Is there a person anywhere in the world who was around in the 1960s
and 1970s who could not instantly recognize the theme from A Man and
a Woman? Doubtful, unless you were living under a rock in a cave in
Siberia, and even then you’d probably have heard it. In fact, it
became one of the most beloved movie themes ever written almost
instantly. It was the right theme from the right film at the right
time. Upon its release in 1966, A Man and a Woman became a sensation
everywhere it played. It became the film to see for anyone who
considered that they had a romantic bone in his or her body. The
soundtrack recording was as popular as the film, so popular, in
fact, that a second soundtrack album was released with the lyrics in
English (sung by the same singers as the original French). The film
was fresh, unique, and beguiling, and so was its score by Francis
Lai. It was the perfect marriage of image and music.
Lelouch had been kicking around for a few years to no success
whatsoever. In reviewing Lelouch’s first film, Le Propre de l’Homme,
Cahiers du Cinema said, “Claude Lelouch, remember this name well,
because you will not hear it again.” Oops. Beginning with A Man and
a Woman, Lelouch would become a wildly prolific filmmaker – at this
point in time he’s made over fifty films and he’s still going
strong. His work is always idiosyncratic, and unmistakably Lelouch.
A Man and a Woman was a very influential film, and there were many imitators who followed suit,
none achieving anywhere near the success of what they were
imitating. It wasn’t only other movies it inspired – it was
commercials, other film scores, print ads, etc.
The movie is
simple and direct, stylish (in both black-and-white and color),
haunting, beautiful, romantic, touching, and it’s almost impossible
not to be caught up in its spell. It’s basically the story of two
people whose spouses have died. They meet at their children’s school
and begin a romance. What Lelouch does with that simple story is, of
course, the film. Anouk Aimee and Jean-Louis Trintignant are perfect
as two people trying to come together.
The huge success of
the film resulted in several Oscar nominations, including Best
Foreign Language Film, BestWriting, Story and Screenplay – Written
Directly for the Screen, Best Actress, and Best Director. It would
win for Best Foreign Language film and for its screenplay.
Shockingly, the score by Francis Lai was not even nominated, and
neither were any of its songs, but it was a very strong year for
film music – the nominated scores that year were Born Free (which
won), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Bible, Hawaii, and The
Sand Pebbles, all excellent scores. But Francis Lai’s score is right
up there with them and it has endured as a classic since the day it
A Man and a Woman was only Lai’s third film
score, but it put him on the map and he has not stopped working
since, and that includes scoring close to thirty films for director
Lelouch. Just a few short years later, in 1970, Lai would win the
Oscar for Best Score for Love Story. His music for A Man and a Woman
speaks for itself – the melodies are stunningly beautiful. Part and
parcel of the score are the wonderful vocals of Pierre Barouh and
Nicole Croisille, along with Barouh’s lyrics. The score and songs
have been loved by lovers all over the world and with good reason –
this is simply some of the most romantic and heartfelt music ever.
A Man and a Woman was originally issued on a United Artists LP.
With its extreme popularity, United Artists then issued the English
language version. There have been three previous CD issues of the
French version – two imports from Europe and a stateside release by
DRG. However, all three were issued from sources many generations
away from the original album masters, and, shockingly, all three
were in mono. We are pleased to finally present the first authentic
presentation of A Man and a Woman on CD – in stereo from the
original album masters housed in the MGM vaults, in both French and
English versions. It’s such a pleasure to hear the score as it was
meant to be heard.