The white lady
Emmanuelle Seigner, Harrison Ford and Lady Liberty
Grade ‘b’ Harrison Ford action fodder…or a catalog of sly, subversive Roman Polanski/Gerard Brach clichés? Friends usually draw a blank when hearing of my appreciation for Frantic (1988). Certainly not Polanski at his peak — Knife in the Water and Chinatown are forever, and Bitter Moon is in a class by itself — but who else would take such delight in satiating a by-the-numbers thriller with overt anti-Americanism and sadistic barbs at the bourgeois nuclear family? In Frantic, every scene picks at Ford’s withering pride and crumbling vanity until humility knuckles him under. Stepping out of Le Grande Hôtel before the neon lights of Burger King, Ford walks a global village indifferent to the debacle at hand, the mysterious disappearance of his wife. As he sweats and his eyes dart for a nonexistent safe corner, the script hones secondary characters to fine detail: the wheezing vagrant asking for a smoke, the hotel manager pursing his lips, the disparaging desk clerk fluttering his eyebrows, the police detective’s sarcastic, “yeah, Paris, city of lights!”
For the music, Ennio Morricone provided an interesting blend of themes, plucking bass notes, strings ascending to a sizzling peak, and a haunting squeezebox mocking the American’s touristy daydream of Parisian bliss. Released at a time when vinyl records were on their way out and the compact disc was just establishing itself, the soundtrack to Frantic had a fairly short shelf life. Indeed, over the last decade it proved to be as unavailable as a widescreen copy of the film itself. (Warners has inexplicably opted to market it as a pan-and-scan DVD, despite Polanski’s measured blocking and the breadth of Witold Sobocinski’s cinematography.) Thanks to the folks at Morricone Lover, here’s the score: zip file.