Les Tontons Flingueurs


The music from Les Tontons Flingueurs (aka Crooks in Clover aka Monsieur Gangster) is as instantaneously recognizable as the James Bond theme thanks to a short and recurring melodic motif that can still stick in the heads of 21th century kids. Monothematicism is a word used by musicologists to refer to the use of stylistic variations based on a single musical theme as can be heard in the Tontons: on the banjo, during the nose punch sequences, played jazz, blues, gloria or Hully Gally style. Though the Tontons music may on first listen sound nothing different than a straightforward yet catchy soundtrack, it turns out to be a real exercise in style. When reading Michel Magne's autobiography L'amour de vivre it clearly appears that mixing folk music and sound experiments was a mindful artistic choice. In the movie, Antoine Delafoy (Claude Rich) who is engaged to Patricia is merely a Michel Magne caricature. He embodies a contemporary music composer in search of the "absolute anti-chord" by using a water tap. In reality and despite his classical musical education, Michel Magne has indeed had a venture into avant-garde music, going as far as organizing an infrasounds concert at the Salle Gaveau venue (Paris) on July 15th, 1954. On December 3rd, 1956 his low-frequency sounds contributed to an "empirique" show at the Théâtre des Trois Baudets (Paris) with Alexandro Jodorowsky, Jean Michel Rankovitch, and Tinguely. At the same time, he wrote music on words by Françoise Sagan for Mouloudji. In 1959 he recorded an album of "musiques tachistes" from which a show with dances was staged by Michel Descombey. His taste for provocation and avant-garde did not prevent Michel Magne from composing and arranging popular music. He hence wrote the music for six Georges Lautner movies including the famous Tontons Flingueurs in 1963. Being part of the avant-garde long-haired world what could Michel Magne think of Michel Audiard -- a most kind character who had nevertheless been burned by supporters of the "nouvelle vague" including journalist Henry Chapier who described Les Tontons Flingueurs as being "chansonnier" cinema, meant for disenchanted quinquagenarians. In between melodic effectiveness and daring arrangements and tonality, Magne's work is worth being listened to with fresh ears, cleared of clichés! Jean-Emmanuel Deluxe is the author of numerous publications including Filles de la pop and Tricatel Universalis" He writes for Rock & Folk, Citizen K, Schnock and Shindig.