misérables (Lelouch)
Hommes, femmes, mode d'emploi ( Men, Women: A User's Manual )
My Best Friend's Wedding (Hogan)
Une pour toutes ( One 4 All ) (Lelouch)
Film Français (Paris), 16 January 1981.
CinémAction (Conde-sur-Noireau), September 1990.
Ecran (Paris), September 1975.
Film Français (Paris), 3 February 1978.
Film Français (Paris), 2 February 1979.
Score (Lelystad, Netherlands), December 1980.
Lelouch, Claude, in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1983.
* * *
Francis Lai's first movie credits were for Masculine-Feminine and A Man and a Woman , both released in 1966. Lai's participation in Masculine-Feminine went almost unnoticed, but his score for A Man
The music of A Man and a Woman is simple, lyrical, and sentimental. Lai's songs and Pierre Barouh's lyrics are often charming. But the original aspect of this score lies in the combination of music and image. Music in A Man and a Woman often has an importance at least equal to the images. Music provides emotion, tempo, and movement, while Lelouch's swooping camera and rapid montage add impressionistic details. This is especially true of the film's last half hour, where Lelouch and Lai present several fine songs-with-montage and very few dialogue scenes. In contemporary terms, one could describe the concluding half hour as a suite of music videos. The integration of image and score in A Man and a Woman was widely copied in the 1960s and 1970s.
Lai and Lelouch collaborated on a number of films. Their working method was unusual. Lai would write the main themes for a film after discussions with the director, but before production. The music then served as a guide for filming and editing. Writing music before rather than after production makes the composer much more of a creative partner to the writer and director than is normally the case.
The Lai-Lelouch collaborations are surprisingly diverse. Live for Life and Love Is a Funny Thing have sentimental scores and montage sequences on the model of A Man and a Woman . Treize jours en France , a documentary of the Winter Olympics of 1968, has a lovely score of four interwoven songs which pulls together the sometimes scattered images. The score of The Crook consists mainly of one brash pop song fragmented and repeated in various ways. In Smic, Smac, Smoc , Lai appears on camera as a blind accordionist to play the film's theme song. The Good and the Bad , set in the 1940s, has an interesting period score, with Lai quoting liberally from Glenn Miller. And Now My Love and Les Uns et les autres , both ambitious generational sagas, use music and image to evoke a number of historical periods. And Now My Love 's amalgam of Lai originals, Gilbert Bécaud vocals, and American and French pop tunes is more successful than the even more eclectic mix ("Bolero," Beethoven, Glenn Miller, Francis Lai, Michel Legrand) of Les Uns et les autres .
Aside from his work with Lelouch, Lai is best-known for his Academy Award-winning score for Love Story . The sad, sentimental theme for that film has become a pop standard, and he went on to write another strong theme for Oliver's Story , the sequel. Lai's other credits include the haunting music for Rider on the Rain and the very sentimental score for International Velvet . He has worked extensively in France, England, and the United States, and he has composed for everything from historical epics to soft-core pornography.
Lai's great strength is his ability to shape a score to the needs of a particular film. Although he is one of Muzak's favorite composers—half a dozen of his songs can be heard at the local supermarket or dentist's office—he is also a competent craftsman of film music, with several fine scores to his credit.