Francis Lai, the French film composer, passed away quietly on the 7th of November, 2018, at the age of 86. From the time I was first introduced to his music, I’ve always considered him to not only be one of the finest composers in the realm of cinema, but also one of the greatest musicians to ever have lived. I’ve honored him with this high personal appreciation for what I believe are good reasons. A talented music director makes me feel the weight of the composition he has created, be it a happy tune or a sad tune or anything in between, with his calculated sway of notes and use of instruments, and Francis Lai was just that.
Lai, known for his innumerable romantic themes mostly in French films, defined and perfected multiple layers to the human emotion of love, including those that we relate to the feeling consciously, as well as those deeper, more intimate, secretive, personal, and captivating undertones that we as listeners usually shy away from and can simply not uncover or analyze with a single listen or two. The tender music that this undoubted genius characterized his body of work with communicates with a mature surety, an understanding of the listener that seems deeper than that of the listener himself.
The core of every film Francis Lai has been a part of has always been its expressive music. Today, I am going to both pay tribute and rank all his best soundtracks in films. We hope that even after his death, Francis Lai’s music will carry on his legacy.
1. Love Story (1970)
Easily Lai’s most popular composition, I first heard his Theme from Love Story come out of a music box my parents had bought back when I was little. I remember feeling like I was taken to another place, at least in my mind, when I heard this music that carried the might of a Beethoven number, though it sounded more emotional. I did not know the title of this song at the time, but I loved listening to it every now and then, and it was the first tune I learned to play on the keyboard. Sounding as simple as it was intricate, this music won Francis Lai his first Academy Award.